Hope, Keeping it Real

Lessons In Living Through Dying

As I reflect on the last few weeks and the last ten months of my life, it keeps popping up that as much as I have experienced great loss I have also experienced great gain. I have learned so much in the process, and in the last days of my mom’s time on earth I learned more about living and life than I can completely understand.

I am absolutely still not sure that I have all the words, but in the meantime, I share what I can and hope that someone else will pick up even the smallest nugget that they can hold on to or release; whatever the case may be.

Life is really short. Really. Maybe I have a better understanding of that now more than ever. I don’t currently see that through a filter of sadness, regret or remorse but more through a filter of determination, courage and freedom.

What I learned about the brevity of life, even though my mom made choices that I wouldn’t make for myself, is that when you go through hard, ugly and painful things there’s still a blessing buried in that mess. It’s all about how you choose to see it. Even more so, how we choose to respond to it. I thought I had that concept pretty well mastered, but maybe not as much as I do now. Once again, as a believer in Jesus, I see how He is making all things work together and I am even more convinced that there’s no coincidence in His economy; just divine plans for a purpose.

I have realized after two plus years of hearing the words “new normal” that normal is not my favorite word, but new is a word that makes my top five. New after experiencing death takes on a whole new color and the best part of the new came on this side of heaven.

I have learned a whole lot more about my passion in life, and what picking up the pieces to rebuild looks like. There are more pieces being left on the floor than used in the creation of the next new chapter. That’s something that I have learned and understand at a greater level. New means new. Pieces of the old get added to the mould, but it’s a brand new creation opened up by purpose, plan and through a lot of pain. It’s still a new thing and sewn together by experience, belief and the choosing of one’s perspective and attitude.

I have learned the massive importance of true self care and how to go about that in the most loving possible way. Loving God and loving others is important, right now this other needs to crush the self care in the here and now as well as going forward. And it really just cannot be optimal or set aside for any good reason at all.

I have learned that a mom will truly go through life trying to protect their kids until their last dying breath. I have also learned to speak my heart even when it’s not the most favorable opinion and it’s still okay because my needs still matter as much as they always have.

Sharing all of these thoughtful and experiences seems like the best way through the grief. I long ago stopped saying things like I am fine. I have really learned more about the depth of His love for me. So instead of saying I am fine, how does “I am doing as expected” sound? Although I have also learned that grief does unexpected things at will all day long.

Take whatever you need to from this. If it’s how to see differently I hope you do. If it’s how to let go, I hope you do. If it’s how to find a mustard seed of faith then I hope you do. If it helps you let go, then I pray that you will.

Hope

Grace Over Grudge

I’ve been praying on and thinking a lot about forgiveness, my tongue, my thoughts and my actions when it all comes down to it. My own stuff. I have also had numerous conversations recently about the same things. 

Honestly, relationships are difficult but in times like today the difficulty level has been magnified. Admittedly, the issues existed long before THIS happened but for a lot of people it seems that the time has come to face the music. Even though I am not currently in a relationship, I still have time to reflect on my own past behavior and how even in just a normal everyday relationship (work, friendship, whatever) I still need to be aware of my own tendencies and conduct.

Our future destiny, as followers of Jesus, is determined by our present conduct. I want to be characterized by grace, not a grudge. How about you? I want to be characterized by grace for others and grace for myself when I did not and do not always do the right thing. How about you?

1 Peter 3:9 says this: Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were allied so that you may inherit a blessing.

In this scripture, Peter is really telling us to grow up and to not try to earn the blessing that happens when we do, but to instead receive it as our inheritance. It isn’t about the blessing, but the One who does the blessing. The One who extends endless grace time after time, and does not repay insult to Him with insult to us. Read this same scripture in The Message and it becomes plain as day. 

1 Peter 3:9 That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Insead, bless-that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing

Forgiveness is hard when we choose to hold a grudge. Restoration and reconciliation is nearly impossible when we don’t choose grace. Grace doesn’t say that what the other person has done to hurt me is okay. Grace says I will choose to see through eyes of compassion and tender-heartedness even when it hurts. Grace is what I want and expect others to give to me. How about you? 

Sometimes forgiveness happens in an instant supernatural moment, and sometimes it takes years and years and years to be able to forgive. He is right in the middle of both. 

I know I need to do intentional work to grow up in grace. I want to be known by grace, not a grudge. 

Hope, Keeping it Real

Where Are We Today?

Today, I am not sad or imprisoned by the full-on firehose blast of social media content and news content that shows us the images of division, despair, death and diversity all mixed into one bag. 

I have had conversations over the past week or two regarding the current social climate and how that is affecting our already emotionally drained souls (read COVID-19). I have not chosen to engage in most of what I am seeing and reading based on what I felt God telling me in my heart. I know what happens to my emotional health when I start getting wrapped up in the endless hours of non-stop immersion and connection to on-demand information and opinion.

I could hear Him telling me that a wise person holds their tongue. A wise person does not add gasoline to the fire or engage in conversations that there is no easy answer or immediate peace over.

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than him.”

Proverbs 29:20

I could also hear him telling me to shut my mouth when I felt judgment coming forth. Right after this all started exploding I saw a person that clearly believes differently than I do with outright blatant racism tattooed across their back. Boy oh boy did I have a few things to say and wanted to ask him, but instead chose to close my mouth and assume the best instead of the worst. 

I’ve heard him say shut your mouth, when I see something that is hysterically funny to me and also tone-deaf to the situation at hand. I have chosen to sort of keep my filter on, but instead, I have chosen to share that levity with a choice few safe people. Humor is sometimes better than the gross reality, and it is healthier for me to laugh a little than to slide into despair over things that are really outside my control. Mostly out of my control, anyway. 

“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37

My mouth may be mostly silent, but my heart is not. My heart is in turmoil and also in peace at the same time. Anyone besides me just totally emotionally drained?

 It is exhausting to feel the depth of pain that our black brothers and sisters have felt and still feel today. When I try to think about how they walk out their door every day knowing they will be targeted for the color of their skin and how emotionally draining and scary that is for someone, it makes me want to vomit, scream and cry all at the same time. 

I am heartbroken for the police officers and their families that are lumped into the mess that one or two or five individuals that were or are police officers caused. 

When I watch people looting and rioting (different than peacefully protesting) and think about the depth of the frustration that they feel for whatever reason they are doing what they are,  I am both fascinated and disturbed. 

When I look for the good things that are happening in the middle of this mess, I have to search far and wide to see those reflections, stories and images. I don’t want to have to muddle through the anger, violence, blaming, arguing and generally ignorance to find them. That makes me sad, so I choose to not do either as much as possible. 

I know that none of this is new. All of this has been happening in one form or another for a long, long time. This is not new to Him and certainly no surprise. He has control even when it all feels and looks like it is out of control. Always,still and right now today. 

We can do better, and also join the fight to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. I believe that starts with more listening to God and each other first. Listening before speaking. Pausing before posting. Hearing past the words and what the real message and truth is. 

Give yourself permission to feel the huge pendulum swing that this is bringing up in you. Choose where those feelings land, though. That’s just what I am choosing for my own self and maybe it will help you as well. 

I am choosing to disconnect, and really listen to what God is saying to me personally and how I can take action to continue to listen, learn and love better than I do now in all circumstances. 

What are you doing today to be part of the solution to your own personal response to this opportunity and challenge? Are you pouring fuel on the flames or are you sitting with Him asking Him what He wants to teach you in the middle?