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A Season that Stings …

There is no denying that Christmas is a tender time of year!

For many who live with the scars of loss, the season of celebration evokes painful triggers of the past. During a time when memories are held in high regard and traditions take center stage, those that have a hole in their hearts are at an exceptional risk of getting hurt.

I can attest to this because I was caught off guard just the other day. Even after all these years I hadn’t prepared for what would happen. I’m learning you simply can’t guard your heart against every single situation that might sting.

So as I wiggle through the next few weeks, I will be sharing with you the gifts that God is giving me to get through!

Be blessed as The Ball Brother’s remind us what Christmas is all about:

The Ball Brothers – It’s  About the Cross

The Perfect Punchline

 About four years after Samantha’s accident, I was asked to share my story in front of a group of ladies gathered for lunch. With a normal amount of trepidation, I accepted the invitation and immediately went to work.

For weeks my mornings were spent filtering through topics and praying about what God wanted me to share. There was so much wisdom gained to sort through, truths that were revealed to me that I could retell and healing that had happened to give others hope that hours of silence were necessary for me to discern what I was suppose to do.

Eventually, the swirl of possible subject matters to cover changed into confirmation of the wisdom I was to impart. So, I went about recording my experience with written words. Erasing, replacing and adding explanations defined my actions as I polished and punctuated  what I planned to say.

Paragraph after paragraph I wrote, weaving my experience together with the teachings of speechwriting1the scripture. The more I recorded on paper, the more I realized how much my life was healed and made whole by the Holy words written so long ago.  There were many influences that provided support while I recovered, but none more powerful and
moving than the passages left by the Holiest of Priests. Surely, they saved me from the graveyard of grief.

My speech was almost complete, yet it lacked the final punch that would bring it full circle. I ached to emphasize to those in attendance how powerful God’s word had been to my healing, how it told me the best way to respond to my own emotions, how it guided me when dealing with others and how it confirmed that throughout human history God’s people suffered, but were always saved.

So I sat down and scoured The Bible for a passage that supported my experience, to see if what had happened to me, that is finding hope in God’s word, was meant to happen. From past experience, my faith has always grown when I look back and see my life played out as the scripture predicts. I had always heard it would happen, but I sought written Biblical confirmation that the scriptures possessed the power to change a person.

Sitting Indian style curled in a corner of my couch, I scoured the thin pages of The Holy Book. Flipping and flapping and finally, I simply split the pages in half and started reading right there. That is when I found the perfect punch line to round out my written words. I chuckled when I read it because it was right on.

“My son, pay attention to what I say, turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.”

Proverbs 4:20-22 (NIV)

Bingo, there it was with instructions on what to do with the Holy Writ, as well as what kind of outcome we can expect when we obey.

May it be, that by hearing these instructions written by the wise King Solomon that you may be open and altered by the powerful force of God’s written Word. I certainly was!

 

From a Woman Who Never Thought She’d Smile Again …

Finally, it is time to explain my experience with the 10th scripture in this series. As with all the others I have written about, it served as guidance and inspiration to go on. The promise that it offered simply could not be ignored. I craved the professed outcome; hoped every word written would come to pass.

Blogging for two months about scriptures that saw me through a season of trauma has caused me and likewise, those that read and rely on “Just Do Today” to walk through, to be drug through the hard stuff of life.

I have bared my fears, my struggles and my sorrows, the range of emotions that plagued my broken heart. It is absolutely true, I was driven to my knees and was brought to a fetal position on the floor as I suffered through a season of suffering. What I wrote about was real, it happened and it was hard.

I have tried to share the many coping skills and spiritual solutions required to stand up against the darkness that threatened to overtake me. Sometimes, I had to power up and push through, other times I had to sit still and trust. Sometimes the onus that was placed upon me was to simply be OK with not being OK, hoping one day things would be different. Certainly, my patience and perseverance were put to the test.

In each of these situations, the scriptures served as a weapon to fight off weariness, a tool to tame my emotions. As well, God’s Holy Writ provided a structured way to think, so that I knew better than to give up. Today, I am ever so grateful for the many passages that served to soothe me, sustain me and to strengthen me.

However, none of the passages in the series, so far have said anything about cheerfulness, joviality or having joy.

Sometimes, in the darkest of moments, I found myself asking, “Why fight so hard, when there isn’t much to look forward to?”

And, that is what why this last scripture in the series was so vital to my recovery.

When I read Psalms 30:11:

“You tuned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”

I knew that things would change. I wasn’t sure when a transformation would take place, nor what it would look like when it did. As well, would it be a sudden “something” or another process that extended over a long period of time.

I had no way of knowing any of the particulars, all I could do was trust in the promise!

On the days, I wanted to throw in the towel because, I thought the rest of my life wasn’t worth living, I prodded myself to adopt a different stance.

Chopping the negativity at the knees, I scolded my sour thoughts with truth of Christ, “Elizabeth, if Jesus says one day life will be good again, you need to go along with it.”

So, every time I caught myself thinking about my life being scarred my loss, I gently reminded myself that The Great Healer says it doesn’t need to happen that way.

Instead, out of sheer love and grace, He promised to pull back the veil of sadness and grief so that I could once again experience love and laughter and life experiences that brought sincere fulfillment.

As I said before, I desperately wanted this lighter sense of self. So, I forced myself to believe I would get better.

But the truth is, in the scripture Jesus stated my life would be better than just satisfactory.

He foretold of a time rather than just getting by, my life experience would be pretty darn good. Promising that one day I would be recovered enough to joyfully tap my toes and twirl around!

There were days I never thought this possible! For weeks I walked around with a scowl and a frown. Months passed by when I thought I would never smile again. And years, came and went when I thought all I would do is exist.

But then! In all His goodness, with grace that covered me like dew in the dawn of a new day, God delivered on His promise …

dancing

On a special night of celebration, in July of this year, I found myself, out on the dance floor with my adorable daughter!

Yes, I got out there in the crowd and the excitement of the moment and for a few seconds, I shook off all the sadness and layers of despair. For the moment, my wailing had turned to dancing, my mourning rags had been ripped away and I was clothed in absolutely JOY!

For a mom who didn’t think she would ever smile again, I think this is pretty darn good!

Surely, I don’t always feel THIS great nor does delight define each of my days.

But, I am thankful to say, I think I have come a long way…………

 

Almighty God,

I give you all the glory for this very special snapshot!!! Thank you for this moment and this memory! Thank you for promises that pulled me through and for making good on what you said you would do. As well, I wait expectantly for the abundant living yet to come.

Amen

 

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When WHY? was My War Cry!

The 9th scripture in the series has so many commas this it seems convoluted. With 40 words to read and 6 commas to separate, it sounds like a short order cook spouting off a series of confusing commands.

(I know it isn’t, I’m simply referencing what it sounds like!)

Therefore, I find it ironic that as twisted as it seems, it served as the ultimate solution to a question that constantly served to confound me.

WHY?

Oh man, did I get stuck in this wicked way of thinking, always trying to understand everything, constantly caught up in the quests for complete explanations and the insatiable desire to resolve all the loose ends.

David pleaded with me not to do this. “Elizabeth, stop thinking that way! It serves no purpose other than to frustrate you on top of everything else!” he would howl as I burrowed down to figure things out. He warned me I was on my way down a rabbit hole. However, on my own I was unable to stop this tangled way of thinking.

Heavy questions like:

WHY did Sam have to die?

WHY did I get picked to lose a child? and

WHY, when she was only 12? (Couldn’t I have had a little longer?)

caused a certain circular thinking inside of my head. I would start by pleading against the question.Then, mentally I played out every scenario that might provide an answer, only to find myself at the end of it all, empty handed. I sat, grasping my head with my hands and pressing my fingers into my scalp as I repeated the identical question over and over.

WHY?        WHY?        WHY?          

You get the idea! I tried to claw and scratch my way into insight. I desperately wanted to know what God was thinking when all of this happened. As well, I thought knowing all the details would make me happy.

The mental interrogation aimed at acquiring all the answers made my mind resemble a war zone. Already hazy and dazed, the additional Why’s flew around like bullets in my brain slicing through an active battlefield. However, rather than the rapid fire ending the life of a certain thought process, the unanswerable questions ricochet off of the walls of reasoning and shattered my own well-being..

why

Not once did my quest for solutions to questions that had no answers improve my situation. In addition, I was grew aware the question “WHY?” was making everything worse. Mentally my mind was more mixed up and my spirit was exhausted from trying to work my way to intellectual interpretation.

Thankfully, like so many times during my healing, God used His words to carve some sense into my thinking. However, trauma has a way of scrambling your brain for months and months, reading was a struggle, comprehension next to impossible. Therefore, I really had to slow things down to understand this scripture:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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 minds in Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 4:6-7

Separating it into phrases clarified each set of instructions and set me on a path to straighter thinking. With my own words at work, I imagined what God might say to me through this scripture. When I broke the segments apart, my interpretation went something like this:

Do not be anxious about anything, – “Elizabeth, you don’t need to be bedeviled by all this. However, I already know how you are going to act when you are confronted with a situation you can’t understand. So let Me remind you, rather than worrying, fretting and working to find answers you will only be told when you get to Heaven, there is another way of dealing with all of this.”

But, in every situation, – What I want you to understand is, no matter how twisted things seem, whatever it is you want to understand, but can’t explain, no matter what the circumstances are that make you ask, “Why?” …

By prayer and petition – I want you to come talk to Me about it. Let Me know how you feel, tell Me the desires of your heart and ask Me to meet your needs. Know that a wrestling match is OK as you work to accept what aren’t able to understand.

With Thanksgiving – And while we are wrestling, don’t forget to worship.  Be grateful I’m here to listen and to offer help. Let me know the things you are thankful for. By doing this, you will become aware that some things are going right and that I AM already at work.

Present your requests to God – And, when you talk to me don’t just give me a laundry list of desires and details. Instead, I want to hear from your soul, so I can heal your spirit. It is important to turn your troubles over to Me, then to trust I will institute the best outcome. Please understand, there isn’t a man on earth that can work all this out.

After many slowed readings, I began to understand, it was only after I fulfilled God’s instructions, then and only then could I experience His reward. As always, a relationship works from both ends.

The first sentence in the scripture clearly told me what I had to do.

I accepted, I needed to honor and adhere to His ways!!!!!!

The second sentence in the scripture told me what I could expect, if and when I followed Jesus’ ways.

Only then, would my heart be healed with an everlasting hope.

And the peace of God – And I promise, the sensation you will experience will be like nothing the world has to offer. You won’t have a high like buying a brand new race car. Instead, you will have a sense of unity on the inside, a sense of being connected to something bigger than yourself, a sense of agreement with others and a peacefulness concerning your purpose. It is vital to remember, I AM the only one who can promise this phenomenon. It only happens when you let ME handle it.

Which transcends all understanding – Then, after you do as I say and experience contentment with your circumstances, your need to have answers will gradually go away, the desire to understand all things will disintegrate and instead of asking WHY? you will rise above the need for earthly interpretation. Replacing your constant quest for details, will be close companionship with Me. (THIS WAS MY AH-HA MOMENT)

Will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. – And when you are in this peaceful state of mind, your thoughts and concerns will become mine to tangle with. Therefore, leaving your soul and sanity in a state of rest.

There isn’t much more to report after this. Once I pieced the passage back together, I understood what I had to do. And that is where the action comes in.

Reading the words and understanding their meaning, simply laid out the plan and made me aware of the promise. Next, I had to put into play my part of the equation.

I hated when WHY? had the upper hand.  Therefore, I went to work handing over control to Christ, by honoring and implementing the Great Counselor’s wise direction and it work!!!

No longer is WHY? my war cry.

Instead, peace of heart, peace of mind and peace of soul is my proclamation!

Yes, this requires work and a daily devotion to my Deliverer. Yes, I must follow Jesus’ detailed, yet straightforward instructions so that I can taste the reward.

Mental and emotional discipline is required, but living free from anxiety makes it well worth it!

Truly, I have experienced that complete TRUST in Christ, wipes away the wrestling need to know WHY?

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Chanting My Way to Calmness

“Mrs. Vinturella? Are you Mrs. Vinturella?” the uniformed officer asked as I stood inside my garden gate.

“Yes, yes I am.” I responded bending and gently placing the hose on the ground.

At the first sight of the policeman with his holstered firearm my anxiety went on the rise. I wasn’t accustomed to lawmen stopping at my home before breakfast.

“Here, I have a court summons I must give to you.” he commented. My reluctance to accept the enveloped injunction was obvious. Shakily, I extended my hand against my will and the officer laid the folded documentation in the palm of my hand.

The muscles across my chest tightened as I didn’t know the best way to respond. “Thank you” didn’t seem honest and a simple”OK” didn’t sound respectful. So, there I stood frozen in fear as the officer shuffled back to his squad car.

Eventually, I made my way inside, but only to fumble over the threshold and have my knees hit the floor. Undone over everything, I sat there and cried and cried and cried.

This agonizing scenario went on for months; we would receive a subpoena to appear in court, only to have the proceedings postponed. Adding to the drama, it was actually the kids being required to participate in the judicial process. Hadn’t they been through enough?

Making the situation more unsettling, each time the hearing was rescheduled the girls had to reprepare to appear on the witness stand, that meant missing school and meeting at an attorney’s office to rehash the details of the accident.

It is honest to admit my nerves were shot when it came to dealing with the legalities ofpalpitation-and-nervousness Samantha’s accident. I was clueless when it came to dealing with attorney’s. I didn’t want the kids rolling backwards in their recovery every time a date was reset and I wasn’t interested in who was at fault. Samantha was gone, assigning blame wouldn’t get her back.

Early on, The Holy Spirit made it very clear that it was God’s responsibility to handle accountability. However, knowing that didn’t help with the pre-trial jitters I experienced.

Actually, jitters isn’t a valid description of how I felt about returning to Chalmette, LA to sit in a courtroom with my family members and the accused.  Gut wrenching revulsion is a better description.

I was nervous and afraid for myself and for my family. My sleep was disturbed and my waking hours felt like I was insane. Intimidation was my enemy.

Thankfully, a close friend could tell I walked a tightrope between giving in and giving up. Aware of all that was going on, she was moved to make a difference.

“Elizabeth, can I come over for coffee tomorrow morning?” she boldly asked. Trusting in her intentions, I welcomed her company and replied, “Sure, I would like that.”

It was then, seated with a friend at the start of our day that I received the reassurance that is promised in Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

I listened as my coffee companion read the scripture, but it wasn’t until I took the time to visualize the first part of the passage that I began to relax. Intentionally, I imagined Jesus sitting close to the end on the foremost bench in the courtroom looking backwards with love in His eyes as I ferried my family down the aisle.

My mind went on to create a scene in which Jesus was always present, presiding over the entire proceedings. It was then, when I perceived God as the ruling Authority over even the gentleman wrapped in robes and seated on the diadem did my feelings of dismay begin to dissipate.

After I grasped the truth in the first two parts of the scripture,  the third part, the part about being fearless and encouraged was a no brainer. It made sense I no longer needed to fear the event nor the outcome because I believed Jesus would arrive on scene before I ever got there and would walk out of the courtroom right alongside of me.

However, as soon as my world got busy, I would lose the assurance this scripture supplies. My attitude grew edgier and my spirit would sink. I would notice myself feeling desperate and trapped in a situation I couldn’t change. After experiencing these setbacks several times, I learned and practiced the discipline of chanting scripture.

When feelings of despondency crept into psyche, when I began to stress over the well-being of the children, when I felt angst about the future of the accused, when any fear arose inside of me concerning the accident and the authorities, I purposefully repeated,

“Elizabeth, Jesus will already be there. All you need to do is show up and believe He will figure things out. Press in, and you will know His presence.”

Yes, I paraphrased and simplified the ancient words and repeated the holy message to  myself. By doing so, my mind was encouraged, my spirit was energized and there simply wasn’t any room in my brain for thoughts that served to weaken my spirit.

Day after day I did this. Sometimes, several times a day I needed to do this.

And, even today , 5 years later I continue do this.

When intimidation seeks to destroy my confidence in Christ, I go to work against the enemy by chanting Deuteronomy 31:8.

chant

P.S. – The Spirit of God sustained me and I survived the court proceedings without too many scars. The children never had to take the witness stand and the accused left the courtroom with a very light sentence to serve.

Indeed, clinging to His Presence throughout the process guaranteed peace during the proceedings!.

 

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Giving Up vs Giving In

I am certain I asked God more than 3 times for my suffering to come to an end.

As a matter of fact, I actually begged Him on multiple occasions to put me out of my misery. Whether that meant somehow simply dulling the pain of living without my little girl or altogether removing me from this world didn’t make a difference. All I wanted was some type of relief. I yearned for the ache to go away.

I was already a mess and melting from the fiery tongues of trauma when I read the 7th scripture in this series. I’m thankful God led me to it when He did because I was drowning in my own efforts. Anxiety, fear, confusion, hurt, anger and isolation accompanied everything I did throwing me into a distorted state of mind and making everything that much more difficult. Trauma and the edgy after effects have a way of piercing every experience one encounters.

tired-heart

When I tried to fix my situation, I got frustrated. When I tried to ignore the turmoil around me, that didn’t seem to work. If I decided to immerse myself in my environment, everything became a bigger mess. For all that I was doing, it seemed I wasn’t getting anywhere. The emptiness I felt and the energy I was exerting to live beyond my loss left me exhausted.

Honestly, I was weary and weak from trying to work my way to wholeness.

So when I read and received God’s counsel as presented in Corinthians 12:8-9 my spirit was refreshed! I felt like I could let me guard down, and allow someone else to do the work. The instructions weren’t easily enforced because it required that I give up the right to try and make things go my way.  However, I knew I needed to trust they would work.

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

After pondering the passage, I was confident God was aware of how uncomfortable I was. I appreciated He understood the desperation and desire I felt to be delivered. His beloved Apostle Paul had expressed the same type of torment. Immediately, it felt good to know I wasn’t the only one crying out at the feet of Jesus.

Now that I had a partner in pain, with confidence I scoured the scripture for more information. More relief washed over me as I read on and discovered the struggle wasn’t mine to solve. Through the scripture God promised to show up when I couldn’t go on. He spoke to a grace that would cover me when I was crushed. Immediately, I felt a certain permission to crumble into the arms of Christ.

It was in this broken and shattered position, I sensed God telling me,

“You relax, while I do the work!”

“Sit down and give Me room to show up!”

“Stop struggling and I will save you!”

As I scrutinized the scripture, I accepted it was telling me to sink into the arms of Jesus and stay there!

The message moved me in such a powerful way. All at once, I realized that God was showing me it was OK to throw in the towel when it all got to be too much. Furthermore, he suggested I relinquish my ways altogether, so I could find rest in His.

Once I understood this, then I could embrace the 3rd part of the scripture. Particularly, the sentence that says we should boast or be joyful about our weaknesses. Never before did I like saying I couldn’t handle something. However, God had shown me the resilience of a divine relationship.  It is when we surrender our painful situation to Him, that He supplies the provisions and power to see us through.

No longer is there a need to fight against our weakness when we are worn out.  Instead, we are to accept a calming knowledge of being cared for while Jesus works things out.

At the realization of all this, if you can imagine I wanted to shout, “Hallelujah Lord, I trust you to handle things from here on out!”

And there I was, just like the scriptures promised would happen, experiencing a sense of excitement about my affliction.

So now and each time in the future the struggles of life leave me feeling wrung out and weak, I recall the wisdom found in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 .

Knowing the holy words I hold deep in my heart aren’t so much about giving up. More importantly, they are about giving in and trusting God for protection, for power and for His perfection to play out!

 

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Seeds or Weeds

The 6th scripture in this series literally, saved me from myself.

Honestly, without the straightforward instructions of what was best to think about, surely I  would have succumbed to a wicked way of thinking.

I know the severity of my circumstances warranted my thoughts wander that way.

The halting fact is that following an afternoon of innocent family fun, I came home minus one family member. Adding insult to injury, my daughter’s death was a result of another’s carelessness. We would not be a family of three, if a driver of an oncoming boat had simply paid attention when they turned a corner. In essence, I suffer a lifelong loss because of someone else’s split second lackadaisical decision.

I realize this is a dangerous mindset to dabble in. Just writing about the actuality of it all makes me uncomfortable and  I don’t like reliving this part of the experience. As well, I know not to rely on only earthly details to interpret the relevance of these events, the spiritual story is by far the most powerful.

I dare not linger here long, for I have learned how unwise it is to hang out with painful thoughts of the past. However, there is no denying the reality of what happened. As well, what was mentally required to work through.

I was wronged, when doing right! And, it felt like fireworks that had backfired!

Instead, of looking up and out, celebrating the occasion, I was left feeling the brazing burn. The unexpected and misplaced explosion left me pierced by flying shrapnel and searching for answers among the rubble. There wasn’t a shred of my life that escaped the scorching embers of anguish. My emotional state mimicked my agony, as sorrow and grief overwhelmed me. My mental state was equally as stressed allowing sharpness and hostility to shape my  thoughts.

I wish I could say it didn’t happen! However, if I am to be honest, I need to admit it did. On many occasions because of bitterness building in my heart, I found my reflections aiming fiery arrows at others. I poised myself for battle against people, against the world and against any good thought. I even loaded my quiver and aimed my insults at God. On my worst days when I was really ticked off about what happened, I caught myself silently beating up on strangers, as well.

If I saw a mother act exasperated towards a crying child, I unsympathetically squabbled under my breathe, “You wouldn’t get so frustrated if you realized in a split second she could be gone.” If I heard a parent fuss about their child not making a certain team or a certain score, “I would rant to myself, ” Really, can’t you just be thankful she is still here?” When the pain was at it’s most intense, I even had the audacity to call out God and question His decisions. During my nighttime prayer ritual, instead of sinking into sleep, I was railing against my Savior,”What were you thinking, taking her away? I was raising her to be one of yours! How can you think it is OK to do that?”

The reality that someone killed Sam held me captive for quite sometime. I was angry, I felt assaulted and left with no means to improve my situation. That meaning, I couldn’t figure out a way to get Samantha back. She was gone and that was that! For quite sometime, I fought these demons on a daily basis. Whether in public or in private, my tumultuous thoughts fought to control the tender side of myself. I didn’t like any of it, but I lacked the ability to find my way out of the thicket of thorny thoughts.

At some point, I was given the wisdom that lashing out at others (even if it was only in my mind) because of my personal loss only served to prolong and seeds-or-weedsstretch the pain. Carrying the loss of Sam was epic. Couple that burden with constant condemnation of others and I was setting myself up for failure. Furthermore, because I never voiced my vile, I was the only one caught up in the additional mess.

It is even more difficult to confess that I was aware I was acting out on the inside. I knew using my mental energy to be mad was exasperating the trauma. Nonetheless, I didn’t have a tool powerful enough to tame my destructive thoughts. They entered my psyche without permission and before I knew it the negativity had taken control of my conscience.

However, my psychological situation improved once Philippians 4:8 was revealed to me.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

After processing the teaching in the scripture, I realized what I was doing wrong. Oh, I knew about the advertised advantages of positive thinking. I was aware many authors, speakers and advertisements promoted this tool to live a good life. What I’m saying is I knew all along being positive was important, but what I didn’t fully comprehend nor give appropriate reverence to was that the Authority above all authorities authored the instructions.

Immediately, I went to work trying to figure out how the words were speaking to my situation. By pulling the scripture apart and researching each phrase, I realized I played a huge part in my own healing.

I learned being dreadful or joyful doesn’t rest on the actions of others. Instead, I began to understand that it is an ongoing work from within.

In addition, when I visualized God Almighty sitting down to personally advise me concerning the power of my thoughts, the message took on a deeper meaning. It became clear that in order to receive God’s promises of peace, I needed to uphold my end of the bargain. That being, to assess every situation with the eyes of an angel.

By doing this, the waves of chaos in my inner world calmed down and God willing, eventually will cease. No longer will my gaze at the world be seen forever through the eyes of grief. Instead, Jesus is instructing me how to control my mind so I can calmly and gently walk in His will.

He is letting me know that if I try to live a lifetime without Sam thinking my own thoughts, the outcome will not be rewarding. Oh, the goodness of God that He doesn’t leave me defenseless! Instead, He shows me how to parallel my thoughts with His and offers assurance that if we share the same mindset, together we will see it through!

The discipline to recognize and resist each needling notion is a process and continues to be one that I work to improve. The self-control to implement the wisdom into my ways constantly requires a keen awareness of my thoughts and a great amount of grace from Above, which I know I can count on.

From that past point of realization all the way to today, I  implement the thought pattern approved by Jesus and taught through Philippians 4:8 in order to diminish the ongoing and dangerous thoughts of doubt, damnation and dissatisfaction. When I do, this allows reflections of affirmation, adoration and excellence  to flourish.brain-flowers

By doing this, by accepting and allowing the instruction of the scripture to change my poisonous thought patterns into ideas of gratefulness and abundance, I position myself to receive the peace that God promises to His people.

 

Thank you Jesus, for always showing me how to walk in Your will, for always providing a peaceful way out , for always bathing me in Your grace and for saving me from myself.

Amen

 

Learning How to Handle Loss

“But, how will I do Thanksgiving Day without her”? I yelled to my friend as she walked towards her parked car on the curb. I expected her to yank around and turn towards me as I fell apart on the front lawn. Shouting with pain and aching from the inside out, I yearned for her to stop and console my hysteria. In my crazed state of mind I thought it best that she acknowledge my twisted way of thinking, giving me a reason to continue to rant and rave.

My angry way of saying good-bye felt good. Even though it was July, the thought of doing the holidays without Sam made me manic. The regular days were hard enough! How would I, how could I handle the season of celebrations without Samantha! While every other family gathers together to be thankful, all I could see was the empty chair at my table. The harshness of that reality, hurt like hell! There was no way I could hide it!

However, my meltdown didn’t faze my friend. She continued her confident and calm stride across the green grass as I stomped my feet and kicked the tree next to me. Finally, she reached her car. After placing her hand on the door handle she lifted her eyes and met my crazed cry. With squared off shoulders and a sturdy sense of self she looked at me with an unwavering attitude. Immediately, without saying any words, I knew she was ready to challenge my erratic way of thinking.

I always knew she cared, but what I realized in that split second was she wasn’t going to let me cave. In a sense she was saying, “Elizabeth, I can tell you are sinking, but I’m here to help you stand. Or,” I understand your desperation, but I’m not going to die with you.” Or maybe yet, those silent seconds were meant to convey,  “I appreciate your hopelessness, but I’m not going to hop on board.” Slowly, she responded intent on bringing strength to my weak spirit, on bringing clarity to my clamorous mindset and to instill hope when all I could see was hurt in my future.

“Elizabeth, just do today. Do not think one hour, one minute, one second or one scenario past today. And, as far as Thanksgiving, simply trust and it will take care of itself.” she advised as she tucked herself into to her seat.

one-day-at-a-time

As her car sped down the street, I stood and thought about what she said. Eventually, I wandered back inside and I spent the evening mulling over her stoic suggestion. That night I prayed about my current mindset. That is, worrying about a particular day that was four months away.  As my head plopped on the pillow I asked God, “If I’m not doing this the right way, would you please tell me the best way to deal with the loss of Sam?” I begged Him to show me what I could do different so that my future didn’t seem so foreboding. Honestly, living a lifetime without Samantha seemed impossible to accomplish. I needed help handling the heavy load I felt.

The next morning, as my head rested on the downy pillow in the dawn daylight, I remembered my afternoon outburst and how it was met with stern proposal for peace. Then, I re prayed my thoughts from the night before, asking God to show me how to carry the burden of being without Sam. I was desperate to get the day started in a better frame of mind than the ones before. Honestly, I was tired on the inside and craved a new direction.

It was during my quiet time of the morning, that I began searching through my Bible to see if God would agree with what my friend suggested. And, that is when He showed me, that doing one day at a time was His idea all along:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. each day has enough trouble of its own. 

Matthew 6:34

As I read the scripture, I knew He was feeding me the message, “Elizabeth, you aren’t suppose to carry a lifetime of living without Sam everyday. Instead, just focus on the 12 hours in front of you, no more no less, sunrise to sunset. Do not look ahead! That is too heavy to bear and I didn’t build you to carry that much burden.  And, as far as Thanksgiving is concerned, forget about it for now because  I’ll be with you when it happens.”

I sat in silence a little longer that morning, rehashing God’s words and working them into my way of thinking. I began to implement God’s instructions into my own life by asking myself a series of questions,” Elizabeth, can you survive today without Sam? Elizabeth, can you find purpose and feel peace today even though Sam is gone? Elizabeth, do you believe Jesus will walk you through the next hard day, and the next holiday, and the next happy day as they arrive?”

As I began to answer, “Yes!” to each of these questions,  I knew I was on my way. Learning how to deal with the loss of Sam a single day at the time as made all the difference.

So, then and now, when anxiety gets the best of me and I find myself living ahead of what has happened, I reign my thoughts in and reminisce about what I learned from Matthew 6:34.

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ANTs vs The Almighty

Honestly, I was so mixed up, I hardly knew myself!

All of the sudden, activities I once enjoyed agitated me, projects I once looked forward to seemed impossible and places on my beaten path suddenly became off limits.

confusion3

For instance, I struggled with going to the grocery store. Simply walking across the threshold made me tremble. As well, entering a restaurant alone was out of the question. The idea of encountering the unknown was something I couldn’t cope with. Painting, which was one of my favorite pastimes became burdensome. The details and the decisions left me empty and annoyed. Creating wreaths for my front door or decorating of any kind, which I once loved to do became drudgery and unimportant. Lastly and most telling was when I couldn’t even attend Brooke’s school functions.

Instead, of participating in Open House like all the other parents,  I sat in the school parking lot tucked away in my car and cried. For so many reasons I cried. I cried because I couldn’t enter the building. I cried because I had changed. I cried because Samantha would never go to school again. And, I cried because my no-show might disappointment Brooke. Nor, would David fully understand my inability to join the other mothers.

I knew something was amiss, but for months and months, I couldn’t explain my own behavior. All I knew was I didn’t like it. In addition, I knew accepting it would only mean more isolation, more drama and more pain.

However, pinpointing the problem wasn’t an easy task. There was so much going on and so many reasons to be weary, I simply lacked the mental stamina to make sense of the mess.

It wasn’t until I was well enough, about 8 months after Sam’s accident that I began to search for a solution. I set out on a mission to understand myself. That is when I learned about ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts). I discovered that trauma exasperates ANTs
producing stinging stressful feelings like fear, anxiousness, jumpiness, edginess, agitation, bad memories, and causes abnormal behaviors to avoid painful reminders.

When ANTs are activated, it is like putting a pie out at a picnic. The ANTs crawl in, over and throughout the sweet stuff. Soon, they take over and create their own colony. When ANTs consume our thoughts they have the potential to produce ANXIETY! Inside the affected person this feels like an onslaught of dread, doubt and it has the power to drive a person to their knees and keep them there if the ANTs go unmatched.

As I read the research, the words mirrored my behavior. I related to each symptom and replied, “That’s me!” to every descriptive detail. Finally, I found confirmation I wasn’t going crazy. The articles gave credence to what I was going through. As well, they offered exercises to erase the ANTs from one’s thinking. I understood their suggestions and agreed their advice carried potential for a cure. However, I knew that a medical dissertation wasn’t my best resource for a remedy.

With a better understanding of what I was experiencing, I picked up my Bible and consulted with the the oldest and wisest Authority. That is when I began to own the truth and the strength found in the 4th scripture in our series :

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives power, love and self-discipline.” 

2 Timothy 2:7

I pondered the passage through and through, breaking it down into sections and stringing the phrases back together. Then, I worked to absorb the entire message.

It was then that God showed me that my negativity had nothing to do with Him. I accepted that anytime I felt barreled over by bad thoughts, it was because I wasn’t allowing the spirit of Christ to come forward. Instead, my panic attacks were allowing a creepy voice to take control of my thoughts.

After much meditation, I became aware that my fears, my anxiety, my edginess and my emptiness all gained a foothold when I failed to envision God in my future. – Tweet This!

It was when I left Him out of the picture, here and now, then and there and with whatever was to come that I fell apart.

Once I realized this, whether I was going to the store, entering a school building, investing in a adventure or starting something new, I increased my awareness and invited the Spirit of God to overwhelm me. I prayed, asking that love snuff out any feelings of loss. I prayed fervently for the self-discipline and mental awareness needed to overcome anxiety and I  opened myself up to the power that is promised to a Holy spirit.

Each time I went about my activities, my ability to overcome increased. Each time I chanted the scripture my self-discipline grew stricter.

With each event that was preceded by angst, I pressed in until my perspective became more positive and eventually my weariness turned into warriorism. -Tweet This!

I was shining my shield to deflect the fiery darts.shield

The victorious outcome wasn’t immediate. Instead learning to overcome anxiety was something that I worked to refine over months. I often encountered a fretful event, but I learned to always ask Jesus, “What would YOU tell me about this?”

After coming up with a few comments I thought Jesus would offer during my time of distress, I worked to incorporate His wise council into my conscious thoughts. I failed at this many times before I finally began to get it right. However, when I did figure out how to ask Jesus to accompany me in the present and to portray Him in my future, my life became more manageable. The level of unease decreased and by ability to live increased.

Five years later, when situations causes me to stir on the inside, I reach inside of my trauma tool kit and repeat the truth found in 2 Timothy 2:7  until the attack of negativity is trumped by the spirit God gave me. As the minutes pass, the madness in my mind is tamed by the the words of the scripture.

It is true, the feelings of fear and anxiety that held me captive were warranted and real, powerful and possessive. However, I have come to appreciate they can be managed, man-handled and put to rest by the truth of the Almighty.

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Paying Attention Pays Off

But now, this is what the Lord says …paying-attention

Immediately, I knew I needed to pay attention!
Whether it was one of those times I was flipping through the Bible searching for something soothing to read, or maybe it was while I was completing a study assignment, I honestly can’t recall.

Five years later, I have discovered the environment doesn’t matter because the message remains with me.

On any given day, I can reread this third scripture, Isaiah 43:1-2 and sense the same reassurance I did during the most crushing of circumstances. Like then, the passage paints a picture of God speaking over his people, over all of Israel, over an entire nation. Yet, He gets personal to the point of calling Jacob by his first name.

-he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel:

With anticipation and selfish motivation, then and now I involve myself in what is to come. I insert my name in the scripture and imagine myself sitting among the crowd gathered to listen. Surely, my ache is similar to theirs. The people of God were overwrought with affliction and I could relate. They were oppressed and I understood. They were afraid and I felt similar trepidation about my future. Eons of time has passed between the persecution of  God’s people and my personal time of distress. Nomine-blkandwhtnetheless, our emotions are strikingly similar.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

As I weaved myself into the words, I first heard a commandment that erased fear as an option. Then a play on personal pronouns granted full authority to the author and placed me under arrest.

I felt myself being calmed, individually called and intimately claimed by Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ was calming me, individually calling me and intimately claiming  me. – Tweet This!

I was certain, He was calling the shots. I had very little to say and saw no wiggle room to run away.

Instead, I stayed still, in awe of His possessiveness and allowed this spiritual branding to sear on my heart. It was then, I realized this had nothing to do with something I did. Instead, as I mingled with God’s message I accepted this was an act from On High.

God had tagged me for His team. All I needed to do was accept the bid. And then came the promise of God’s presence during times of trial.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Oh, it is in this ending of the scripture that I found and find strength.

Yes, raging waters have threatened to erode anything good left in my life. Yes, swift rising rivers have rushed through, wrecking havoc in their wake. I have felt the searing flames of a bundle of torches burning at my feet. On occasion, I begged to leave this world, when grief and trauma were most intense. Yes, I thought death would have been a relief. That is the severity of suffering that some of us are called to experience.

But, thankfully, no I mean really, I am grateful for the promise of help during our hurt that is found in

Isaiah 43:1-2 (NIV)the-book-of-isaiah

But now, this is what the Lord says—                        
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Because, through it I learned:

Panic and doubt don’t happen during a time of crisis if we place our trust in the right place.

Regardless of what grief and trauma “feel” like, God is not gone. He is actually the One keeping me from going under.

That the only way I can withstand the epic adversity of life is to accept the truth of scripture. By doing this, I believed Samantha’s death would not also be the death of me. That somehow, I would come out on the other side of pain and be a better person. That was a tall  order on some days, but because I hung onto every word written in  Isaiah 43:1-2, I was able to see it through.

But, most importantly, I learned as I figure out life with a gaping hole in my family I can always rely on the scriptures to sustain me, to tell me what I need to hear to be whole, to reveal to me what I need to know when I can’t find my way and to always comfort me when I want to cry.

Points to Ponder

Have you ever panicked during a time of distress? If so, what words did you rely on to help bring about calmness during the crisis?

Have you ever felt like God wasn’t around while you suffered? If so, after the storm passed, when did you realize He was the One carrying you through?

Have you ever felt the security that comes from knowing the scriptures during a time of struggle? If so, when was this and what scriptures served to sustain you?

 

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