Friday, February 15, 2019

His Grace Is Sufficient

Now since the holidays have passed, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and what would have been birthday year 26, feels like I can move on and breathe again.  Another season in the books without my Joseph… . But we made it through by the grace of God. Approaching another year without him.  Year 4.  Year 4 for us without him.  Life forever altered by befores and afters.  Withs and withouts.  Death has a way of changing how you look at the calendar and the seasons.

Was a rough patch for a while.  A rough season.  A hard time filled with memories of other lost loved ones.  A sister, a brother, a mother-in-law, whom we lost in the span since we’ve lost our Joe.   Then there were visits to the ER, to the doctors (multiple), to ambulatory care units and then diagnoses… one, two, three… all in the midst of this season of just a few months, “my season of despair,” I called it.  Someone called me Jobette.  Sort of felt like that for a minute, still do on some days, but God.  Covered by His grace.

And yet even in the midst of all of that, my family and I got to take a family vacation to Aruba, (far away from last year’s trip to Chicago).  Weather was ideal, no lower than 78, no higher than 82.  Perfect temperatures for the beach, where we spent most of our time.

The beach relaxes me, you know.  It’s almost like I belong there.  Like I was born there or something.  It’s what I call my little piece of heaven on the earth.  Mi paraiso.  And I suppose it’s as close to paradise (and Joseph) as I will get.  For now, anyway.  So I’ll take it any chance I can.
Looking at the sand on the beach, I saw myself as a child just sitting and playing in it.  I’m sure you’ve seen how children sit in the sand and are content to just sit there playing in it.  Totally oblivious to what is going on around them.  That is where God had me.  That is where I felt like I was.  In the sand.  A child playing in the sand.  Twirling my stick, oblivious yet aware.    And God has sat me there in the midst of all the things that are happening all around me.  I don’t know why they’re happening.  There is nothing I can do about them happening.  Right now anyway.  I’ve just got to go along with it.  But in order to go along with it, sometimes you’ve got to get out of the way.  And so I sit.  In the sand, where God has placed me.  Twirling my stick until God comes along and says it’s time to move on.  And tells me to put the stick down. 

Truth is, it is only then that we can move on. That we can do anything.  When God says so.  We can only move by His grace.  Until then, we must be content to simply sit and wait…
I don’t why things happen.  Still don’t.  I don’t know why my Joe had to die, but I’ve learned  something from it.  And I’m learning some other things, which you will hear about soon.  God’s grace has been moving in my life in ways I had not seen BUT by His grace.  His grace is sufficient.
I don’t know why we have to suffer and suffer so much at one time.  Back to back, to back to back.  I do know that the Word says that Jesus suffered.  And that He learned obedience through the things He suffered.  Maybe that’s one reason.  Seems a harsh way to learn obedience.  But I’m not God.  His ways are not my ways, neither are His thoughts my thoughts.  Who am I to question them? But thankfully in the midst of the suffering, God’s grace comes along and lightens the load.   Never gives you more than you can bear.  His grace is sufficient.

In this season, in these few months all I’ve heard and keep hearing is, “My grace is sufficient.”    I open the Word and read it.  I hear it from a preacher.  I heard it out of my husband’s mouth.  In devotionals.  From things I just happen to pick up and read.  From the very mouth of God.  “My grace is sufficient.” 

In 2 Corinthians, Chapter 7, the Apostle Paul speaks of a thorn that he believe he had.  That thorn could have been an illness, could have been a shortcoming, an annoyance, the Bible doesn’t say; but Paul said to God, “Three times I asked you to take it away from me.”  Three times… the number of the divine.  His divine will.  Each time he asked God told him, “My grace is sufficient.  For when you are weak, then I am strong.”  Then Paul got this revelation, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  His grace is sufficient.

Everything you need, everything you are going through, everything you shall face… God says, My grace is sufficient.   That shortcoming… My grace is sufficient.  That hardship, that persecution, that trouble… My grace is sufficient. 

Your broken pieces… My grace is sufficient.  Your missing ones… My grace is sufficient.  Your health challenges… My grace is sufficient.  Your financial burdens… My grace is sufficient.  Your loved ones… My grace is sufficient.

Just continue to play in the sand (as I have) until it’s time for Me, until it’s time for My grace to move you on.  My grace is sufficient to do so.  My grace is sufficient to keep you.  Sufficient to hold you.  Sufficient to lighten your load.

His grace is sufficient.  For you.  And His grace is sufficient for me.

Because God is real, I am, still.
His servant,
Sis. E


Friday, September 21, 2018

Wild Flower

“She's faced the hardest times you could imagine.
And many times, her eyes fought back the tears.
And when her useful world was about to fall in,
each time her slender shoulders
Bore the weight of all her fears
And a siren no one hears
Still rings in midnight silence in her ear.

“Let her cry for she's a lady.
Let her dream, she is a child
Let the rain fall upon her
She's a free and gentle flower growing wild.

“And if by chance I should hold her
Let me hold for all time
If allowed just one possession
I would pick her from the garden to be mine.

“Be careful how you touch her she will awaken
Sleep's the only freedom, that she knows.
And when you walk into her eyes, you won't believe
The way she's always paying for a debt she never owed
And the silent winds still blow
But only she can hear, so she groans…

For the last four days I have awakened to this song, gone to sleep with it and it has even been in my dreams. "Wildflower" a remake of a song originally sung by Canadian group, Skylark, covered by New Birth in 1973. Often times when a song gets in my spirit, I have learned that the Lord is speaking and wants me to know something. So of course, as I normally do when this happens, I looked up the words.

Then I looked up the reason why the song was written, it said that this man was in love with this woman though something in her eyes told him this woman was troubled, “She’s faced the hardest times you could imagine and many times her eyes fought back the tears.” But he asked to date her and when they were going to go on their date, a patient that the woman had been caring for died and she blamed herself for it, even though it wasn’t her fault. “The way she’s always paying for a debt she never owed.” And the woman falls asleep and the man just allows her to sleep, not wanting to wake her because in her sleep is all the peace she gets.

Looking at her the man falls in love with her and he wants her to be his, maybe to take away the pain that she so obviously feels (thinking no one knows about), “And a siren no one hears, still rings in midnight silence in her ears.” And the man understands. He wants to anyway. And he calls her a lady, and a child and then a wild flower. Realizing that she found herself in a place because of happenstances. Circumstances that just happened that she had no control over. And she was still beautiful.
I also looked up what a wildflower is. It’s a flower that has not been intentionally planted anywhere in particular, but because of the circumstances that seed found itself in, sprung up. Sometimes in undesirable places. But even in that undesirable place that wildflower continues to blossom and grow, in spite of the rain. “Let the rain fall down upon her.” 

That’s when God spoke to me. God loves me. NEWSFLASH!!! And He loves you too. And He will tax every grain of sand whenever we are doubting that, to let us know, even if it means speaking through a song from many moons ago. God said that I am like that flower, growing in the wild.

That wild is representative of the stage that I am in, in my life right now. An unfamiliar place, (becoming all too familiar). For me it’s my walk in this shadow of grief. For you, it may be a job (new or old), where you seemed to have worn out your welcome. It may be a place in your life where you might feel alone. A stage where thorns have grown, and it seems that you find yourself apologizing or blaming yourself (as the lady in the song) for even things you didn’t do. As I have, all too often. It’s an unfamiliar place. A place in the wild. A wilderness experience, where you might feel lost. Where tears are falling, and no one seems to know about it. Where you have been dreaming dreams, but tired that they are not coming to pass. (God has given you that vision, don’t you dare let go of it!) Where you no longer feel useful, because all your world (as you knew it) has fallen. (Like this woman in the song, who was distraught because a patient died). God said that although you may find yourself in a strange place, He knows where you are. (And knows where I am too). You are a flower. Growing in the wild.

But even in the wild, the flower still grows. And it makes wherever it has found itself, beautiful.  Just as this woman was despite her circumstances.

And by mid song, the singer changes the chorus to

“Let her cry for she's a lady
Let her dream, she is MY child
Let the rain fall upon her
She's a free and gentle flower growing' wild
She is MY flower growing wild.

The singer takes ownership of her. It was almost as if God was speaking Himself when I heard this. You are MY child. You are MY flower. MY flower growing wild.

Because God is real, I am

Still His servant and now His wild flower,

Sis. E

You can listen to the song here...
I pray it ministers to your spirit, just as much as it has ministered to mine.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

It’s Okay NOT to be Okay

It’s okay NOT to be okay.  I have heard people say this a few times and have seen it in different forms on social media.  And I have certainly heard the term in my head over the last few months, for sure.  But for a certainty, it really is past time that we, as people, Christians especially, realize the truth of this statement.  You are not perfect, nor are you expected to be, (no matter what others may put on you).  As long as you are on this side of the earth you will never be.  And that is “perfectly” okay.

You see the church has said some things to me over the years, and especially since the death of my son, Joseph, that would have me to believe that it is a sin and a dishonor for people to know that you are not okay.  For some reason we have this idea in our heads, that when you display some sign of weakness, some sign of imperfection, some sign that something is wrong with your life, that what you are telling people is that God is not good.  “The church” has also stressed that since you are NOT okay, you yourself cannot go and preach to others to believe God or walk in faith, if you are struggling to do so.  I believe that as long as you continue to live your life; continue to do what you know to do, in spite of your feelings; continue to strive to believe God (remember the father of the boy with the unclean spirit, Mark 9:24,  “Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief.”), as long as you desire to live in faith (even the little that you hold on to); you can share your experience with others and encourage people to hang on to theirs.  Time out for everything to be okay with you.  Especially by someone else’s standards.  God does not put that on us, don’t let someone else put it on you.  It’s okay NOT to be okay.  You are not practicing sin.  You are not being a bad example and you can still encourage someone else.

We do God and people an injustice when we walk around as if everything is right with our world, because what we are doing is pretending.  Pretending that things are perfect in our lives and they could not be any better.  When we walk around as if we have it altogether it is part of the reason why unbelievers and the world cannot relate to us, because unlike you, they have issues.  Real ones.  Problems that get them down.  Problems in need of solving.  But if you don’t have any, or pretend that you don’t, how will they know about the problem solver you claim to know?  Or better yet, that their problems can be solved by the Problem Solver you claim to know.  People are delivered by real testimony.  Real situations.  Real circumstances.  Real feelings.  Not something you heard, or made up, but what you have actually gone through.  And if you do not share it, or think it’s okay to share it, how will they know?

Yes, I know.  People should not know everything you are going through. And I agree with that to an extent.  But when people know that you’ve been hurt and see you trying to pretend that you are not, what they actually see is hypocrisy.  You are talking a good game that all is right with your world, when it is not. Clearly.  People know, lots of them, that my son Joseph was killed.  People know how much that must hurt, most people anyway.  But if I were to walk around pretending that I am not hurting, I not only hurt myself, but I hurt others, because some would believe, one, I must have not loved him as much as I said I do; or two, I am invincible (perfect) and have no feelings.  Feelings matter.  Mine, yours.  Yes, we are called to walk by faith, which is why you can overcome those feelings… casting aside every high thing that exalts itself against the Word of God. So, when it comes to am I going to ride with these feelings and let them sink me deep into a depressive state or am I going to take up my bed and walk; my faith says, take up your bed and walk, even if I am walking with a limp.

It's okay NOT to be okay.  It’s okay to feel it.  If you try and bypass those feelings, even talking them out, you’re pretending that you have it altogether.  But you don’t.  You’re holding it inside, too afraid to say something for fear of being judged and you’re giving a place to the devil.  He will take those thoughts and twist them.  His motive is to steal, kill and destroy.  Just as he set about to get Jesus to kill Himself by throwing Himself over that mountain, that devil wants you to kill yourself too.  Whispering the very things that are hurting you back into your ear, to make you so depressed that you actually believe it to be better if you were not here.  Don’t let him do it to you.  It’s okay not to be okay and it’s okay to tell somebody.

Find someone to share those thoughts with.  And I know it’s hard.  There are even therapists out there who have experienced pain themselves and are not even sharing the pain that they are feeling, but in turn, taking that pain and causing someone else to fall in some way by passing on lies and false beliefs as to why they feel the way they do.  Therapists have issues too.  Please, if you are a therapist, tell people the truth and not what you would have them to believe.  Tell them you’re hurting too.  Tell them you’re not perfect.  That YOU made a mistake. Show them the power of forgiveness.  
Sometimes the not being okay is because we have not forgiven ourselves.  That’s real therapy.

And for those who believe that people are okay when they are not, don’t think of people being dramatic, or overly so.  What does that mean anyway?  They may have some real issues and you miss the sign, the call for help, if you simply dismiss it as, “her being dramatic,” “or this is what he always does.”  That “drama” might just be a cry for help.  For an ear.  For a hug.

I often wonder what it is that pushes people over the edge.  I believe that the thoughts are always there.  And in little ways, people play a role.  You never know what that phone call did or how the slightest little thing changed a thought.  What happened to Kate Spade recently and Anthony Bourdain, and of late, Bobbi Kristina Brown and Robin Williams, is not a rare occurrence.  Suicidal thoughts are even with people that are well known, loved, successful, young and old.  We never know who these thoughts are affecting and to what degree.  But I do believe this, for whatever reason, those thoughts may not have been shared.    Lots of people suffer inside, in silence, for many reasons and it seems these days we make it harder for them to say anything about it.  For fear of what others might think.  Unfortunately, especially in the household of faith. 

We have this thing in the church, that if something is wrong with your life, you did something for it to be wrong.  We have become very judgmental, hiding behind the Word, and people, especially leaders, are afraid to say anything.  They are living behind the fa├žade that all is right with their world, when they need to be on the altar, the most.  It’s okay not to be okay.  It’s okay to hurt.  It’s okay to feel bad, to be sad, to mourn, to grieve.  It’s okay to display emotion.  All of them. 

I know there was a part in the Bible where God spoke to Ezekiel when his wife died, and He commanded Ezekiel not to mourn her.  But God had a specific purpose for doing that, and unless He told you not to mourn, not to hurt, not to cry, you do it.  It’s okay not to be okay.  And it’s okay to say so.

It’s okay to cry.  It’s okay to say you are doubting right now.  It’s okay to come clean with where you are spiritually.  In your walk.  You are free from condemnation.  In spite of what people tell you.

Now of course there is another side to this, because there are always two sides to a story.  It is the way you do it.  Don’t be like Job’s wife and curse God and die, because something has happened to you.  Continue to believe.  Continue to have faith.  Continue to confess that and ask God to help you with your struggle.  Ask God to help you to believe again.  To restore the joy of His salvation.  And most of all, ask Him to be glorified in it all.  Because if that is your ultimate goal even in the midst of your pain, God WILL be glorified.  He can be, and He will be.

It really is okay NOT to be okay.  Take it from someone who knows.  And I admit I am NOT okay.  But I WILL BE.  

And there shall be glory after this, because God is real. 

Sis. E