Finding Peace During Loss

Finding Peace During Loss

[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Ivy Michelle. It is Maundy Thursday. I had Ivy’s beautiful post on grief and loss scheduled for today before I even realized this. When I did realize it, I thought that it was a perfect fit. When I go to Maundy Thursday services, they are always very solemn and moving and truly make me feel grieved.]

It is popular belief that cloudy days make people sad and depressed. People tend to spend more time inside on cloudy, rainy days. While on sunny and bright days, people are more active and spend more time engaging in outdoor activities. It’s amazing how the weather seems to affect our moods sometimes.

As I look in the sky, I admire the clouds. They are so fluffy and look full as if they could drop rain at any time. Not only did I marvel at their beauty, I thought about how useful they are. Though clouds bring bouts of darkness and rain, they also protect us from the heat of the sun. The rain that nourishes the earth comes from clouds. I relate this to the overwhelming feeling of loss that I’ve experienced in my life.

There are 3 lessons from loss that have helped me to overcome the sometimes overwhelming feeling of grief.

  1. Take time to reflect. 

Maybe you’ve lost something that was very dear to you like your home or your job. Perhaps, you’ve lost a close friend or relative and you feel overwhelmed with sadness and grief. At times, you might even feel like you can’t go on.

Take time to reflect on what just happened and allow yourself to think of every detail you can about the situation. Then think about how you feel at the moment and think about the thoughts that you’re having. Now, put the thoughts and feelings you have in perspective with the word of God.

Here are a few scriptures that helped me:

“And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him all the Christians who have died.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14)

“I came naked from my mother’s womb,” he said, “and I shall have nothing when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had, and they were his to take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1: 21)

“For everything there is a season…” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1)

If you feel like your perspective of loss is wrong, simply repent. I definitely had to.

  1. Refocus on the Lord. 

Sometimes, when people experience strong emotions, they lose their minds–literally. People stop thinking when emotions take over. It’s only natural, but as Christians we are to have self-control. After putting things in perspective, bring your focus back to the Lord. He never fails us.

Here are a few scriptures that helped me:

“He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever.” (Revelations 21: 4)

“He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds.” (Psalm 147: 3) 

Don’t despair. God is with you. His word is true.

  1. Believe the Word.

It’s so easy to read scriptures and doubt that God can come through for us like he did for the men and women in the Bible. However, the Bible tells us that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.

The scriptures below boosted my faith:

“You can never please God without faith, without depending on him. Anyone who wants to come to God must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely look for him.” (Hebrews 11: 6) 

“Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith it will happen.” (Matthew 9: 29)

“Then when Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his wealth and happiness! In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!” (Job 42: 10)

We’ve all experienced loss, but God restores and he is sovereign.

Isaiah 55: 8 says, “This plan of mine is not what you work out, neither are my thoughts the same as yours!”

Trust that God knows what he’s doing and in the end you, too, will find peace in loss. 

 

Ivy Michelle is a Christian author, educator, and counselor. She has a passion for encouraging and empowering people to pursue their God-given purpose. She lives in North Carolina and she enjoys traveling, cooking and writing.

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Riding Waves of Faith

waves of faith

[Guest Post by Emily Rose Massey – When she asked if she could share her story, it was hard to narrow it down because this girl has gone through so much! Her testimony is as huge as her heart. I know you will be encouraged by her story. If you currently feel stuck under the waves of life, you are not alone. Stand and have faith with Emily today!]

Our faith is tested under waves of faith, and in the weight and pressures of life.

It’s in the fire, the trials, and the storms of life that we are truly strengthened. We can choose to rise above the chaos or allow it to overtake us.

Recently, my husband and I endured a time of testing and trial as we lost our first baby at just 6 weeks along in my pregnancy. I carried that child for two weeks before ever knowing that the baby was with Jesus and not going to be a part of our family here on earth.

Our faith in Jesus Christ is what has been our anchor through all of this.

Having an eternal perspective definitely helps you put one foot in front of the other when you are going through a storm. God’s overwhelming love and amazing grace has overshadowed us and carried us. We have felt His arms hold us close and we are thankful. We are also so grateful for the prayers of so many friends and family who have continued to lift us up.

As someone who doesn’t like to admit weaknesses, not out of pride, but because I constantly declare Philippians 4:13 over my life, I have had a hard time realizing that it is okay to grieve and it’s okay for grieving process to take time.

I have heard the grieving process described as “coming in waves,” and I can definitely attest to that.

Grief becomes a danger when you allow those waves to pull you under instead of rising above and riding those waves with the grace and strength that the Lord pours out for us. Just because you have God’s grace and strength to endure difficult times doesn’t mean you won’t ever have to face sadness or grief.

Just like all attacks from the enemy, the Lord gives us the armor to withstand whatever is thrown at us, as well as a firm foundation beneath our feet. One of my favorite pieces of our armor is the sword of the Spirit because it is our offensive weapon to cut down the devil’s lies with God’s Word.

Faith comes by hearing the Word and that faith is released when we declare God’s truth and promises. Those promises are what give us hope. Jesus promises us in John 16:33 that we will have trouble in this world, but He also promises us that we are safe because He has already overcame the world.

Whatever you are facing has an expiration date.

You won’t have to live with that trouble forever; it cannot overtake you, unless you let it.
So take heart!

Stand firm on the foundation of your Rock, Jesus Christ. Let nothing shake you because you have been made an over-comer through Jesus’ victory on the cross. Sadness and grief will come, sometimes like a tidal wave, but you have an anchor of hope and His name is Jesus! He gave you the power to walk on those waves and He will not let you sink. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

I am praying for those who may be going through a season of sadness, grief, or loss. Lift your eyes up to the hills where your Help comes from. He will keep you from sinking!

Emily Rose MasseyEmily Rose Massey is the author of The Vessel: From Marred to Honorable, a true story of a life delivered from the mire and filthy pit and bondage of sexual sin and molded into a vessel for the Lord to flow through to reach others for His Kingdom. She and her husband are both active in many areas of leadership at their church, including worship ministry, drama ministry, children’s ministry, and youth ministry.  In addition to teaching and preaching the Word of God, Emily also pours out her passion for the Lord through her songwriting. Her songs spring forth out of a forgiven heart full of thankfulness and devotion unto God. To connect with or learn more about Emily, visit www.emilyrosemassey.com.

[photo credit: esther** via photopin cc]

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As Though You Already Are

as though you already are

[Guest Post by Jennie Goutet – Have you ever wanted to share your story, but it’s taken you months to put pen to paper only to realize it’s more difficult than you thought? I’m so glad Jennie didn’t give up and after a few months of asking if she could share, she put herself out there and shared from the heart. If you’re struggling with being accepted as you already are — be encouraged today!]

Twenty years ago, I was living in Taiwan when my younger brother committed suicide.

I did not yet follow God, although I had already been invited to church in Hawaii and in Manhattan, and would later be invited to church in Paris, and again in New York (sister churches of the same body) before getting baptized into Christ.

In my memoir, I wrote about the return to Taiwan following the funeral, my trip into the mountains to go litchi picking with a friend, and how it was all colored by early grief:

I loved riding the motorbike. I felt so free, whipping past the people and the sights at an exhilarating pace. Helmets were not required and I didn’t care whether or not I survived a fall, so I let the wind tug at my hair freely, and brace against my body. I wanted the wind to rip the pain out of the clutches of my chest.

At first we drove and saw the familiar busy streets, loud vendors pushing their wares at every turn. We stopped at the lights, lost in an army of motorbikes, the thick white clouds of exhaust reaching up to the first story of the buildings nearby. And then the roadways opened up and became larger as we saw more and more of the countryside. We rode on for over an hour like that and then, there in the distance — the mountain.

We drove onto the path that would bring us there, the straight, wide road that crossed the rice paddies on either side, and that eventually led to the base of the mountain before going up.

Later, with our bags of litchis in hand, we came upon the mountain stream winding its way down.

Smaller rounded rocks formed a pathway in the current, and we were able to hop across them to reach the middle. There we sat talking and watching our empty litchi shells float downstream. We stayed there until the sun started to set, until we started to feel the chill in the early evening air. And then the fading light finally shook us out of our reverie, and we stood up to get our balance before hopping back across the stones, and collecting our things to go home.

I’ll never forget that day on the mountain, the day when the sights and feelings were so foreign it was like someone else’s life momentarily juxtaposed mine — the day I tried to outrun my pain.

I remember how we turned towards the mountain, coasting freely over the crisscross of yellowed roads with their large grids of golden rice waving in the glaring sun almost as far as the eye could see. And the image of that hot sun, blue sky, the golden rice, the green and brown set of mountains ahead, and me, flying, flying across it all.

I think this scene will flood my vision with its brilliant colors in my last days.

Although I couldn’t see it that day in my grief, emptiness, and sorrow, God had a vision for me — a beautiful vision that would include salvation, the love of a worthy man, children, more sorrow — yes — but with it, a peace that surpasses understanding. I didn’t know this on that day long ago when I didn’t care whether or not I survived a fall.

Romans 4:17 says “. . . even God, who quickeneth the dead and calleth those things which are not, as though they were.”

I love this New King James Version because it includes a wording unlike other versions: “He calls things which are not as though they were.

I don’t know about you, but I’m an “are not.”

It doesn’t matter that I tried to write an elegant blog about life in France, with “Lady Jennie” as my moniker. I’m fearful, depressed, a recovered addict, an emotional eater — which is to say — I wear my weakness publicly so that everyone can see what I struggle with.

But even before I was redeemed, God called me as though I were. He called into existence traits, strengths, glory, discipline, goodness, holiness as if they were already in my possession. Even now that I’m redeemed, he doesn’t stay focused on my failings, he sees ahead to what I will become. He calls this “am-not” as though I were. It’s not because of who I am, but because of who He is.

Friend, if you are struggling right now — empty, broken, discouraged — you must believe that this is the vision he has for you.

He sees you as though you already are.

Jennie GoutetJennie Goutet is the author of the memoir A Lady in France about travel, love, grief and faith. She is also a contributing author to Sunshine After the Storm – a survival guide for the grieving mom. Jennie blogs at A Lady in France and was a BlogHer Voice of the Year pick two years running. Her writing has appeared in Huffington Post and Queen Latifah’s website, among other places. She lives just outside of Paris with her husband and three children. Connect with Jennie at ALadyinFrance.com.

*Excerpt is from her latest book, A Lady in France. To purchase on Amazon, please click here.

[photo credit: melolou via photopin cc]

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Why Not Celebrate?

why-not-celebrate

[Guest Post by Heather Von St. James – When Cameron, Heather’s husband, reached out to me asking if he could help share his wife’s story — I was inspired. I wish all husbands were excited to celebrate life with their wives. Today, if you are struggling with life — why not celebrate? Don’t wait for tragedy to strike! Celebrate today.]

Fear – we’ve all faced a form of it at some point in our lives.

I’ve learned that your fears don’t define the person you are, but rather how you deal with them. Humor is the way that my husband Cameron and I handled one of the most terrifying and trying times in our lives.

In November of 2005, after a series of biopsies and other tests, I was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma. I was a candidate for a risky procedure called an extrapleural pneumonectomy – this was no routine surgery. It required the removal of my left lung, the pleura (the lining around the lung), the left half of my diaphragm, and the lining of my heart.

I was already overwhelmed and what made it worse was the fact that I was a new mom.

My daughter Lily would be turning six months old two days after my surgery. When I found out my surgery date was February 2nd, I nicknamed my tumor Punxsutawney Phil, or just Phil for short. I joked about when they removed the tumor, asking if it saw its shadow, would I have six more weeks of recovery? It took the seriousness of the procedure and made it not as scary.

Throughout all of this, my sister kept me laughing. Her and I share the same weird sense of humor and we can always make each other laugh with just a silly phrase or sound. My husband and sister started talking about how we should celebrate such a day.

If it was going to save my life, why not celebrate?

Now, we refer to February 2nd not as Groundhog Day, but LungLeavin’ Day — the day my lung left.

The basic idea of writing fears on a plate and smashing them into a fire during LungLeavin’ Day came from my sister, who had done firewalking. In firewalking, you write your fears on a plank of wood, throw it in the fire, and walk across it – very symbolic. We wanted to take a similar approach, but instead of wood, my husband came up with the idea of plate, and instead of actually walking through the fire, we would smash the plate.

From that moment a tradition was born.

On February 2nd, 2007, one year to the day since my surgery, my husband went out and bought two stoneware plates and a sharpie. We spent a few minutes writing our fears on them before venturing outside. It was bitterly cold that evening, but that didn’t stop us. Cams cleaned out the fire pit, and got a nice little fire going. We bundled up and went out to the fire and smashed our fears in the fire. It felt GOOD! We decided right then and there that we needed to share this with our friends and family.

The following year, we made it an official celebration, and every year since then our little party has grown to include over 75 friends and family who come to celebrate life with us.

Within these past few years, Cams and I felt the need to make a difference by using the occasion as a fundraiser for mesothelioma cancer. We donate all the money raised to the three organizations that have been such an important part of our lives. The International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization all played an important role of who we are and what we do.

LungLeavin’ Day is not just for cancer survivors or warriors, but also for everyone.

This year, we wanted to reach out to an even broader base of people, and besides webcasting the event live via my Facebook page, we’ve also created an interactive page where you can go write your fear and smash your own plate virtually.

We hope that you take a moment to be thankful for the simple things, and all that life offers. Even in the face of adversity, something good can come of it, and our LungLeavin’ Day celebration is how we took something tragic, and made it a positive in our lives.

Heather Von St. JamesHeather Von St. James is a seven-year mesothelioma cancer survivor and continues to provide unending inspiration to mesothelioma victims around the globe. She carries out her mission to be a beacon of hope for those afflicted with mesothelioma by sharing her story of faith, love and courage both as a keynote speaker at conferences and through social media. Read more about her and LungLeavin’ Day at http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/lungleavinday/.

[Photo: Navy Blue Stripes via photopin cc]

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How to Treat Your Body as a Temple

how to treat your body as a temple

[Guest Post by Amy – I love this thought from Amy today, and if you haven’t read her first article entitled The Pit of Depression, you won’t want to miss that one either! I always appreciate it when guest posters ask to post again (hint hint).]

I grew up in what I like to refer to as the “The Deep South Land of Southern Baptists”.

I learned the books of the Bible, about Abraham and Moses and all the other Biblical heroes, and of course that drinking or dancing would lead to complete moral destruction.

I also learned about the all important Pot-Luck Dinner. One of the main theological tenets of the Southern Baptist World is the Pot-Luck. It is hallowed, set-apart, and holy.

It’s also killing us one bite at a time.

There were many Bible studies about treating our bodies like the temple of God, but it seemed to always revolve around pre-marital sex.  Somehow I turned those lessons into a presupposition that all verses that talked about our bodies were ultimately talking about sexual sin. And no one ever taught me that was wrong. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

It wasn’t until I was older that God opened my eyes to the fact that there are other aspects of my body as well.

That my body is the vehicle I get through life with, and if I allow it to breakdown then future ministry will be out of the question.

When you truly start to pray and seek God about how to treat your body as a temple, verses you’ve heard your whole life suddenly have little light bulbs going off over them.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

“If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:17).

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

“For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

And I could go on and on.

When you start to think through the fact that God does care about your body, focus seems to shift. No longer is it “I want to lose 10 pounds to fit in my old jeans”, but “I want to lose 10 pounds because they will eventually hold me back from doing something God may be calling me to do.”

If we continue to abuse our bodies and pretend that what we put in our mouths does not matter, then we may be “benched” a lot earlier than God had planned for us just due to diabetes/heart disease/cancer/etc. that were caused by our lack of concern.

The book Every Body Matters, by Gary Thomas, is an amazing book that should be a wake up call for every Christian. One of my favorite quotes from his book is this:

“We are not angels, pursuing God without physical covering, and if we try to pretend that we are – living as though the state of our bodies has no effect on the condition of our souls – all the proper doctrine in the world can’t save us from eating away our sensitivity to God’s presence or throwing away years of potential ministry if we wreck our heart’s physical home” (Gary Thomas).

I think it’s time that we as Christians wake up to the fact that it is a spiritual pursuit to live healthy lives.

We need to hear this from the pulpit. 

Then maybe our neighbors and friends will not only know us by “our love for each other”, but also by our unusual health and vitality to serve the Lord.

May we all be on this journey together.

Pieces of AmyAmy is a new west Texan and loving life where there isn’t so much humidity she has to wear her hair curly.  She blogs about the messiness of life and living with depression and anxiety in an authentic way and with a little humor sprinkled in. Come visit at www.piecesofamy.net.

[Photo: scrambldmeggs, Creative Commons]

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Walking the Plank

walking the plank

Transition throws me for a loop every time – silly, of course.

We all know that the only constant in life is change. But somehow my longing for comfort and control gets me to settle into a place with a deep, satisfying sigh. Close my eyes. Take a break from watchfulness. Then everything tips and I find myself rolling sideways, stumbling down a new ramp of transition. Looking for a new normal.

Some transitions are instantaneous.

In 2003 my husband collapsed on his favorite street in San Diego, Shelter Island Drive, just outside the bank. From that moment on, he never drove his truck, never wrote a check, dialed a phone, made love, or flipped a pancake. Everything changed and I spent eight years catching up.

Other transitions are expected.

The kids grow up and launch their own lives, families, children, careers. They are navigating their own transitions without me. The family home is sold. I live alone.

What I didn’t expect was the final step in another, slow, insidious change that I’m just now having to acknowledge. Over the course of Mike’s long illness, I had to let go of my online bookstore, localauthors.com, which had kept me in the loop of writing and writers.

I published my ninth book in 2002, Conscience of the Community, the memoir of the Rev. George Walker Smith. I’ve written a couple since then, but that was the last one published.  It may always be the last one published. There might never be a tenth, and my writing career may be over.

I was making a comfortable salary in communications and as a political advisor, then $10,000 less after a layoff. Then another layoff three weeks after my husband died. Then $30,000 less at a temp job. Then unemployment; then the end of unemployment.

In three years, it appears my working career has also slipped away.  Along with it has been a precise and surgical removal of my self-reliance, replaced by utter dependency on God’s grace.

It’s scary to be lonely and disregarded by others when status and recognition have been a part of my identity as a writer, a worker, a woman.

How I want to cling to them and scrape up some remnant of the career I’ve had, to stave off fear. Because the biggest challenge of aging and poverty is fearing that no one cares. It’s the core fear of each of us, really, at any age and in any transition. Some days I feel like I am walking the plank.

Alongside the highway of transition are neon signs, flashing with audacity at my fear. God Loves You! God Cares for You! God is Strong When You are Weak!

These words have illuminated my road for most of my life. But walking down this slow path that winds to the bottom of my ramp of loss, I see a new sign, handwritten on a simple plank.

You are mine.

It makes me smile. I am seeing the Lord provide for my daily bread. He is sustaining my health. He has given me time to ponder and read and know him. This transition may be the best yet.

Francine PhillipsFrancine Phillips is an author, journalist and poet from La Mesa, California. She has an M.A. in marriage and family counseling from Denver Theological Seminary and teaches Bible study groups. Francine has raised seven children in a blended family and is now a widow.

[Photo: Simon Blackley via photopin cc]

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3 Reasons to Share Your Story

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Recently I shared my story about why my dream died. 

I already wrote that I can’t sugar coat things anymore. And now? The gloves are off.

“What kind of God would stand back and watch a dream–a good dream, for ministry and impact–fall apart?”

That’s what I just read in Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Vischer (the creator of VeggieTales®).

I devoured his 80,000 word memoir in less than half a day. Seriously couldn’t have come at a better time. (Thanks Brett Burner for the recommendation).

Phil continues.

“Why would God want us to let go of our dreams? Because anything I am unwilling to let go of is an idol, and I am in sin. The more I thought about my intense drive to build Big Idea and change the world, the more I realized I had let my ‘good work’ became an idol that defined me. Rather than finding my identity in my relationship with God, I was finding it in my drive to do ‘good work.'”

Writing had become my idol.

My identity.

It’s humbling when God continues working on you in a certain area that you thought you already learned. Am I right? 

“It wasn’t about impact; it was about obedience. It wasn’t about making stuff up; it was about listening. Eventually it struck me that I no longer felt the need to write anything. I didn’t need to have any impact at all. Whatever needs I had were being met by the Scripture I was reading and by the life of prayer I was developing. My passion was shifting from impact to God. It took several months, but what I was starting to feel I can only describe as a sense of ‘giving up’–of ‘dying.’ It actually frightened me at first, because I wasn’t sure exactly WHAT was dying in me. And then one day it was clear. It was my ambition. It was my will. It was my hopes, my dreams. My life.”

It’s as if Phil started speaking directly to me. How did he know I was taking a writing break? How did he know that I felt a part of me was dying inside. My will. My hopes. My dreams. My life.

Phil continues.

“God loves you. Not because of what you can do, or even because of what you can become if you work really, really hard. He loves you because he made you. He loves you just the way you are. He loves you even when you aren’t doing anything at all. We really shouldn’t attempt to do anything for God until we have learned to find our worth in him alone.”

Worth.

In God.

Alone.

Not in the fact that my efforts to write, publish, and market a book have failed. I can only be obedient to publish what He tells me and leave the rest (sales) up to Him. My worth is found in my identity in Christ, not in the fact that churches acknowledge this and invite me to speak.

In fact, no church has asked me to speak on my recent book Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me. The book I spent pouring out my heart and soul. The book that was contracted by another publisher and then canceled. I thought this time would be different. That there would be some spiritual significance to the fact that I literally wrestled over this book for years, and it was finally here.

Then nothing.

Crickets.

Phil continues.

“The impact God has planned for us doesn’t occur when we’re pursuing impact. It occurs when we’re pursuing God. In 2003, my dream died. And I discovered, once all the noise had faded away, what I had been missing all along.

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul plants for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1).

Let it go. Give it up. Let it die. Let Christ shred your dragon skin and lead you into a whole new life. Trust me. It’s worth it.”

Thanks Phil. I’m trying.

My heart is broken. 

Will I ever write again? Should I write to fill words on a page? Should I give up completely and get a day job?

I don’t want to care anymore. I just want to be obedient. I know. Not a flashy word. Not comfortable.

Maybe, like Phil, I’ll have another ‘big idea.’ Maybe not. For now I choose to serve with integrity, not pretending to be somebody I’m not.

I’m a great writer, but I’m not as good at marketing as I thought. In fact, I’m terrible. 

I’m learning, like Phil, that it’s none of my business to plan the next 5 or 10 years of my life. Maybe one of the reasons why I can’t-for-the-life-of-me plot out my next life map is because I’m not supposed to. It feels amazing to accomplish all my dreams I set out to accomplish 7 years ago, and even more gut wrenching to see them all crumble at my feet.

I just want to be used by God.

I just want to be obedient (there’s that word again)–no matter if my dreams are resurrected or not. No matter if I write another book or not.

Question: Have you ever experienced the death of a dream? How did it make you feel, and what encouraged you through? 

Starting in January, I am looking for women to share their story. I hope my story encourages you to hang in there–even if you have no idea how God is writing the beginning, middle, or ending.

I am not looking for you to tie a big red bow around it. I just want you to share your story. 

Before I share the requirements, I feel it is important to prayerfully consider why Jesus wants us to share. Here are 3 reasons why I feel it is necessary share your story publicly:

1. Tell the Whole Truth. ~ Mark 5:33 says, “Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.” This woman had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. She had suffered much at the hands of doctors–even became worse including spending all her money in the process. It’s important to be honest with what happened even if that means sharing about those who hurt you.

2. Healing Happens. ~ Mark 5:34 says, “He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’” When we tell the whole truth in front of many witnesses including Jesus is where we find healing. Are you struggling to share your story because you need closure, healing, or hope? Consider sharing your story publicly.

3. Don’t go Unnoticed. ~ Luke 18:47 says, “Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.” Healing wasn’t enough for Jesus. He wanted to know who touched Him. He wants to notice each and every one of us personally. It’s not enough to come to Jesus and receive His touch.

When you and I share the whole truth–we find healing while encouraging those around us! Daughter, is this what you are longing for? What are you waiting for?

Share your story today, and be set free!

If you are interested in sharing your story, please read below. I prefer queries on one of the six categories:

+ Relationships
+ Devotionals
+ Health & Body
+ On Writing
+ Forgiveness
+ The Church

But if you are the kind of person who likes to write it out first–here are the requirements: I am looking for a post between 500-700 words in length, including a 3-4 sentence bio and a current picture. Feel free to contact me to share your story.

[Photo: >>haley, Creative Commons]

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Mental Health Boot Camp

mental health

[Guest Post by Anonymous – My heart goes out to people who feel like they have to hide their story. Obviously it’s a good thing to protect your child(ren) or family, but I hope this person’s courage will help you find true healing in Christ.]

As a mom with a physical chronic condition I am familiar with the complexities of having a demanding disease.

I have long admitted that although I could see how God has worked through my physical ailment, I still did not understand mental illness.

It was a world I had not been a participant of, a language I did not speak. And then my young sons’s struggles began to worsen.

My biggest fear as a mom with a chronic illness was that he would need me in ways I would not be able to provide–like needing to be picked up when he was two or having me chase after him at a park when he was four.

But at five years old he screamed, “I am not meant for this world. I am not like everybody else! I want to die!”

How could he believe this, or even articulate it, when his world was as innocent as cartoons of planes and trains that spoke? How had the world stung him so deeply, so quickly?

He is now ten and the last year has been all about survival. Counseling, hospital mental health programs, family therapy, support groups, psychiatrists, testing, over and over. I have read books, joined groups online, sought out answers to “is this normal?” and “what now?”

We no longer do therapy or church or vacations–we do therapy. We no longer celebrate typical accomplishments–we rejoice that he is letting me brush his teeth three days in a row or that he ate half a sandwich.

A good day is when he doesn’t speak of death–mine or his own.

We search for answers.

What does he have?

How badly does he have it?

What medications will work?

What side effects do they cause?

And how on earth can we get another pill into him?

If he has ADHD he should stay on a stimulant, if he has bipolar the stimulant will make it worse. The doctors vote for the stimulant. I am left to decide how bad it will get before it is considered “worse.” They see him five minutes. We see him at 4 AM, wide awake looking for a toy he needs right now.

ADHD, OCD, ODD, GAD, IEP. Our life has turned into alphabet soup.

The Internet provides a wealth of information and so I read and read and read, because I will be held responsible for how much effort I put into searching for the diagnosis. I may not be able to cure him, but someday I can tell him I did my best–for twenty years, I did my best.

As the mom, I am responsible for educating the teacher, the principal, the counselor, the doctor, the psychiatrist, the Sunday School teacher, and Boy Scout leader (if he ever returns). The books tell me to introduce myself–not to the teacher of an extra curricular activity–but to the police, the staff at the emergency room. We need to. Someone nearly called the police this week.

A two-hour appointment with a new psychiatrist results in her telling me,

“We just don’t know with kids this age. Your job is to create a medical paper trail, so if it gets worse, he can be diagnosed correctly–quickly.”

I tell my son he is God’s child. He is strong and courageous, and yet, Satan is trying to get his claws into him.

I tell him just to whisper the name of Jesus when the anxiety rules him–in class, anywhere.

“God is going to make you a soldier for Him,” I tell my son. “He has great plans for you in a world where He will need strong men. But first you have to go through Boot Camp. Most people don’t go through Boot Camp until their twenties or thirties, so God must have extraordinary plans for you because you started training at about age 8.”

I believe it.

I pray for him.

I talk to teachers, his doctors.

I advocate.

I try not to take it personally when his illness speaks to me with contempt, and instead focus on his heart when he apologizes later. But life is hard. I cry. I doubt. I ask God why He would allow His child to be touched by mental illness.

He hasn’t responded yet.

But I believe He will.

Life is hard, but God is good.

We are all in our own mental health boot camp–and some of us start early.

[Photo: The U.S. Army, Creative Commons]

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Life, life, and more life

life life and more life

[Guest Post by Wendy van Eyck – When my good friend from South Africa told me that she published her first book–Life, life, and more life–AND is giving it away for free at ilovedevotionals.com, I asked her to share with us. Enjoy and be encouraged.]

How God found me in my darkest time

I was 21 when I realized that I did not want to kill myself anymore. After months of struggling with depression the darkness was beginning to lift.

For months my soul had been in a place where light didn’t penetrate and I couldn’t see hope.

When I was growing up–blowing bubbles, climbing jungle gyms and jumping on trampolines–I never imagined that by 21 I would be unravelling like the hem of my trouser leg, and needing to crawl home for some love, and repair, and hope.

I was broken and shattered by all I had seen and done, in the preceding year as a paramedic. I was unbalanced and confused and bewildered, because my life was so very different from my dreams.

I was depressed. I did not know what to do next, or who I was, or what life meant. I was undefined.

I recall sitting for what seemed like three weeks but was probably only three days and writing the same words over and over. I wrote these words in big letters, I wrote them in small, I wrote them in journals and on the walls. I scribbled these words in pencil and painted them in scarlet red, I typed them and printed them and wrote them on my heart.

These are the words, that I stole from a shepherd boy who became a King*:

“God, you know when I can’t get up and when I spring out of bed; you recognize my thoughts from among millions. Nothing about me is strange to you God. You could start my sentences you know me so well…there is nowhere I can go to get away from you God, no where I can crawl that you could not find me and follow me into…You created me, stitch-by-stitch, moulded my arms and legs and liver and placed jewels in my eyes…all the days that you have given to me were planned before I drew a breath.”

I knew only one thing at the time. Even today there are times when I know nothing else but this one thing. I do not understand it. I cannot explain it easily. The one thing I knew then, that I still know now, was that when I was stumbling through my life Jesus was with me and he liked me very much.

I do not know how Jesus happened to be there, and I do not know how he found me, all I know is that he was there, and that he whispered light into my darkness.

Through that dark time of my life when my mental health hung in the balance I learnt that:

  1. God will find me in the darkest place my soul can go.
  2. God doesn’t abandon me because I’m feeling down or hopeless or desperate.
  3. When I’m in a dark place, God crawls into the darkness with me and then holds me till hope begins stirring again.
  4. God doesn’t leave me in a dark place. God gently exposes my hurts, pain and heartache to his light. And as God’s light shines it reveals his plans to take care of me, to never abandon me, and to give me the future I hoped for.

Cover lower resMaybe you’ve been in a dark place before?

Perhaps you feel like you’re in one now?

Maybe your circumstances are different but your feelings are the same. Despair, sadness, loneliness, anguish, hopelessness are just a few of the feelings that characterize dark places. If you feel this way I would encourage you to not only seek God but to seek out professional help.

* David was a shepherd who became a King in the Bible. He wrote the words my paraphrase of Psalm 139 is based on.

Wendy van EyckWendy is married to Xylon, who talks non-stop about cycling, and makes her laugh. She writes for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, ever believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday throug a foreign land with just a backpack. You can follow Wendy’s story and subscribe to receive her free ebook, “Life, life and more life” at ilovedevotionals.com. She would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.

[Photo: tyreke.white, Flickr]

 

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Mental Illness Does Not Define You

Mental Illness

Over the years I have learned a very important lesson that mental illness does not define me.

It does not define you either.

Yes! There are days, weeks, months, and even years when it doesn’t feel that way–but it’s true.

Pastor Rick Warren said in a recent sermon,

“Your [mental] illness is not your identity, your chemistry is not your character.”

That quote means even more when you realize he has lived it. His son Matthew recently took his life. He was only 27 and struggled with mental illness his whole life. I highly recommend that you watch the video sermon in its entirety here.

Screen shot 2013-08-26 at 2.32.27 PM

I wanted to share the 6 stages of loss from Rick’s sermon that moved me to tears. I hope you are encouraged today that no matter what you are struggling with (anxiety, depression, etc) God knows and He sees you!

“We know that life doesn’t make sense. We can STILL have peace because we know God is with us and that God loves us. Life is a battle and we can have hope. We grieve with hope because we know the end of the story. You don’t need an explanation, you need God–His presence. When we go through intense pain we are tempted to believe God forgot about you. Everything on earth is broken but we can still have joy because God is good. He has a greater purpose and a greater plan” (Rick and Kay Warren).

6 Stages of Loss

1. Shock (your world is thrown upside down, a human emotion)

2. Sorrow (a godly emotion, it’s okay to grieve)

3. Struggle (when you ask the “why” questions?)

4. Surrender (if you want peace, stop asking and start surrendering and accepting. It’s the only path to peace)

5. Sanctification (when you begin to transform, a BIG Bible word, meant to make you more godly)

6. Service (God wants to take your greatest pain and turn it into your life message. He wants to use your message for a message, your test for a testimony)

Talk it Through

1. When we are in pain, it is natural for us to start looking for a reason. We think that having the explanation will remove our anguish. But the truth is, pain is not soothed by knowing “why.” Pain is relieved by knowing God loves you and is with you. How did the presence of God comfort you and change you through a difficult time?

2. Read Hebrews 13:5 and Isaiah 43:2. When we are feeling overwhelmed, what truths in these scriptures help restore our hope? Why is knowing that God is with you essential in helping you recover from trauma or pain?

“The earth suffers for the sins of the people, for they have twisted the instructions of God, violated his laws, and broken his covenant. Therefore… the earth has broken down and has utterly collapsed. Everything is lost, abandoned, and confused” (Isaiah 24:5, 19).

3. There is nothing perfect on this planet—our bodies, our relationships, our minds—but we can choose joy. Jesus declared to his disciples that while in this world you will have trouble, you can take heart because he has overcome the world (see John 16:33). Have you ever experienced a time when you needed to hold on to Jesus’ words?

“We can have joy even in our troubles because we know that these troubles produce endurance. And endurance produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will not disappoint us, because God has poured his love to fill our hearts” (Romans 5:3-5).

4. Read Romans 5:3-5. What does Paul say is the end result of trouble? What has God given us as assurance? If you did not hear the entire message from Rick and Kay Warren, The Talk It Over team highly recommends you do so to hear Kay’s full message on finding hope when hope seems lost. You can find it at: http://saddleback.com/mc/Archives/.

[Talking It Over is taken from http://saddleback.com/mc/m/7583d/]

Photo: theskywatcher, Flickr]

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