There is always more on my heart than words can say, but I find journaling my thoughts or prayers a great exercise & makes a record to view of memories & our history - I invite you to join me if you can relate to authentic life.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Are Some Friends God Has Blessed You with, Unloveable?

I read this question today and I love it.

"How do you love the friends the Lord has put in your life, even if he or she may not be so loveable?" (Heidi St. John)

I love it because I am passionate about people and relationships and this is a question that we, as Christ followers, need to ask ourselves regularly. A number of times, I've seen people avoid each other and justify it by saying things like "Some people just don't get along"  or  "As long as we're polite, that's good enough" and various things that show they don't want the trouble of truly loving the difficult people in their lives. I get it - it's hard. I have found myself willing to throw in the towel at times.

But, friends and family aren't relationships to be ignored or thrown away. God allows certain people in our lives, people HE loves immensely, to give us an opportunity to grow and learn from those that are different from us. Years ago I found that a relationship I thought couldn't thrive, turned out wonderful because I was willing to view the other person as God does (It wasn't just me - I know the other person was gracious as we worked to understand each other). It was actually quite easy to be friends when we had the mind set that God wants every relationship to bear the fruit of the spirit. As a result of our efforts, God has used us to be a great encouragement to each other over the years. He knew all along the support and friendship He was willing to provide each of us, but we could have missed out on it by choosing to believe we knew better than He who is worthy of our friendship.

Of course, we choose our friends many times throughout our lives, but sometimes there are people chosen for us. We all have people that are part of our lives that we didn't choose to be there - but, there they are. Isn't building a relationship with those people a perfect opportunity to honor God? It honors God because it brings unity in believers and families. It honors God, because we are more like Him when we choose to love.

Sometimes we make the choice to love the unlovable friends we have, just to be hit with rejection. Obviously, not everyone is ready or willing to make this same choice, maybe not even realizing that this is an area of our lives God wants to use.
This makes it hard and sometimes I feel like saying it's okay to give up on loving this unlovable friend, except that God continues to have them in my life and I believe He expects me to love them whether it is returned or not.
Relationships aren't just for our enjoyment, but for our growth. They are the best opportunity we have to become more like Christ.
I am learning that it takes a willingness to die to self when you know you need to show love to someone where it won't be appreciated or reciprocated. Because it's hard to die to self, I don't always choose love. Sometimes I choose to avoid, instead. Sometimes I choose to be frustrated or hurt. But, when I choose to show kindness in the difficult times, I know I am pleasing God. I am acting more like Him and that is what makes choosing to love worth it.

I would love to hear how you show love to your unlovable friends. What things do you do? What things do you refrain from doing?  You can write in the comment box, the fb comments or message me.
Here are some things that I purposely do:  

I pray for me. I ask the Lord for a willingness to value each and every relationship He has placed in my life and for strength to put myself aside and do whatever He asks of me. If I don't do this, I start to fear rejection, get prideful and justify why I don't need difficult people in my life, and basically, I'll act like me, instead of Him.

I pray for the unlovable. It's hard to be critical of someone when God starts to show you that person the way He sees them. It also gives me a stronger desire to see the relationship grow.

I try to be nice. I don't believe in being fake - in fact, I hate it when people are superficial (they are usually more obvious than they think) - but, I look for ways to do or say something  genuinely nice to that person.  If I can't do it sincerely, I wait until I can.  They may not appreciate it, and it may even annoy them, but at least I know I am choosing to trust that God put this person in my life for a reason and I'm actively working on loving. (Proverbs 25:21-22)

The final thing I try to do (notice I say 'try') is to 'Let go and let God'. As long as my heart is right toward honoring the relationships God put in my life, then I can leave the rest up to Him. God won't force someone to trust His choices for them, but He is the One who can change hearts. Although, they may never change in their actions toward me, I am changing with every act of obedience to the Lord, so I can be happy with that and let Him worry about the rest.

I know satan does not want unity and love among believers, so he is good at trying to prove that working at these relationships is unnecessary. He tries to prove why the unlovable aren't worthy of our efforts. I have to guard myself (with prayer and scripture) against these thoughts, because I don't want to be like him. I want to be like Christ, who values a relationship with me, even though I am a sinner that He could deem unlovable. I am so thankful for His friendship, and all the loveable and loving friends He has given me, and all the difficult ones as well, because these are the things that draw me closer to Him.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Always Have a Father

My cycle of thoughts this weekend and the processing of

I can't think of anyone who deserves to go Home more than my dad. I want that for him, because Christ has truly been his refuge, his strength, his best Friend, his Everything. The reunion awaiting him will be spectacular.
Beyond that, he will be with 5 of his sons again. He will see his daughter-in-law, his grandkids, his parents and siblings/siblings -in-law. He loved them all so deeply.
He has known much grief. He has faced much hardship. He has been betrayed. Through it all, he has clung with a tenacity that I marvel at to his belief in the goodness and perfectness of God. What a glorious day it will be for him to be with his Saviour!!

But, now that hospice believes he is in his last weeks, I've switched from wanting him to be free and I'm thinking, 'Whoa, hold on! Not so fast! I'm not ready to say good-bye!......I CAN'T DO THIS!!!!.'  
I'm SO grateful for having the best dad I can imagine and for all the years he poured into my life. I just selfishly want to hang on for more. I feel too young to be without a dad.
My heart starts racing throughout the day, breathing becomes quick and shallow. I'm trying to focus on finishing picture stuff, traveling, making work and school arrangements, and finding clothes for the future memorial that sounds like it's getting close. It feels like I've gone through these preparations a thousand times. It's been enough that it brings me anxiety, even though most people don't see that I get shaky and cold and nervous. This time will be a little different than the others - not better or worse - but different, because it's the first time I'll lose a father. My mind keeps racing with questions and even some fear:

Who's going to be there to pray for me when I so desperately need it? There's been so many times I've called him over the years.

Who's going to answer my questions about faith, the church, scripture and trials with the depth of experience and commitment my dad had?

Who's going to hug me as much as he did?

Who's going to tell me how nice I look? He always told me I looked 'sharp' and pretty and I think he and I talked about clothes more than my mom and I. He loved showing off any new tie or shirt he got.

Who's going to like my style as much as he and ask me to make things for him?

Who's going to bring me all kinds of garage sale stuff that I may or may not need?

Who's going to come help me with projects?

Who's going to remind me how much Nathan looks like Steve? He often said recently how much Nate reminded him of Steve at the same age.

Who's going to bring me treats when I don't feel good or run through Wendy's for a frosty with me just because we are out doing errands - of course, I had to promise not to tell mom he was cheating on his diet.

Who's going to stop by just because they want to have a few minutes to talk and see the kids?

Who's going to bring me all kinds of printed information that he thought I needed to know?

Who's going to pray daily for me (and the rest of our family) with the intensity and fervor that he did?

I've had to get used to some of these things being over already, due to living in separate states and his dementia of late, but saying goodbye for good is so......real.
I have these days where I'm afraid to not have my dad to turn to and I want to soak up more of his wisdom.

But, I DO have an answer to my questions.

Who's going to fill in for my dad? Well, no one can take his place, of course. And, while my mom actually did many of these things with my dad (and she won't stop), I know she and my dad would say what they've always said, either in words or actions -  God is your answer for everything.

Even though I am going to miss being my dad's only daughter and the special bond we had, I'm going to honor him by realizing I'm still going to be a daughter that will be loved and protected by a Father - I'm still a daughter of the King!!   God will never leave me without wisdom, comfort, love or any good thing I ask for. There is nothing my dad would ever want more than to know that I rely on God before any person, even himself. My dad has taught me a lot about this already and I will remember what he's shared with me, learn from his example and honor his legacy by relying on my Heavenly Father in the places I used to rely on my dad for.

I know that I will still feel hurt, and sometimes anxiety during this journey of losing my dad, but through it all, I'm not alone. I will try not to forget it in the stressed moments, even though satan will want me to feel that way at times. I will just have to focus on my dad being in Heaven - that's the best grief care I know. It's much harder to think of my loss when I know my loved ones are happy, free from pain and with their Lord!

Psalm 121:1 -2 “I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.”

Isaiah 41:10“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)

Deuteronomy 31:6“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (ESV)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

LIfe Unexpected

Life Unexpected. I decided that is going to be the name of my book.

Much of life is a surprise, isn't it? I can't even begin to list the expectations I had for life that did not work out as I thought. Sometimes that was a wonderful blessing. Other times that meant there were circumstances I didn't think I could bear.

In either case, the name of the Lord deserves praise. ( Ps.113:3)

Praising God has never been a problem when He has blessed me with undeserved gifts! And, I can say it's always been my goal when He's taken away things I treasure or believe I need. I have not always reached that goal, however. I wish I could say that I've chosen praise all the times I plead for answers instead, but I'm learning to do that more and more.

As I look ahead at my life, I'm wondering what expectations I'm still carrying. Do I expect to live a long life? Do I expect my kids or husband to live long lives? Do I expect we will never be jobless again? Or, to be financially secure? To always have a home? To keep all my limbs? To never be betrayed by people I trust? To always have freedom in our country? To have all my kids be college graduates? To avoid strife in my family?  I actually do expect these things and more - to a degree anyway. Clearly, I am still learning how to let go of my expectations.

I am not suggesting for a moment that creating expectations to live by is wrong. I expect my kids to live by the rules of our home, for example. What I have learned, though, is that people tend to expect things and then feel wronged when those things aren't fulfilled. At least, I sure do. When that happens, we forget to be thankful for all God has provided us. We think we deserve things that were never really promised to us. We forget our ultimate mission because we put our focus on ourselves.

Just one example I have of this is that I always believed I would have my family around. I knew there was a chance someone could die early, of course. After all, my first brother died before I was born and the other when I was 5, so I wasn't na├»ve to the possibility. It just never occurred to me that by the age of 43, I would only have one brother alive out of 6 and that my dad would be in the final stages of Alzheimer's disease.  I assumed they would always be around until we were all older, because that is generally the rule.
I don't think I should have contemplated who may be dying when I was younger, but I DO know that when they did die, I felt robbed.  I was shortchanged.  I deserved to have them around just like all my friends who have their siblings and get to continue to share holidays and special events with them, didn't I?

BUT, then I realized......I was never shortchanged at all. The truth was that I had been given the blessing of a large family.  I had been unaware that it would change so drastically, but it was still a gift - not a right that was taken from me.   I'm not exactly speaking of the concept of just being grateful for what we had even though lives were cut short, but the shift in vision that allows me to see that we didn't lose out at all. This was God's story for our lives and it was different than I thought, but we were incredibly blessed to have what we had. I much prefer having all those brothers for part of my life than for none of it.  In fact, for all I know, God could have extended their time with us because of our prayers.
That doesn't mean that I miss my loved ones any less. My heart hurts when I'm wanting them here, I grieve when it's obvious they are missing, especially when a major life event is happening. I don't say that so anyone will feel sorry for me, just to acknowledge that grief is part of life and I'm not denying that it's there.

God cleared what was a distorted view on my part and gave me new perspective. Maybe this is more of an internal thing on  my part, and maybe it's not a need most people face --  that of releasing their expectations. But, I did need it. I remember pleading with God to help me be happy for those around me that still had their whole families intact (to even be happy for those that weren't building relationships within their families & didn't seem to realize the blessing they could have), because I would feel jealous and like my close family deserved to be together more than those kinds of families. God answered my prayer with the realizations I've talked about here and has buried the temptation to become bitter under the ocean floor.

Surrendering my rights and expectations of everything in my life will be a battle I will fight until the day I die, I'm sure, but my daily prayer to God is this:  "I don't know what You are going to give or take away today (and it scares me a little). It may seem You are taking away things that I should have been able to count on (can I please count on keeping Tim for a regular life span since he's the last brother left? and for that matter, everyone else in the family?) ....but, You had the right to give me the life You did and I am surrendering my right to plan it, envision the future and think I deserve more. I just thank You for everything You have given me and will treasure all the blessings until my time with them is up."    

"Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him..." Job 13:15

Friday, May 10, 2013

It Should Have Been Just Another Day

I was having lunch with the student leader of my Freshman TF class when I got the call. It’s hard enough to be in a busy, college dining room with the trouble my eye and ear have been giving me since the concussion, so I let the call go, knowing it would hurt to try to hear a phone conversation and figuring that it would just be an update since we didn’t talk the day before. I actually felt a little uncomfortable waiting to call back, but I thought I was being silly. I would just call right when I left the lunch room. Then I got a text saying I needed to call. ASAP.

I knew what that meant.

I excused myself from the student, but I didn’t want to call Sarah back. How many times have I received a phone call like that? I knew what was coming and I didn’t want any more of it. Of course, in the seconds of making a return call like that,  logic tried to step in and say that things were going so well that there’s no reason to believe anything went wrong. Logic said that I just get anxious easily because of previous events. Logic tried so hard to overrule, but my heart knew. 

As soon as I heard Sarah’s voice, my fears were confirmed. I started heading out the door. Then she said the words “…..she became immediately unresponsive. They worked on her for an hour but couldn’t revive her.”  I started crying as I was weaving in and out of the tables and didn’t know what to do with myself. I’ve been so weak and dizzy the last couple of months that my balance wasn’t holding up well with this shock, so I stumbled over to the windows and sat on the floor. Don’t ask me why – I have no idea what I was doing, I just knew I had to sit. I was slightly aware that I was receiving curious looks.

I had to make sure I heard right. I said, “You are saying that we lost her, too?”  She said yes.

All I could picture was Jan without her husband by her side, fighting for her life and 4 young adults in a hospital reliving an event they shouldn’t have had to go through even once.  You see, my nieces and nephews had already lost their dad, my brother, a few years ago.  Now, very unexpectedly, their mother was diagnosed with a leaky valve in her heart and within the week had surgery to fix it. Surgery had gone well, the doctor’s said. Jan was up and even having breakfast less than 2 days later. She evidently had a blood clot that stopped her heart immediately, according to the nurses and doctors that were with her.

I ended up making my way to my office, with students and staff stopping to give me hugs on the way, knowing something had to be very wrong in my world.  When I got there, Scott, Ryan and Steven prayed with me and were so comforting. Minga came over and stayed with me for a while and prayed with me. I have some amazing friends at CU and an amazing God that provides for His children when they are in shock and hurt. He has never let us down. Like I said, we've done this before.

By now, I pretty much have the drill down:

-Lose someone I love before they have a chance to get old.                                                                   -Feel shock that God would actually take another of my parents’ children (in this case, another   parent from my nieces and nephews).                                                                                                    -Grieve for my parents, grieve for the spouse or children left behind, grieve for myself and my husband and kids.                                                                                                                                      -Choose. Choose to remember God DOES love us immensely. God DOES know what’s happening and cares. God WILL take care of us that are left behind. God CAN be trusted. Choose to know that I am NOT necessarily the next one on the list to die. 

But, I’m going to be honest here. This is the first time I feel like throwing an out and out tantrum. If I wasn’t so tired, I just might. Please forgive me for thinking this, but ... isn’t it time for someone else’s family to grieve? Don't get me wrong, I truly don't want anyone else to feel pain. But if something has to happen, why does it have to be in our family again? This year was FINALLY going to be a year of fun for our family. We were going to TN to celebrate babies and birthdays and being together. We will still do that, Lord willing, but it will be without Jan. Without Joel. Mark. Steve. Phil. Jonathan, Jeremiah and David’s baby.  I’m sure other family members, like my mom and dad, won’t be able to come either because my dad is in the end stages of Alzheimer’s and my mom is his caretaker. Why are we always having to become accustomed to a new normal for our family? Trust me, it NEVER becomes normal when you have parts of you missing, even though we try.

Obviously, we have had many blessings as well, and we do count them. We treasure them. But, sometimes life hurts, too. It goes so completely different than we hoped or dreamed and knocks us down. We have to re-group. I guess I just don’t feel like re-grouping.
I don’t feel like trying to explain to others why holidays and reunions hurt the way they do. I don’t feel like being the one in groups of people that has the sad news to share, and yet, I don’t feel like wondering why people don’t recognize my life is altered again and why they don’t even show concern.  I don’t want to figure out what my new responsibilities are and then feel guilty when I can’t live up to them the way I should. I don't feel like feeling inadequate in the lives of those I love. 

I just want some fun. I want lightheartedness without the realization that one of us, if not all, are missing someone that isn’t there. I want lots of things that breathe joyful life into my bones, without the accompanying disappointment. (Like, enjoying my son's graduation, without wishing my brothers could celebrate with us and wish they could see how much he looks like them.)  I want to stop feeling insecure about the future. I want lots of things. I even want to stop wanting.

Okay, so, I get it.  Life is not about what I want.  I'm pretty aware of that fact. I’m just sad and was hoping for a new, different kind of chapter in our lives this year. (Remember, I’m in the tantrum feeling stage). I need just a moment to be heartsick without feeling strong. If you know me, you know that I am not doubting or distrusting God and neither do I need a pep talk of how life is hard and we all have hard things to go through. Right now, I'm just grieving the many aspects of hurt another death has caused and grieving for all those affected, especially for Jan's kids and grandkids. Healing is on it's way, but in the meantime this is what the Bible tells us, and I'm counting on it for all of us:
Psalm 34:18 (NIV) The LORD is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Because of this promise, I'll be okay. We'll all be okay.