Sweet Remembrance

Social media has a way of messing with me. Many of us have encountered a loss with a Facebook page that goes on into infinity. For me, those pages are a place to go for tribute and sweet remembrance. They pop up in my feed when I or someone who loved them posts a memory. On one hand I feel sad on another I feel comforted. The holidays are a hard time to be grieving.

This past week social media pulled an unexpected awkward moment. She popped in a social media feed encouraging me to invite her to join.  My heart skipped a beat. I flurry of emotions from sadness to embarrassment ran through my body when many things started running through my mind. The vast internet doesn’t know she’s gone. Should the internet know? Should her footprint be wiped away? What about those who don’t know she’s gone? How many unknowing phone calls have her parents had to endure? The list goes on. This all unraveled in a matter seconds.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t want her erased. I saw the beauty in those moments to pause and remember those I grieve. I realized that deep within the sadness of sweet remembrance is a comfort and joy from a creator who knows my grief and never leaves me in the darkest valley.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. (Psalm 23 NIV).

Even though there may be tears, I have decided to take the moments of social media pop ups to celebrate their lives. Each life lost has left a gift in my heart and has molded me into a better person. If I dig deep into that sense of comfort and joy, if I focus on the gift God is reminding me of from their life, the emptiness from their loss starts to fill with something new and different. Grief is still present, but more importantly the gift of their life becomes a lasting legacy through mine.

God, thank you for those moments of sweet remembrance when you bring back to mind those I have lost. Thank you for reminding me of the gift of their life and that you never leave me even in the darkest valley.

How do you remember those you have lost? How do you keep their legacy in your life? Share your experiences here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Win Lose Draw

Independent, stubborn, or obstinate are words that could describe several of us in our family. As a parent, there are times when asserting the best course of action and setting boundaries is necessary. In my house it is not always, okay rarely, received that way. I am certain I know what is best for him. He is certain I am wrong. The tug of war begins, and we are in a state of win, lose, or draw.

Neither of us wants to give in. We both want our way. Everyone is frustrated, and tension can be cut with a knife. Do I force my will? Do I let him win? As I wrestle with this, God did His famous turning of the tables on me. God reminded me of the many times I have wrestled with Him. He reminded me of the times He has nudged me to do things His way only to have me push back.

Fear has often gotten in the way of me listening to God’s requests. Fear that it would be too hard. Fear that my heart would get hurt. Fear that I would fail. Every time God has treated me with patience, kindness and encouragement teaching me this scripture.

5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5 NIV).

Win, lose or draw? God always won, yet I never felt pushed, manipulated or unloved. Eventually, I seem to see the errors in my thinking and desires and the wisdom in God’s. His desires became my desires. I was left strengthen and transformed with deepened relationships including my relationship with God. Yes, God always wins, however that doesn’t mean I win in all relationship battles.

The challenge now is to use the wisdom in God’s care for me and apply it to my family. Setting boundaries and expectations with love and grace is certainly a challenge, but I want to be done with win, lose or draw situations. I want to remove the fear and let loving guidance prevail. The key for me is to resist the urge to react and focus on encouragement.

Relationships are challenging particularly parent-child relationships. I’m thankful God is showing me ways to improve how I love and encourage others as challenging as it is. How about you? How are your relationships? Do you get stuck in win, lose, draw battles? What are you learning? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Unwilling Gratitude

Sometimes I just don’t feel thankful. There I said it. I read countless gratitude posts on Facebook, and today I’m just not feeling it. I looked at my husband this evening and said, “I know I should be celebrating the parenting wins we had tonight, but I still feel blah.” I have decided I’m suffering from unwilling gratitude.

My kids suffer from this frequently. I will ask them what they are thankful for and I will get a blank stare. The hard knocks of the day leave them feeling blah. I get it, but my head knows what my heart isn’t feeling. Unwilling gratitude can become genuine gratitude by focusing on the wins from the day, and focusing on those wins will move my heart to genuine gratitude.

My devotion today said exactly what I needed to hear. “Each day has enough trouble of its own. A logical implication of this truth is that you can expect to encounter some trouble everyday. I want to help you handle calmly and confidently the difficulties that come your way…As we deal with your problems together, you gain confidence in your ability to cope. And the pleasure of My company greatly increases your joy!” (Always Jesus by Sarah Young). Add to this the following scripture and blah moves back to joy.

7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:7-9 NIV).

It seems illogical, but it’s working. My blah is turning back to joy. The unwilling gratitude in my heart is becoming genuine. I am gaining confidence in what the future holds, and an unnatural peace is taking over.

Thank you, God for always refocusing me on you. Thank you for reminding me that you have all of this in your hands. Thank you for showing me that together my troubles will turn back to joy.

How about you? Are you feeling blah? How do you move back to joy? It is my prayer that we all see our troubles turned back to joy.

Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Little Things

I pulled the classic mom move and volunteered my son to help with a destruction project for an elderly woman from church. He wasn’t overly excited at the proposition. Then I told him he could drive the tractor and he perked up. He spent a couple of hours one afternoon swinging a sledge-hammer, gaining blisters, popping wheelies on a tractor and having a great time. This was a little thing he did to help someone in need.

In this season of thanksgiving and gratitude, I have been thinking about the little things we can do to live into this scripture.

15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. (Colossians 3:15-17 MSG).

Little things can have a big impact on another’s life. Simple things show care, support and love. I made note of some of the little things I have noticed this past week.

  • Cleaning refrigerator drawers
  • Bringing food over
  • Helping move things
  • Being present
  • Hugs
  • Dishes done
  • ”Sure” as a response when asked for help

These are all things I witnessed or received. These little things have had a profound effect on my week. They have given me strength and left me feeling proud. They have also left wondering about the little things I could be doing for others. If I’m keeping in tune with others and not off doing my own thing, I would be doing more for others.

As I move into this season of thankfulness, I want to be doing more than being thankful for what has been done for me. I want to be looking for opportunities to do little things for others. I want others to receive what I did. I want a small act of kindness to bring light to someones tough day.

How about you. What little things have impacted your day? How do you try to stay in tune with others? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Bonding

Sitting around the fire with just hubby and the boys is my new favorite thing. A couple of weeks ago we were all home at the same time which is a small feat these days. It was the perfect cool fall night for a fire and some family bonding.  The youngest was the easiest to convince to come out once he heard I had marshmallows for roasting. The oldest didn’t want to come out.

We had a couple of cardboard tubes to burn and get the fire going. My husband put it in the fire in an upright position. We started to hear this roaring sound. My youngest got excited and began to explain something related to thrust. He described the process the tube would go through before it combusted or caught on fire. It was something related to rockets and I started to get concerned.  Soon flames were coming out of the end of the tube just as he described. It was cool, cool enough to get the oldest to come outside for the next tube. Soon we were all enjoying the fire, marshmallows, and a nice conversation about family and life.

When we came in the house, the boys started throwing a Nerf football around. Normally, this would be followed by me telling them, “Not in the house,” but they were getting along. They were bonding. I didn’t have the heart to stop it. Hubby agreed, so instead of stopping them he went and joined them.

This will remain one of my top family memories. There was nothing fancy about it. It wasn’t a vacation or a special  occasion. It was just us together enjoying each other. It was the simplicity of it. It captured the essence of family and God’s desire for families to be imbedded in love.

1-3 How wonderful, how beautiful,
    when brothers and sisters get along!
It’s like costly anointing oil
    flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron’s beard,
    flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon
    flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing,
    ordains eternal life. (Psalm 133 MSG).

 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8 NIV).

I can’t wait for the next fire. The only requirement from the tribe is marshmallows. That I can provide. Bonding is critical in families and it is harder as children get older. But, I think it is just as critical. God created us to live in families and communities. We aren’t meant to journey life alone, and it’s my prayer that we all have endless moments that draw us closer to the ones we love.

How do you bond with your loved ones? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Why pray?

Today, I wanted to bring you this powerful story from a dear friend, Sandra Sheih. When I question an urge to pray, this reminds me of the power of prayer even when I’m not sure why I’m praying.

Several years ago, my husband went on a mission trip to Kenya, Africa.  After he had completed the “mission” part of his trip, he was scheduled to go on a safari with several of the men who had also been on the trip. The last time he had been to Africa, he only saw one lion, but it had only three legs.  It was time to see a four-legged lion!!!  

One night while he was on the trip,  I had a terrible dream.  In my dream I saw a group of men with my hubby in open air jeeps driving through the Savannah.  I remember being shocked by the absurdity of driving by wild animals with no protection around their bodies from the waist up.  In addition, the driver had no gun or rifle to protect his passengers if an animal were to attack.  

In my dream, the jeeps stopped to look around.  There was a huge, male lion in the side of the brush.  One man started to heckle the animal.  Everyone tried to get him to be quiet, but he kept making noise.  Eventually, the lion had enough.  He jumped out of the brush attacking the man (remember that open air Jeep with no armed driver?!?!?!).  My hubby immediately jumped to try to pull the lion off the man, but soon lionesses came out as well.  I watched helplessly in my dream as my husband and his friends died in the jaws of the lions.  

I woke suddenly to the words, “PRAY NOW.”  I knew that I had just experienced a prophetic dream.  For the next three hours I prayed.  I prayed that God would protect the men.  I prayed that if they were in open air jeeps (Really, do those even exist?  What a dumb idea in Africa among wildlife!), that God would keep the men safe.  I prayed that the men would be quiet when needed.  And finally, I prayed that if they did encounter a lion, God would seal its mouth shut.  Specifically, that it would be like his mouth was sealed shut with duct tape until the men were safe.  

Several days passed, and it was finally time to pick my husband up from the airport.  I couldn’t shake the intensity of the dream or the three-hour prayer, and I was ready to hug my hubby!  Some of his friends cleared customs before he did and greeted me at the airport.  One in particular is a photographer.  After we said hello, he responded, “Did your husband tell you about the lion?”  (He was so excited.)  “Here, I have some pictures to show you!  Look at this huge, male lion that was on the side of the brush. We were in these open air jeeps, and this one guy wouldn’t be quiet.  (He shows me a picture of the jeeps with the men). The lion didn’t like the loud guy and suddenly ran up to the guy and roared.  Look at those teeth!  (Big teeth in the picture!) But then, the craziest thing happened.  It was as if God shut the lion’s mouth with duct tape or something.  Then, all of these female lions came out and walked around looking at us.  I thought we were going to die there for a second, but God protected us.  It was the most amazing experience.”

At this point I started to cry a little.  I told him about my dream, and we both stood in awe, covered from head to toe in Holy Spirit goose bumps.  

Why Pray? This is exactly why. It is the perfect example of this scripture.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:18 NIV). 

Thank you, Sandra, for this powerful reminder of why pray. How has prayer come to life for you? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Ask

My oldest son is spending his senior year of high school at Bethel University where I work and teach. It’s a great opportunity to finish high school and earn college credit at the same time. It is also a great opportunity for us to have some quality discussions on the days he is stuck riding with me.

He’s a deep thinker who still sees the world largely in black and white. I see it as my job to show him the gray to which he generally rolls his eyes and looks at me like I’m crazy, or I just don’t understand what he means. Yesterday we were talking about asking God for things, and I got the look.

He was sharing his concern for a family member a person who’s faith has been on a bit of a rollercoaster over the years. I told him that I don’t worry about that because God has it under control. Then I added, “He told me.” He responded with a loud, “What?” He instantly wanted the whole story. So, here it is.

I was sitting in a large auditorium, about 10 years ago, waiting for worship to begin. I was praying for this family member when “someone” whispered in my ear, “He will start coming.” I turned my head to look for the “someone,” but no one was there. I instantly knew that God was answering my prayer in a profound and personal way with a promise. I have continued to pray and claim that promise since.

So, my son thought I was nuts on one hand and wanted to believe it on the other. I invited him to pray and claim the promise, as well. I reminded him that God keeps his promises, and even though we don’t know when it will happen, it will happen.

He left the car perplexed and still thinking I’m crazy. Then while I was in the kitchen and he was in his room, he sent me a texts that said, “Maybe you aren’t crazy. Here is the verse of the day.”

23-24 “This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks! (John 16:23-24 MSG).

You could call that a coincidence. I call it God intimately caring for His precious children. I call it God’s deep love of relationship. I call it God’s desire that we ask, so he can give and we will be filled with joy.

I have to admit I had gotten a little slack in my prayers around this. A simple conversation in the car has reignited my prayers, my commitment and my joy. How is God responding to your asks? How is He showing you his care? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Crabby!

I’m crabby! I know that’s hard to believe. The men in my house will be happy to confirm. It is easy for me to move into crabby mode when I feel like I’m being forced to do something I don’t want to do. The photo of this majestic sunset was taken under such conditions.

It was the dream come true, family vacation of a lifetime. We woke to do a sunrise hike of Diamond Head. We proceeded to hike, swim, sight see our way around the island. We had found a shrimp truck and had shaved ice. We packed a lot into day one when my husband drives down this remote road that just ends. He says he wants us to do one more hike to the northern most part of the island. I was tired. Then he told me it was 2.5 miles each way. No way was I hiking another 5 miles.  I was done. He kept prodding. I kept resisting. Finally, he says we can just go part way.

Knowing I was in for a long evening, I conceded. We started down this trail. I was not sharing my husband’s enthusiasm for the destination. He kept urging us to go a little farther. I said, “There’s rain coming.” Before long it was raining. I was wet, tired, and grumbling. I was told I could go back to the car sit by myself and wait endlessly for their return.

I continued to trudge along, saying not so nice things in my head. That’s how I felt today. When I read this in my devotional, “I want you to become increasingly preoccupied with me (God).  The default mode of most people is self-absorption (Young, 2016).” Ugh, I was definitely feeling self-absorbed and finding it difficult to get out of my own way.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:19-21 NIV).

Turning my thoughts toward God does soften me. It does help me get out of my own way. It reminds me what love does. Am I still crabby? A little bit, but it is subsiding just as it did on the trail.

On the trail, we finally reached the “end” but one could go around the gate and go a little further. I was officially done. They went on and I waited in the rain, cold and crabby.  It wasn’t long when Kellen came back to walk back to the car with me. Curt was going to run and catch up with us in a few minutes.

When Curt finally caught up with us, he was excited. The short amount of time he spent on that point was his favorite part of the trip. This was the one thing he wanted to do while on vacation. I was thankful he had that experience, and that I hadn’t completely wrecked it for him.  We turned around and saw this beautiful sunset that serves as a reminder of beauty and sacrifice.

Focusing on God and what love does pulls me out of my self-absorption and puts my heart back online. How do you deal with being crabby? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Oppositional

Sometimes being told what to do makes me recoil. Apparently, the same is true for my son. He had been in a discussion with a seasoned Christian who was telling him how he had to read scripture. Scripture had become flat, two dimensional to him. It wasn’t helping him engage with Christ. He questioned why this was the only way to know Christ. He was becoming oppositional.

He began pushing back. He wanted to know why he couldn’t turn to other writings to help him understand scripture and God. He wanted to know why conversation, running, worship, music etc weren’t the “right” way for him to know God.

I knew exactly what he was feeling. I had been there myself. The more I was told I had to send half hour a day in prayer and reading scripture the less I wanted to do it. I, too, felt like I was a “less than” Christian for not following the rules. The more I felt the pressure the more oppositional I became and the more I pushed back against the rules.

My spiritual life has changed and grown over the years. It began with a mentor setting me free from the rules. He showed me that engaging with Christ is what mattered. How I chose to do this was up to me and God. He brought this scripture to life.

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).

Scripture is a vital part of the Christian life and walk. It is meant to be engaged and brought to life and not flat, two dimensional words on paper. Thankfully, my son has someone similar in his life. This person said if reading scripture is forced not to do it but, instead, to engage with the stories, music etc that are strengthening his relationship with Christ and deepening his understanding of scripture. Yes, scripture.

It is possible to have our understanding of scripture deepened without directly reading it. There are a multitude of writings, books, teachers and music that help us see the fullness of Christ that are built on scripture, and in the end led us back to scripture. It was precisely those kinds of readings and teachings that lead me back to His word. Now, scripture has depth and richness when it didn’t before. Now, it’s not forced, but a natural part of my engagement in a relationship with Christ. A relationship that still doesn’t follow the rules.

How is your relationship with scripture? Do you feel oppositional to the rules? How are you strengthening your relationship with Christ? What practices help you grow and deepen your walk? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to other.

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In God’s Hands

I like to be in control, and I would love it if everyone did things my way. I really don’t think that’s asking too much. Okay, I’m being sarcastic, but there is some truth in there. I want to be able to control disease, relationships, my job, my church community, and especially my kids. I can barely control myself, so why would I think I can control others? What I’m slowly learning to do is to trust it in God’s hands.

Recently, someone I love had to make some difficult decisions related to one of her adult children. The result of these decisions left the adult child without a home. This mom inspired me. She wrestled with what was the loving thing to do. She wrestled with the effect on other family members. She prayed for clear answers. She made the difficult decision to put it in God’s hands.

This reminded me of the parable of the Lost Son or Prodigal Son in the book of Luke. When we read the story, we often focus on the son. What about the father who made a very difficult decision to let his son go. We read it like it was a simple act by the father to divide up the inheritance and let his son leave. This was a huge breach of tradition and how one lives within a family. I have to believe the father anguished over this. I’m sure the father knew the son was going down a slippery slope and he may never see him again. The father was heartbroken as he said goodbye. He didn’t know how the story was going to end. Just as this mom doesn’t know how the story will end. We can’t see what is over the horizon. The prodigal son does have a happy ending.

20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time. (Luke 15:20-14 MSG).

I will continue to pray with this mom as she too desires a happy ending. We are trusting in God’s gentle loving hands to care for this child and finding a subtle sense of peace in the midst of heartache that the right decision was made.

How do you put life circumstances in God’s hands? How are you at trusting God is in control and you are not? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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