God and the Pool Guy…

By Danita Hiles

So, this summer we put in a pool.   Thanks to a tiny legacy from our precious Mimi (my mom), we were finally able to take the plunge J (pun intended) and put one in.   For these three Florida girls, what a blessing!   What a process!

Every day, it seems, there have been different subcontractor guys tromping around in my backyard.

I felt my singleness even more as I dealt with diggers and concrete guys and electricians and plumbers.

Then, one day a few weeks ago, there was no one there.    No one.  Not one hot, tired workman in my backyard.   Nobody to drink my cold Gatorade.  Nobody to answer my questions.  Nobody working.

Instead of pounding and the annoying whir of the paver wet saw, there was silence.

Next day, same thing.  Nothing.

Hoping to get the job done before my 10 year old’s birthday pool party, I called the pool guy.

“What’s up? Where is everybody? Is everything ok? ”, I asked.

“No problem”, he said,  “The electrician was there early yesterday morning, you just must have missed him.  We’re waiting on materials.  And I’m working on some scheduling conflicts with my other crews”.

Then he said words I will never forget, “Just because you don’t see us there, doesn’t mean I am not working on your behalf.   Trust me.  It’s all gonna be fine”.

Hmmm.  It’s kind of like me and God.   When I don’t see a change in my desperate circumstance or feel like I am hearing from Him, I can tend to feel abandoned.   “Where are you? I cry.  “I’ve been praying and waiting and nothing is changing.  I don’t hear you.   I can’t feel you.”

He whispers to my heart, just like Jerry the pool guy.   “Just because you don’t see me at work, doesn’t mean I am not working on your behalf.   Trust me.  I’ve got this thing.  It’s all gonna be fine”.

Maybe we just don’t see Him working.

Maybe he’s waiting on materials.

Or it could be it is simply a scheduling thing that is all in the timing.

God’s not absent.

God’s not tired.

He’s got this thing…whatever ‘this thing’ may be in your life.

Take a minute and read His words to you in Psalm 139…go ahead and put your name right there in His love letter:

O _____________ , I have examined your heart and I know everything about you. I know when you sit and when you rise. When you feel far away, I understand all your thoughts.  I chart the path ahead of you and tell you where to stop and rest. Every moment, _____________ , I know where you are.  I know what you are going to say before you even say it.  I both precede and follow you,, and place my hand of blessing on your head.

This is so glorious, so wonderful to believe, _____________ ! You can never flee my presence!  If you go up to Heaven, I am there; if you go down to the depths,  I am there.  If you rise on the wings of the dawn, if you settle on the far side of the sea, even there my hand will guide you, my strength will support you, if you try to hide in the darkness, the night will become light around you.  For even the darkness cannot hide from God; to me the shines as bright as the day. Darkness and light are both alike to me.

_____________ , I am all around you on every side; I  protect you with my power. My knowledge of you is deep, for I knew you before you were born; I made all the delicate inner parts of your body and scheduled your life before you began to breathe.

How precious it is, _____________ , to realize that I am thinking about you constantly!  You can’t even think how many times a day my thoughts turn towards you.  They would outnumber the grains of sand.  When you awaken each morning…know that I am with you!

With much love,   Your Heavenly Father

 

Pressed

By Julie Reed

“You need to persevere (press on) so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

Hebrews 10:36

 

I’m wondering if you are feeling some pressure on you today.  It seems that I’m getting pressed on from all sides.  I have the pressure of getting my children ready for school and making sure that lunches are packed, uniforms are ready, schedules are kept and more.  I have the pressure of being sure they arrive on time and picked up on time.  Don’t even mention the fact that my baby is starting kindergarten and keeps asking me if daddy can see her new school from heaven.

Then there is the added pressure of work.  Being an administrator of a preschool means I’m putting in extra hours to make sure the school is in tip top shape and the staff is ready for a new batch of students.  I have the pressure of feeling like an awful parent for working so much and wasting those precious last days of summer working instead of being with my kids.

Add in some emotional pressure as the 2 year anniversary of daddy and grandpa’s accident approaches and then toss in some pressure from church.  Band practice.  Grief Share leader.  Single mom’s study leader. (That’s a good kind of pressure though, right?)

Then I remembered that it was my week for an article.  Yikes!

I wanted to find a safe place to cower and have a good cry, but instead, I picked up a devotional book that was given to me by a dear friend shortly after my husband’s passing.  I didn’t read it for a long time…didn’t think it could help me much, but it has grown to be one of my favorite books and seems to always have an “answer” for me when I’m struggling.

Today’s text offered just that.  It talked about pressures.  It talked about stresses and darkness.  It talked about feeling suffocated and helpless.  If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought the author was writing about me.

The devotion ended with this poem. I just had to share it with you.

PRESSED

Pressed beyond measure; yes, pressed to great length;

Pressed so intensely; beyond my own strength;

Pressed in my body and pressed in my soul,

Pressed in my mind till the dark surges roll.

Pressure from foes and pressure from dear friends.

Pressure upon pressure, till life nearly ends.

 

Pressed into knowing no helper but God;

Pressed into loving His staff and His rod.

Pressed into liberty where nothing clings;

Pressed into faith for impossible things.

Pressed into living a life for the Lord,

Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured.

A.B. Simpson

 

This week I hope that no matter what “pressure” you may be feeling yourself that you’ll be “pressed” into Jesus. Nice and warm…arms really tight around you so that you can be certain that pressure is helping you become all He wants you to be for Him.  I’m feeling lighter already, how about you?

 

Leftovers

By Danita Hiles

The results of the word study flashed across my computer screen.    Somehow seeing it in black and white, made it seem more real than just hearing it out loud:

Wid-ow (n) :   A woman (of any age) who has lost her husband by death and has not remarried.

Or-phan (n) :  a child who has lost both parents through death.

Widow.  Orphan.  Apparently I am both.  (cue tiny violins for one minute pity party)

Sigh.  Neither one of these are labels I would have chosen for this season of my life.

But did you know these words also have other meanings?   In editing, the terms ‘widow’ and ‘orphan’ are used for those couple of extra words or letters which are left over at the end of a page or paragraph when formatting for print.

Extra.   Leftover.  The bits that don’t fit on the page.   Sound familiar?

The extra ‘manless’ female at a gathering of well-meaning friends.

The ‘left over’ ones when everyone at Disney walks by in perfect family groupings.

The ‘’bits that just don’t fit’ when folks are seated two-by-two at celebrations or soccer games or graduation ceremonies.

It catches me by surprise at times, this slightly awkward feeling of not fitting.

Thankfully, God’s word has a lot to say on the subject.   I love the way that he singles these two groups out by name, maybe because in the ‘left-outness’ of life, he knows we need a little bit of special attention.  Here is His perspective:

Psalm 68:5     5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.  6 God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;

In editing, when there are widows and orphans at the end of the page, the page needs to be re-formatted so that the extra words will fit in place.   Seems to me, the same principle works within my circumstances.  And yours.

The life I have, is not the life I had.   And I can’t expect it to look or feel the same.  Maybe it’s time for some creative reformatting, God style.

Plan – For holidays and special events, one of the best ways to avoid the awkward is to have a plan.  Easter dinner at my house is no longer family dinner with all the fixings and a fancy table.  Last year we chose to pack up ham sandwiches and head to the beach.   It’s whatever works for your little family.

Reach out – No matter how deep your sad, you can always find someone to reach out to.  I love to invite a bunch of other folks who feel ‘left over’ to my house.   Fancy is not important.  Folks simply love to be invited.  Back to Psalm 68 ‘He sets the lonely in families’.  This is so true!   I am so blessed with all the ‘faux family’ friends who have embraced the girls and I over the years!

Get creative – Entertaining used to feel a little weird, especially if I invited a couple and their kids, because the husband always felt like the lone ranger.  Now, I invite two couples that I think would hit it off and everybody has a great time.

Trust – Sometimes, it just is what it is. And whether you are the lone parent clapping wildly at your child’s performance or simply sitting alone in church, you can smile quietly with the knowledge of His promises tucked away in your heart.

Joshua 1:5 ‘No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Ok friends, how about you?  Have you found any clever ways to ‘reformat’ your way of doing life during this walk through the valley?

Every Star

By Julie Reed

“He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name.  Great is the Lord and mighty in power, his understanding has no limit.” Psalm 147:4-5

 

We just returned from a fabulous summer vacation visiting family in North Carolina.  We spent two weeks rafting, taking evening walks, gobbling up the fresh blackberries off the trail, and watching for fireflies in the woods.

We’d enjoy our dinners out on the porch listening to the waterfall and comical family chats and stories while hummingbirds buzzed past our heads.  Amongst all the jammed packed adventure and family fun, I needed some quiet time for myself.  I knew that I needed some time alone to renew my mind and spirit.  My parents graciously agreed to watch the kids for a bit so that I could re-charge.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend every moment I could with my family, but the daily duties of being a single mom wear on me, if I’m honest.  Sometimes I feel like running away or shipping the kids off to my parents for a few weeks just so I can breathe.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my kids.  I’m honored to be there mom.  It’s just that occasionally I get in a pile of pity and wallow around with my giant “W” on my chest for widow.  I figure this isn’t what I signed up for when I took my vows.  It shouldn’t have to be this way.

So, I slipped away one evening out to the deck for some peace and quiet.  All that could be heard were the katydids humming a joyful tune in the darkness.  I sat on the deck with tears falling down my face and wondering how Satan could have such a stronghold on me still.  How could he subtly creep in and rob me of the joy and happiness I should be feeling?

I began to pray.  Asking God to help me let go.  To help me live in the here and now.  To give me some peace, some comfort, some sign that He hears me.  That He cares about me still.  That He hadn’t forgotten about this sad, lonely widow.

I sat in silence for a few minutes.  The katydids didn’t even make a peep.  They were probably terrified that I was about to feel the wrath of God for being so bold to ask Him such things.  A gentle breeze blew across my face.  I opened my eyes and looked up at the heavens.  The sky was pitch black and the stars twinkled so brightly and clearly.  It felt as though I could reach up and pluck them from the sky.  A smile crossed my face and the words to one of my favorite songs came to mind.

He numbers each and every star and calls them all by name.

He counts them one by one to see that they are still in place.

If He cares for every star, then He sees right where you are.

You can trust you’ll never fall from His embrace.

So what can separate you from the precious love of God?

Who could every come against His strong and perfect love?

So when you’re in the valley and your nights are cold and lonely.

The darkest hour is just before the dawn.

Remember nothing can separate you from God’s love.

 

Every star…every star.  Scientists estimate that there are 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way and millions upon millions in other galaxies.  But I still matter more to Him.  He loves me right where I am.  Valley or mountain top, He loves me the same.

Nothing can separate me from His love.  Not death.  Not sadness.  Not fear.  Not loneliness.  Not the stresses of motherhood.  Nothing can keep Him from loving me.

How about you, sweet sisters?  Do you struggle with believing you matter?  That he hears and sees you?

Will you join me this week in the backyard hammock staring at the evening sky and thanking Him for seeing right where we are?  I’ll say a prayer for you for every star I see.  Will you do the same for me?

Shine

‘..therefore, you all shine like stars in the universe to this crooked generation…’ Philippians 2:15

I read the verse above last week and to be honest, I just wasn’t feeling it.

Apparently this is one of those bottom line verses. A command, not a suggestion.

You should shine. Period.

But sometimes, friends, I just don’t feel very shiny. How about you? Do you ever feel that life has just dragged you through the mud?

That stress and sadness and fear and frustration have rubbed at you and taken all of the shiny off of your life?

That you want to affect your generation but it seems impossible to ‘shine like stars’ when life has shattered you into a thousand pieces. When the aftermath of loss seems to go on and on and on.

“I will shine later,” we tell the Lord – “when I am over this grief and my head is clear and I figure out what I want to be when I grow up. When the house is cleaner and I’m sure my kids are going to be ok and when I’ve lost ten pounds. I will shine someday, I just know I will.”

But this verse is written in present tense. You. Shine. Now.

How is that even possible?

I think sometimes we forget that God has sifted everything that has happened in our lives through His hands. And the very things we think disqualify us from shining, may be the things He will use to radically affect the folks we come in contact with.

Think about a glowstick. Just a simple glowstick. A four inch hunk of plastic with some pale liquid inside. It is not until you crack the glowstick that you break the clear inner vial. The two liquids swirl together and magically begin to glow. And everyone around is drawn to the glow in the darkness.

I believe that is exactly what God wants to do with our brokenness. When we surrender to Him, and allow the Holy Spirit to flow into every crack and crevice of the ugly that has entered our lives, He will shine brighter than we can ever imagine. Somehow, our brokenness serves to allow more of God in our lives. I believe your greatest misery will become your greatest ministry if you will just allow Him to shine through you.

If you’re weird like me and love visual aids, go to Wal-mart or the Dollar store and pick up a few glowsticks. As you crack a glowstick, surrender your brokenness to Him anew, and watch the glow begin. As the hurt and fear and confusion of life’s tough stuff mix with the grace and healing of His love, amazing things can happen. Might even be a perfect time to grab the kids, put on some praise music and dance around bit, glowsticks twirling!

As you spend time with the One who loves you best, may He fill up every crevice of your brokenness until you positively glow for Him.

Shine on, sweet sisters. Shine on.

How To Remember

By Kitty Hinkle

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:7 NIV

In the years of healing after the loss of Tom, I’ve learned to discern healthy moments of remembrance from unhealthy ones. Paul’s words to the Hebrews about remembering leaders who have gone before us gives me a good picture of what healthy remembrance looks like.

Paul is saying to remember leaders who have gone before us by the way they have spoke to you through their godly actions and words.

In the  year after Tom died, I hired a Christian family counselor who specialized in grief.  What great insight he gave me about interpreting and guiding how we remember our late husbands and fathers.

He explained there is a healthy and unhealthy way of grieving the memory of a spouse or father.  If you learn to identify which you are doing and adjust your thinking, you will learn to own what’s happening in the present and learn to grieve the loss by joyfully remembering happy times with the one you lost.

Here’s how the counselor described healthy grieving:

Something happens, or you go somewhere or you see something, or the wind blows in a certain way that takes you back to a wonderful moment you shared with your spouse. Your child plays an instrument at a music recital and the memory of your husband smiling next to you at past recitals has you longing for him and tears start up. Or… Your child might see another father tossing his son up in the air at the community pool and remember how Dad used to toss him up in the air.  The good memory kicks in and there’s a sad feeling of not having that father to throw him in the air again.   These are healthy patterns of grief.  When you or others around you cry over these times, pause, and relish in the good memories, even if they mean tears.  In time, you might find that the tears feel refreshing.  I sometimes pull out the videos or photo books of Tom at these moments and laugh at the funny things he did, even as the tears spill.  If I do that enough with a child, I find that he cries and laughs at the same time, and eventually, he will settle down peacefully and fall asleep or he’ll brighten at the fun memories of a Dad who really loved him. The more you can tie smiles to tears in the memories, the more you are on the road the healing.

Here’s how the counselor described unhealthy grieving:

Something happens in the present that you’re not happy about.  It may or may not have to do with losing your husband.  Maybe you’re house is a mess and it’s just hard to get motivated to clean it.  Or maybe the couples in the neighborhood are all getting together for Valentines Day and you’re not invited because you’re now single.  You start to wish you had the comfort of your husband again because you’re mind doesn’t want to focus on what’s bothering you in the moment. It’s easier to drift back to a time when it seems through the rosy spectacles of memory everything felt good and happy.  But rosy or not, it is but a memory and memories can’t fix the pain you’re feeling now. Now even that thought makes you only more sad.  You cry, but at least your tears validate sadness and you start to tell yourself that’s okay, because after all you’re a widow and you’re supposed to be sad.  Trouble is, you’ve been tricked.  Of course your loss is sad, but following this path to tears over an over keeps you in a victim’s mentality and prevents you from dealing with the pain in the present.  If you notice you’re doing it, you can stop, recognize it’s not a healthy grieving pattern and deal with what’s happening—push through the lack of motivation and clean your house, no matter how much work it is. Or. Accept that it is lonely on Valentine’s Day without a spouse so you should make alternative plans—go see a movie with another single lady.  Be constructive rather than sitting in the pity.  Wait for the healthy grieving moments to indulge in tears.  There will be plenty of opportunities!

Here’s an example of the way I sort out the types of grieving with my kids.

I hear “I miss Dad” from behind me and feel my boy’s hands gently clasping my arm.

I set him next to me.  “Is something going on that’s bothering you?”

“Yes, I miss Dad.”

“Remember we talked about two kinds of missing Dad?— the kind when something nice reminds you of Dad, like a nice song, or going to a certain park he liked to go to… and then the kind of missing Dad when something makes you sad and you wish Dad were here to cheer you up.”

He nods. We’ve had this conversation before. He thinks and then says, “Brady kicked me on the trampoline.”

“So are you really missing Dad, or are you mad at Brady, and you wish Dad were here to make it better?”

“Mad,” he says.

“You know.” I elbow him and whisper. “Brady would have kicked you even if Dad were here.”

He nods.

“So what did you do about Brady?”

“I pushed him. He says he won’t be my friend now.”

“You believe him?”

He smiles. “Nah.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have pushed him. Can you forgive him?”

He jumps off the bench. “No!” He runs after Brady. “Watch your back, Brady. You’ll get it next time on the trampoline.”

I hope this helps if you wanted to know what a grief counselor suggests.  I know finding suggestions for children can be tough.  Blessings!

Never Enough

By Julie Reed

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:18:20

I’ve been struggling for a few days trying to decide what to write about this week and then it hit me square in the face.  I’ve been butting heads with my fourteen year old son all week long.  We ended up having a “ramming” session as I like to refer to it, with both of us locking “horns” refusing to give in and be defeated.

Anger, attitudes and words flew through the air from both us like sharp, double-edged daggers.  I’m sure that you may have experienced one of those moments when you wish what poured out of your mouth could be pushed right back in.  I call them the toothpaste tube moments.  Just like squeezed out toothpaste….once it’s out there…you can’t put it back in, no matter how hard you try.

Our disagreement really wasn’t one worth the raised voices and harsh words, but as I slammed the door and stated, “It’s just never enough.  I can never do enough for you, can I?” the words pierced my heart with a fire and pain that was real and I know they punctured my son’s heart too.

I went to my bedroom and burst out in tears.  I felt defeated.  I felt like the worst mom in the whole world.  I felt useless that I couldn’t be all that my son wanted or needed me to be.  I felt mad that I wasn’t living up to the expectations that my son wanted me to be or what I had built up in my mind that he wanted from me.  I felt horrible for not controlling my anger and for lashing out in my own sadness and grief.

So, I sat there crying on the bed.  Repeating the words over and over again in my head.  “Never enough, never enough.”  When is it ever going to be enough?  When will I be enough?  When will he have enough?  How do we get to the point when it’s all enough?  I struggle with those questions more than I should.  In a world where people are always racing for more, wanting more, needing more, its difficult at least to say “I have enough” and truly mean it.

I grabbed my Bible and asked God to give me a verse, show me something that would tell me I’d have “enough” or I’d be “enough”.  I’m not one to necessarily believe that you just pop your Bible open, drag your finger along, and voila, there’s the verse for me, but that’s what I did and this is what I found.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:18-20.  Ah, sweet peace came over my heart and mind.  God will meet all my needs.  God will meet all my son’s needs.  God will meet our family’s needs—all according to His riches.  It may not be what we think or feel we need in the moment, but He meets our needs.

There is no way that I’ll ever be enough in my own strength.  I can’t be both a mother and a father to my son, no matter how hard I try.  I can’t be the one to hold his hand through every situation that comes his way.  I can’t be the one that he leans on for all of his emotional struggles and pain.  But God can.

God will be enough.  God will meet his needs.  God will be the “Father” that he needs and misses.  God will be the healer of his heart and mind.  God will be enough for all his situations, trials and triumphs.    God will meet his needs with riches that far outweigh any “riches” I can give him.  When I look back through the past 22 months of our time since daddy has gone to glory, I can honestly say that God has been enough.  He’s provided for us in ways I never could have imagined.  He’s brought our small family together closer than ever.  He has renewed my faith in Him and deepened His relationship with my children.  He’s met all of our needs and more so.

I can’t imagine ever getting enough of God though.  Every day we find new ways to need Him more.

While I still struggle with trying to be the all-in-all to everybody and for everybody, it’s so comforting to know that my Heavenly Father will meet all of our needs.  I don’t have to try and be the super mom or the super friend.  Honestly, the more I try, the less of Him people see in me.  Now, this isn’t something that I don’t already “know”…but sometimes we just need to be reminded in our hearts that yes, I’ll never be enough, but God is.

I quietly went to my son’s room and gently knocked on the door.  He graciously let me in and I sat on the bed next to him.

“I’m sorry about all that.  I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you and acted.  I guess we’re both missing dad a lot this week with the holiday and all.  That’s no excuse.  Can I show you something I just found in the Bible?”

“I’m sorry too Mom.  Sure, what did you find?” was his polite reply.

I slowly read him the verse.  He smiled at me.

“Guess, God knew I’d need you, huh, Mom?”

“Guess He knew I’d need you too, son.”  I tearfully replied.

“Thanks for being someone I need.” he sweetly replied.

“We need each other and God.  Together it will be enough.” I answered. Then was the huge bear hug that we both desperately needed. J

Here’s to hoping this week that God will be “enough” for whatever situation, moment, memory or trial that comes your way.  I’m grateful this week that He is meeting my needs with riches full of His glory, hope and love.  I’m praying that He’ll be enough for you too.

Father’s Day

By Danita Hiles

This Sunday is Father’s Day.   Without another word, I know you get the emotion of that sentence. Every commercial, every card rack and every rack of carefully folded shirts ready to give ‘to your special dad’ screams out a reminder of what we have lost and of the future that looms ahead.

For me, this year seems particularly difficult.  Maybe because I have daughters; a teenager and preteen struggling to find their place in life.

Recently the fear that I feel for their future is almost paralyzing.  I don’t feel it for myself as much, but for them.

Fear that the gaping hole left by the loss of their dad will never be filled.

Fear that they will turn to others to fill the space meant for God.

Fear that the lies of the enemy will drown out the truth of God’s plan for them.  I see choices currently being made because of the empty and I agonize over the far reaching consequences of those choices.

And yes, I know that this fear is not from Him.

I know He tells us over and over to fear not.   Even though I know this, we are still very much in the middle of our journey – not at a place where I can look back with satisfaction and say, ‘Wow, in spite of all that, look at the amazing faith God has built in my girls’.

So when you can’t explain the ‘why?’ of the past, and you are fighting fear over the ‘what’ of the future, all that is left is the right now.   Thankfully, in all of the uncertainty, we have the concrete promises found in His word.

Right now here is what I know:

  • I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.  2 Tim. 1:12
  • For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jer. 29:11
  • A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling  Psalm 68:5
  • But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.  2 Thes. 3:3

The bottom line is this:  we have the creator of the universe as our heavenly Father, rejoicing over our kids with singing, directing their paths, providing His guidance and protection.

I came across these words in my favorite devotional, Come Away My Beloved:

‘O my child, have you not known the way of the Lord and can you not trust Him now?  Nothing shall befall you but that which comes from His hand. No one shall set upon you to hurt you, for your God has built around you a wall of fire.  Do not question and do not doubt. Each day, some small joy will escape you if you are preoccupied with tomorrow.

Nothing daunts your Father. Nothing can restore the past and nothing can bind the future, but today you may live in the full blessings of your Father’s smile. Hold to His words, for they  are like a nail driven into solid wood. All else may seem shifting and transitory, but His word is firm. It is a firm place to stand.   For you know that your Father loves you, and loves yours and your will find true peace as you rest in Him. ‘    (Come Away My Beloved ~ One Day at a Time, p. 30)

Happy Father’s Day, Lord!  I pray you surround my sweet sisters with your presence as they walk through this Father’s Day.   May they see you not only as their heavenly father, but also as father to their kids.   Let them know they are not alone in this journey and that you go before them with every step .

 

Rear-View Driving

By: Julie Reed

“In him and through faith we move forward to approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12

My husband was an avid fisherman.  Thanks to his father, he had been on a boat from the early years of his life learning the ins and outs of all things bass fishing.  He could tell you about lures, lines, and bedding patterns.  He could tell you about hot spots, eel grass and reels, but the one thing that always amazed me the most was his rear view driving.

See, John loved fishing.  I used to tease him that our boat, his boat, was his first wife.  He’d give me a half smile with a twinkle in his eye and say, “Well, at least she doesn’t have a honey-do list for me other than spending time with her.”

“Yeah, well if I had that much time with you, I wouldn’t have a list either.” would be my witty reply.

But, I really enjoyed going out on the boat with him.  Spending the early morning along the shores of Lake Okeechobee watching the sun come up with a light fog across the water was a breath of peace.  Red-winged blackbirds, egrets and blue herons would fly all around without a care in the world.  The peaceful sound of light splashes in the water as baitfish jumped for a snack of water spiders sounded heavenly to me.  Our trips were pretty close to paradise.  Until that is when it was time to leave and load up the boat.

Early in our marriage, I pleaded with John to let me help him.  Let me hold the boat at the ramp.  Let me bring the trailer down for you.  Let me empty the bilge.  He usually just smiled and said, “Stay here and just hold on.  I’ll be quicker.”  He’d jump out of the boat, jog up to the truck and whip it exactly into the perfect position for us to secure the boat to the trailer.  Now, if you’ve ever tried to pull or maneuver a trailer you know that’s not an easy task, but John could do it without even using his mirrors.  Maybe a peek in the rear-view mirror at the start, but after that, he just pulled on back.

After a few trips to the lake and carefully studying his every move, I felt confident that I could do it too.  I certainly could back the trailer up without using the mirror, couldn’t I?  I begged and pleaded with him to give me a chance, just let me try.  He finally caved in and gave me the keys.  I hopped into the Chevy with confidence and visions of success.  I pulled up to the ramp, threw it in reverse and hit the gas.  The trailer ended up jack-knifed alongside the ramp and if honest, part of it was on the ramp.

All I could see in the rear-view mirror was John leaping out of the boat, flaying his arms and yelling something at me that I luckily could not make out because I am certain it was less than godly.  I put the truck in park and slowly opened the door.  He and I both glanced at the trailer, looked back at each other and just busted out laughing.

“Well, I guess you’re not a very good rear-view mirror driver are you?” he chided at me.

“Well, I just need to practice a little bit more.  I haven’t been doing it my whole life, like you,” was my protective response.

His knowledgeable reply was, “Well, you can practice all you want, but you’ll never get anywhere but trouble if you are just looking in the rear- view mirror, honey.  You need to look side to side and then out front to make sure everything is lined up on the right path. You have to look forward with complete confidence that all the stuff behind you is right where it should be.”

Lesson learned.  I’ve spent a lot of the past year and a half, using my rear-view mirror to drive my life.  I keep glancing back at the way things used to be.  I like looking in the mirror and seeing our whole family out fishing.  I like looking in the mirror and remembering holidays, birthdays, and every day with him.  I keep glancing back wishing I could try just one more time to back the trailer down for him.  I keep watching the mirror for some signs or memories that will help me pull forward again, but it doesn’t work.  I can’t move forward with my eyes stuck on the rear-view mirror.  I’ll never get where God wants me, our family, to be if I’m still looking back.

There are several biblical references to looking back, to rear-view mirror living if you will.  There is Lot’s wife who was unwilling to look completely away from the past and ended up a pillar of salt from Genesis 19:26.  There is the relatable friend, Job who spoke in Job17:11 saying, “My days have passed, my plans are shattered, and so are the desires of my heart.”  I would venture to guess that the most known group of rear-view mirror watchers are the Israelites.  Moses was leading them out from the oppression of Egypt and several times along the way they would look back and grumble of all they had lost, not realizing what God had promised for them up ahead was so much more.  They were looking back wanting to go back to slavery…that’s a rear-view mirror that I would gladly choose not to look in. How about you?

That doesn’t mean that we need to stop using the rear-view mirror all together. We can use our memories and past to help us along our new and different journey.  We should keep our focus on the road for today and every now and then, peek back and be sure the “stuff behind us” is right where it should be.  I know I can look forward with confidence knowing that all the rear-view memories will still be lined up right along with me on my new path without John.  Thanks, honey, for the driving lesson and thanks, God for taking over the driver seat for me now.

Are you still trying to move forward in your life but keeping your eyes on the rear-view mirror?  Share with me some memories of your loved one and what you are doing to help stay focused on the new life road ahead.  I’d love to see how God is helping you stay on the highway of life with Him as your driver.

 

 

Belittled

By Samantha Reed

Belittled

By Samantha Reed
www.Fieldsgold.blogspot.com

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
~Phil. 4

Like a firefly trapped in a Mason jar. Stiffled, I peered out, watching others’ dreams come to pass. My own on a shelf next to me.

Little by little, my happy-go-lucky heart flickered. Sadness cupped his hand over what little light was left as I acknowledged outloud the depths of my disappointment.

Extinguished. Exhausted. Expectant no longer.

“I’m so sorry your dreams are dashed,” my friend offered. “Wish I had known sooner how difficult this disappointment has been for you. Woulda been an honor to walk it out with you.”

“Thanks. But a broken heart is silly. Especially in light of others’ pain.” Our friend’s husband had just passed away. Who was I to be sad about a mere break up?

Silenced by unworthiness. Belittled by doubt.

Years of wisdom, scrolls of mercy, flashed in her eyes.

The beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.
~Bonhoeffer

She took my hand and we journeyed back. To a time when she lost her children. And someone told her to check her pain at the door. To keep it in perspective to others’ pain.

She took my hand and we journeyed back. To a time when the Lord ministered healing from the grief of empty arms and empty cribs. He rocked her tight, shielding her from the daggers of false words by careless hearts. Pain was acknowledged and given a name and sifted through, not simply tucked in a dark corner.

She took my hand and we journeyed forward. “Your pain is genuine. This valley is real and you have to walk through it to get out. Don’t belittle your grief.”

She granted permission to acknowledge the ache and loss. Drastically different than her own, yet no less honest. Not till that moment did I realize I was holding my pain at a distance, shunning it for perceived absurdity. I needed her words.

And while it’s true that

It is wisdom that realizes:
I cannot expect anyone to understand me fully.
~Brennan Manning

We were created to at least give an effort to be understood. While our main hope and healing hinges on the Lord alone, it’s vital we share our journey with others.

Is it perhaps time to ask for help out of your valley? The grace of others settling in the valley with us is needed at times. Counting stars during the long, dark night of our soul is more comforting with others beside us. The first ray of light often is glimpsed by them anyhow.

No one could hear the whole counsel of God in isolation.
~Richard Foster

Friend, no matter what other voices have said, your pain is valid. Seasons of pain come. And they also leave. Don’t miss that last part. Pain is not meant to linger indefinitely. Often we need a trusted companion to walk us through it. Someone who will undo the lid on our Mason jar. And fly next to us, out of the valley.

Going Deeper

A few years ago I read Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner by Wendy Blight. Hope, joy, faith and trust were brutally ripped from her in a violent hour. She made her way through the valley she was pushed into and encouraged me out of mine as well.

This summer, Melissa Taylor is leading an online study of Hidden Joy. Friend, I pray you’ll consider walking out of your valley with the girls going through this study. No matter what the source of your pain is, I trust you’ll find hope and healing in this study. Click here for more info and to join.

Also, we’d love you to join us in our series of leaving the hurt behind. Jump on board by clicking here!