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Thrive – Don’t Just Survive the Holidays

Thrive - Don't just survive the holidays. How to find joy in the holidays, even when your heart is breaking. Challenge:

Holidays. For many people, this word conjures up images of days off, family, favorite foods, and all sorts of lovely memories. I love holidays. When I was growing up, they were all about family. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite. In the last few years, the approaching holidays have brought sadness instead of anticipation. There have been more tears than laughter. I started to dread them.

Last Thanksgiving I cried through most of the weekend with friends (mostly when I was in my room, not in front of everyone). On Christmas, it was almost a relief that my husband was sick, because I was focused on caring for him and preparing to move, instead of on what could/should have been. It was sad, and I was ashamed. What do you do when grief causes these special days to turn into painful reminders of your loss or sorrow?

This past Mother’s Day was a turning point for me. I knew there would be moments of sadness, but I determined ahead of time to find joy and not mope through the day. I’m planning that again for Thanksgiving and Christmas. So how does one go from dreading holidays to embracing them? For me, it was focus. (When I think about it, most everything comes down to focus.)

The Plan:

On Mother’s Day I determined not to focus on the fact that all of my children were in Heaven. I will never forget that fact, and it will always hurt, but I chose not to focus on the pain. You know the enemy came to tempt me back to focusing on myself, but I consistently brought my thoughts back into subjection by choosing to focus them on something else. I looked for ways to minister to others. I prayed for opportunities to be a blessing to someone. I didn’t just take the day and pain as it came, but lived that day with purpose. I did the same thing for Father’s Day, which is just as hard for me as Mother’s Day.

Although I was determined, I wasn’t totally convinced it would work. I somewhat expected to be depressed by the end of the day, but I was surprised at how blessed Mother’s Day was. When the pain came, I asked God to hug my babies for me, and immediately turned my mind to someone else. I wasn’t denying the pain, I just chose not to focus on it. God blessed beyond my hopes.

Do You Have a Plan?

What is your plan for the holidays? When the pain sweeps over you like a flood, will you be carried away with it? Will you hide in your grief? Or will you approach the holidays with a plan to be a blessing, while expecting God to bless you? Live these days with purpose! Start thinking of your blessings now, so you are thankful on Thanksgiving. Plan today how you can be a blessing to someone at Christmas. Most important of all, keep your mind and heart stayed on the God who gives comfort and peace that passeth all understanding.

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

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Refusing Lies, Choosing Truth

refusing-liesWe hear lies every day. The enemy throws them at us with unbelievable speed. I am convinced these lies are part of his arsenal of “fiery darts” that we read about in Ephesians. The sad part isn’t that the enemy lies, the sad part is how often we believe those lies.

This month I was sure I was pregnant again. This would have been so amazing for so many reasons. I’m 46, and I haven’t been pregnant in well over a year. I was going to tell Rob I was pregnant on our Anniversary, and the baby would have been due around Father’s Day. I even made him a special card. It all seemed so perfect that I didn’t mind the crushing fatigue, nausea, and dizziness. But I wasn’t pregnant.

I did not expect the overwhelming disappointment, hurt, and even anger that swept over me. I had given this to the Lord, and I was okay with Him not giving us children to hold. It was hard, but I was at peace, and I had joy. But I had allowed myself to hope again. I wish I could say I handled it with grace. I didn’t. It was a very rough night. I cried. I told God exactly what I thought. I cried. I told Rob I had some serious questions for God when we get to Heaven. I cried some more. Then I started speaking the truths I knew aloud.

I Chose Truth

I told God I didn’t understand why He gave children to those who would hurt, abandon, and abuse them, but withhold them from us, but I trusted Him. I didn’t feel loved in that moment, but I knew He loved me. I didn’t even like His choices, but I knew they were good, because they came from Him…and He always does right. These were not things I felt, but things I knew to be true. The enemy was throwing lies at lightening speed. I had a choice. I could believe him (and my own deceitful heart), or I could choose to believe what I knew (but didn’t feel) to be true. I chose truth. Not because it was easy, but because I knew it was right. And because I knew it was the only path to having peace and joy.  By morning, peace and joy had returned.

This sounds like it was an easy and quick battle. Maybe it was pretty quick, but it wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t my first time on this battlefield. I had been here before, and I was defeated here more than once. That defeat was not pretty, and I didn’t want to go there again. The results of defeat on this battlefield is bitterness and anger. It paralyzes. It crushes. It destroys. I wasn’t willing to live like that again.

Choose You This Day

Today you have a choice. When it looks like God has forgotten, forsaken, and crushed you, you can choose to believe lies or truth. Truth brings freedom. Truth brings peace. Truth brings joy, even in the midst of pain. What will you choose today? Will you believe the enemy’s lies, or will you believe God’s truth?

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Strength for the Day

It doesn’t matter if it’s physical strength needed for work, or spiritual strength to endure the trial; God is the only One who can give us the strength we need.We are preparing for a team to come help with outreach. We are excited, and just a wee bit overwhelmed. Well, I am overwhelmed. My husband is just amazing. It never fails that right before company, a trip, special meeting, or other “big thing”, I get sick. I’m not really sure why this is. I’ve even been paying attention to make sure it’s not just because I overdo it. It’s just one of those things. I run out of strength for all the tasks ahead of me.

This past week has been a bit rough, so I asked some friends, missionary ladies, to pray for me. I have been praying that God would give me strength for the work that needs to be done. For the last few days, I’ve woken in bad shape. I fully expected to not get anything accomplished.

Imagine my surprise when I look back over these past three days and see that I’ve caught up on my dishes, cleaned my kitchen, done 2 loads of laundry, sorted bedding for the group coming, made bunk beds (That’s an amazing feat even if I’m not sick! Ugh), cleaned out a closet to make room (and organize so I can find what I need), and a few other bits and pieces. How is it possible? Strength for the day. God answered prayer, and gave me the strength I needed for the tasks of today. He didn’t give me strength for all I wanted to do, but for all I needed to finish.

It doesn’t matter if it’s physical strength needed for work or spiritual strength to endure the trial. God is the only One who can give us the strength we need. There were days it seemed He didn’t give the strength I needed. But I realize now that those were the days He didn’t want me to accomplish anything, He only wanted me to rest in Him.

What are you facing today, Friend? Is your load heavy? Or your grief overwhelming? Does your pain seem unbearable? Do you wonder how you will ever make it through? Remember that our strength comes from the Lord. He sometimes does give us more than we can bear, then invites us to cast all our care upon Him. Because He cares for us.

God hath not promised skies always blue
Flower strewn pathways, all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labour, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing kindness, undying love.
-Annie Johnson Flint

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When Joy and Pain Live Together

I posted this on “Myra’s Musings” on March 29th, but wanted to share it with you here.

Even in the darkest pain, God gives joy when I focus on Him.Today would have been my due date for our last baby “born to Heaven.” For the last few weeks I’ve been contemplating what an adventure these first 6 months in Botswana would have been if we had been expecting, and preparing for, the arrival of this little one. (The guests we have with us this week would have had to schedule for another time.) But instead of holding, or preparing to hold, our child, we’re celebrating his/her life in Heaven.

Our first baby would have been 2 1/2 now, or the second would have been 2, or… You get the picture. Images of what might have been have played though my mind. But in spite of the pain of loss, images of what is plays even stronger. You see, all 6 of our children are enjoying Heaven. All 6 of them see our Saviour’s face. Not one of them will ever know the ache of loss, pain or bad health, the agony of betrayal, or the sadness of separation.

More glorious than that, they are enjoying Heaven and Jesus in the purest, most blessed way possible…without regret. No sorrow over sin or wrong decisions. No shame over having grieved God in this life. They get to enjoy the beauties of Jesus and Heaven in the purest innocence. No mother could ask for more than that for her children.

Yes, my arms are still empty. My heart still hurts. I still miss them every day, and more so on due dates and birthdays. Pregnancy announcements, birth announcements, and all the other milestones I see others celebrate still cause joy for them, mingled with sorrow for our loss. Yet in the midst of sadness, there is peace when I keep my mind stayed on Jesus. I will never hold them, or see them grow up here, but I will go to them one day. And for now I can rejoice in remembering that Jesus gave them a great blessing when He gave them Heaven without the sorrow that comes from living on this fallen earth. And my mama’s heart is content. Sad, but content. Because my God doeth all things well.

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Light Affliction?

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:61-18

light-afflictionMy Bible study this morning included 2 Corinthians 11: 23-28 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. As I was reading and studying, I was struck by Paul’s words, “our light affliction”. I had just read the verses in chapter 11, where he recounted his sufferings. He was given 39 stripes 5 times, beaten with rods 3 times, stoned, shipwrecked 3 times, spent all day and night in the deep, imprisoned, cold, hungry, weary, and in pain. Yet he calls it “our light affliction” when encouraging the Christians at Corinth. How could all of this be considered light?

The key to it is in verse 18, looking not at the things which are seen (temporal), but on the eternal. These afflictions we endure now are indeed light, when we look at them in the perspective of eternity. The times of extreme pain that left me bedridden for days are nothing in the light of eternity. Going through 6 miscarriages was overwhelming to me, until I began looking at it with the right perspective. The spiritual perspective.

In the flesh, these things are not light. The pain, fatigue, heartache, the empty arms…Paul’s excruciating pain, exhaustion, imprisonment…they are hard. They hurt. We feel weak and wonder if we’ll make it through. Yet we’re not to walk in the flesh. We’re to have a heavenly perspective.

Never Forget

God has given such victory to me, but it is so easy to slip back into the old ways. All I have to do is let my focus slip back to me. Stop being thankful. Stop remembering that God is working in me. Forget He wants to use me. Forget He loves me, and gives me His best. All I have to do is forget that this life is just a tiny vapor, and it will be worth it all when I see Jesus.

So today, let’s remember that the pain we endure, the heartache, the betrayals, the weight of ministry, whatever we are enduring, it’s just a light affliction. One day we will look on our Saviour’s face, and it will seem like nothing. We’ll be thankful for this affliction, because we will see how God used it in our lives.

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When I Need Help

I will lift up mine eyes

When you’re full of grief, dealing with ongoing health issues, or in a dark place, you want help. You need help. I remember needing help for the basic things in life. At times, I needed my husband’s help to walk very far. I needed help with basic household chores. I needed lots of help. I still need help. I need help with the pain today. I need help cleaning my kitchen. I need help getting it all done.

I remember at one of my lowest points physically, I was crying and telling the Lord I just couldn’t do it. I needed help! We were on deputation, I was sick, I was dealing with the miscarriages (and not dealing very well at that point), and I just couldn’t do it. My amazing husband was calling and emailing pastors to set up meetings, studying and preparing for those meetings, preaching, presenting our work to Africa, and carrying most of “my” load as well. He helped clean missions apartments when we left, loaded the van, helped me with whatever I couldn’t do, and encouraged and cheered me on when I was overwhelmed, and did all the driving between meetings. But I still needed help. I needed help making it through our next meeting and lunch/dinner with the pastor. I needed help to smile and be engaged with them when my heart was breaking and I just wanted to crawl back into bed. I needed help packing up and driving to the next place to do it all again. Don’t get me wrong. I loved deputation, but it was physically very difficult, and I was on an emotional roller coaster with the thrill of each pregnancy, and the anguish of each miscarriage.

I needed help when people joked that we couldn’t be “real missionaries” because we didn’t have children. I needed help when people told us deputation was easier for us because we weren’t doing it with small children. In those cases, I needed help in the form of the Lord’s hand over my mouth, and help not bursting into tears in front of them. I needed help to keep smiling and be gracious. I needed a lot of help.

It doesn’t matter what your struggle is, we all need help. You may need different help than I did, but we both need help. And I found that help was ever-present. “My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” I will be honest here, I didn’t always want His help. I sometimes just simply wanted my own way. I wanted Him to take the pain and sickness away and give me my children. Was that too much to ask? He is God. He can do anything. So why wouldn’t He just do these two simple things? But when I was ready to stop clinging to wanting things my way, and accept the help He wanted to give, I found He was all I needed. No, I didn’t suddenly have more energy and less pain. I still can’t keep my house clean and keep up with Bible studies and other ministry. And I don’t have children in my home. But I have His help. I have the strength for what God wants me to accomplish today. I have peace in the midst of frustration. I have joy in the midst of my sorrow. He is my help…and He truly is all I need.

I would never have chosen this path I’m walking. I had other hopes, plans, and dreams for my life. (They included good health and lots of children!) But I have learned that even when God gives me what I would not choose, it is good. I am learning that even when it hurts, it’s best. I know that even when it’s the exact opposite of what my heart yearns for, He doeth all things well. I can trust Him and He will help me through. That help may not look like what I wanted or expected, but it will be what I need. I have grown in ways I didn’t even realize i needed to grow. I have learned so much.

If you are struggling today, lift up your eyes. Look to Jesus for the help you need. It may not be the help you want, but He will give you all you need for today. Be willing to turn loose of your agenda, and your demands, even your desires, and accept the help your Father wants to give you.

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A Sacrifice of Praise

“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Hebrews 13:12-15

sacrifice-flower-picPraise is important in Scripture. In the Old Testament we find where the Levites were being assigned their work in the service of God. Some were given the specific task of singing and praising God!

We don’t usually think of sacrifice and praise in the same sentence. We usually think of praise in terms of joy and victory, when it comes pouring out of an abundant and overflowing heart, without effort. But think of it. Aren’t there times when praise truly is a sacrifice? Those days when the heart is broken, the body is ill or tired, life is full of frustrations and we find it much easier to cry, sleep, or complain than to offer praise.

During these times we have to make a decision to praise our God because it is right and good and He is holy and worthy of it, not because it comes flowing forth effortlessly. We choose to sing through the heartache, discouragement, fatigue, or pain.  We offer up our praise to our God as a sacrifice that is well pleasing to Him. Not because we feel like it, but because He is worthy of it.

“But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” Psalms 22:3

“I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.”
Psalms 18:3

“Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.” Psalms 50:23

“Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.” Psalms 33:1-2