Not Writing but Recording …

After many months of writing it was neat to wrap up 2016 with my very first radio recording.

After reading one of my blogs entitled “From a Woman Who Never Thought She’d Smile Again“, Vickie Petz Henderson from “My Journey of Faith Radio” invited me to do an interview on her show.

Yes, I was nervous, but agreed anyway. Once again, by stepping away from my comfort zone, I was blessed with a rewarding experience.

God continues to stretch my faith by asking me to step away from what feels safe.

Actually what I thought would be a prickly and painful step backwards, actually turned out to be an awesome and inspiring look at how I have been carried and comforted.

Thank You Vickie Henderson for the opportunity to share my testimony with your listeners!

My Journey of Faith Radio

my-journey-of-faith

 

Vickie Petz Henderson – Facebook

 

 

Stepping Away from Safe …

“I don’t know why you are going to do this?” my husband asked with a leery tone attached to his question. “There is a hundred other things you could do that wouldn’t be so tender!” he quickly worked to win his argument.

“Because I think I’m suppose to try.” I attempted to reassure him. “If it hurts, I will leave and come home.” I added, closing any room for his rebuttal. I knew he was trying to protect me from pain, but something in my soul told me to not let his fear stifle the call to serve.

I was anxious as I parked my car and walked to Room 101. A space I had been in so many times before, but not much since Samantha’s accident. You see, located at that end of the breezeway are the children’s Sunday School classrooms and as of late I didn’t have a reason to wander down that way.

But, this past Saturday morning was different. I was following a nudge in my heart to volunteer for Christmas with Christ at our church. This is a special morning for children of our church and community to spend time with Santa as he shares the true Christmas Story.

I knew there would be pancakes to be eaten, pictures to be posed for and Christmas crafts to be carried home. More importantly though, I knew prayers would be prayed, a celebration would take place because of the birth of Christ and time would be spent instilling this life saving message into the lives of little ones.

I was assigned to assist with The Living Nativity, that is gathering the gaggle of kids, helping them get dressed and placed on stage at the appointed time.  No problem, I had done this type of volunteer work when my own children had participated.

And, there lies the glitch. The memories and personal moments of past Christmas’s was interwoven with the present, one year Sam was an angel, the next year a sheep. This event was steeped in deep reflection for me.

sam-as-an-angel                                              sam-as-a-lamb

As I walked into the room with racks of costumes, I wondered how had I found the courage to be a part of it again? Honestly, I wasn’t perfectly positive about being there. Instead, I wondered and kinda worried about the outcome. I have learned its best to not place myself in situations that will exasperate my loss. Surely, this would qualify as such a spot.

Nonetheless, somehow I had arrived with hands willing to help in an environment that had the potential to hurt.

As I opened the Tupperware containers filled with shepherd’s fabric and baby Jesus wrapped in a blanket, I silently questioned, “Am I in the right place? Should I volunteer else where? Will the reward be greater than the risk? Would I be lulled here only to leave with a limp?”

I knew God didn’t work that way. That he doesn’t beckon us to try a new thing only to beat us down. Instead, he calls us to be brave, to step out in faith and to trust Him with everything!

So, with a lump in my throat, I bent down and asked the little girl with shoulder length blonde hair that stood next to me, “”What part would you like to play?” Without hesitation, she bleated out, “I want to be a sheep!”

Game on!  I reached for the woolly bodysuit and black socks trying to ignore that my heart had skipped a beat. Just as quick as I tied the string underneath the little girl’s tiny chin, another excited child asked, “Can I be an angel and wear those feathery wings?”

As I pulled the satin sheath over the little girl’s head I raised a question to Heaven, “Lord, did you have to move so quick with me?” I was  suggesting to the Almighty that a moment to get warmed up before I was knee deep in memories might help. It was obvious He didn’t agree with my request for starting off slow. Instead, I had to dive right in and get my hands and my heart dirty with helping out.

Once things began to get busy, there wasn’t much time to think about myself. Instead, I worked to respond to each request, ” A shepherd? Of course, here is a robe and wear this tassel around your waist. A donkey? No problem, don’t forget to attach your tail! A wise man? Absolutely, this is a perfect crown for your head.”

After the costumes were complete, I helped usher each precious child down the center aisle during the appointed time in the story as they found their special spot in the makeshift stable surrounding the Christ child.

nativity

It was then, looking down the aisle at the children and the completed Nativity scene that I knew why God had me there.

He was reminding me that the Glory of God is greater than any hurt I may have, that instilling that truth into the lives of others is better than any tear I might shed and that we have no way of knowing how much healing has happened until we step away from safe.

With peace, purpose and a positive outcome I escorted the children back to our classroom.

As they hurriedly disrobed from their Christmas costumes, I silently gave thanks for being given the courage to ease away from a comfort zone, for being given a fresh perspective that allowed me to receive the  grace of Jesus Christ and for being given the opportunity to help impart the true Christmas story into the precious lives of little ones.

I know it won’t always happen this, that I walk away from a set of circumstances with a deep sense of satisfaction as opposed to a sentence of sadness. However, when joy wraps it glow around the darkness of dread, I know Who is responsible for this special gift.

And, these are the blessings I am receiving to see me through this Christmas season.

 

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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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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Soaring Above My Circumstances …

Grief is grueling.

Trauma is terrifying and tiring.

And, I was gripped and tethered to both, which made me very grateful for this second scripture.

Enduring the loss of a loved one was proving to be difficult. Compile that with disturbing death circumstances and many family members suffering at the same time and life quickly became extremely difficult to live.

For months, I was physically spent from sobbing during the day and not sleeping soundly at night. My body ached with exhaustion and my eyes were heavy with unrest. Many days, mgrievingy physical appearance became distorted as evening arrived. I wore red puffy eyes, a wrinkled worn expression and slumped shoulders like a second skin.

Many times, shortly after arriving home from work, David marched me to our room and said, “The only thing you are going to do is go to bed!” Turning back the covers, he tucked me in like a needy child and insisted, “The day is done.” As dusk soaked through the drapes, he kissed the top of my head and gave me a tender hug. I hate that it happened, but at my lowest, I even needed medication to help me relax. I bet as David crept out the room he prayed that a few hours of rest would bring relief. In so many ways, the process of grieving is a treacherous season to survive.

While my body fought a battle, my emotional well being was under siege.  The good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful all clamored for control inside of my mind. Which ever emotion won was where I “went.” Anger fought with acceptance, sadness did a battle dance with serenity and loss tried to strangle living. Clinging to the light when negativity wants to have its way demands concentration.  The work of “getting it right” was wearing me out!

The whole ordeal was outrageous and I wasn’t familiar with making constant life or death decisions. However, I participated in each detail of the drama. Enduring everything from the death of my precious 12 year old daughter, Samantha, to walking alongside my family as they suffered through ramifications extending from the boating accident. The legal proceedings that extended over a year added to the angst. Weighing on top of all that was the jarring thought someone could end up in jail.

My life was harrowing, heavy, and hard! I felt broken, burdened and beat!

So, when I read:

Isaiah 40:29-31

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

I was refreshed!

Yes, I was familiar with the scripture; I knew it was quoted quite often. However, when I came upon it during my personal state of distress, I found myself “receiving”  with a selfish mindset. Understanding the words unraveled a  message of release. Seriously, the latter part of the scripture, grabbed my attention and provoked a profound image of ease:

“…… they will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  ( I wanted to feel this way!!!!)

mm__soaring_eagle

“Wow!” I thought as I gave the scripture authority over “where I was”, emotionally and physically.”

“Could that really happen?” Could I really fly like a majestic creature, hovering above this treacherous terrain and feel unencumbered through all this?” I questioned. I took the time to close my eyes and imagined myself in such a state, drifting away from fear,  leaving anger behind and flying away from everything that felt bad. The imagery was liberating!

Just seconds before, I was trapped in despair and desperate for a way out. I knew it would be foolish to pass up an opportunity to find a way out.

The phrase that followed  “… run and not grow weary”  was attractiveas well.  In truthI knew my ordeal wasn’t over. To think I could embrace my future and finish out my life with enthusiasm despite the fear and anxiety that follows trauma was something I desired for myself.

Then the part about “…they will walk and not be faint.” let me know life and the little things could even be less stressful. My journey with loss as a close companion would last a lifetime. I would face the absence of Sam on a daily basis, sometime more often than that. I understood this and knew I needed help, so my sidekick of sadness wouldn’t wreck havoc on this rest of my life.

“But how?” I wondered. ” How can I soar above my circumstances?” I prodded the holy promise. Reading backwards was required to search out the answer. Four short words strung together showed me how.

A powerful prescription for stamina, a refreshing source of strength and  a renewed spirit was packed into a single phrase. Elaboration wasn’t required.  “… hope in the Lord.” was the clearly stated cure.

Like the colliding forces of a wellspring, I realized it would be my belief in the Lord, Jesus Christ, that would unleash me and allow me to live in peace again.

My belief in the Lord, Jesus Christ, unleashes me and allows me to live in peace again.  — Tweet This!

As I accepted the truth, the illustration of  freedom manifested in my mind. The feeling of heaviness gave way to the flight. The feeling of weariness turned into winning the race and the thought of a trudging through life was replaced with tiptoeing through the tender parts.

 Yes, I allowed my eyes to drift to the left and reread the scripture from start to finish. It was then, after absorbing the introduction, “… “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;”  I acknowledged my feeble position, realizing that God knew I would get this way, weak, tired, and wobbly as I found my way.

And, there He was ready and waiting with words that gave me a sense of renewal. He showed me it was possible to live apart from the grinding emotions that follow grief and trauma. He described just how wonderful the future could feel.

freedom-to-fly-300x173The rest was up to me. I think He would have captioned my picture with, “Elizabeth, simply
follow me and you will be free.”

To this day,  when I find myself attached to the muck of life or when a trigger of trauma begs me to look backwards, I indulge my senses and savor Isaiah 40:29-31.

I don’t read it, instead I receive it and when I do, the message touches my soul and a breeze blows through my spirit. The lock on the cage of adversity is unlatched.  The imagery lifts me up and moves me away from the pain into a place where I fly separate from my circumstances and feel safe and empowered.

It is then,with  Jesus as my peace partner that I can glide over grief, push beyond anxiety, swoop by sadness, fly over fear and tip my wing to trauma.

Listening vs Learning

 

Deuteronomy 30:19-20

I was reading out of responsibility when I came across the first scripture I am going to share.  I don’t say that with any negative connotation, rather it was the reality. When you add your name to the signup sheet for a Bible study, one can expect a tad bit of homework.

I didn’t mind the duty that dangled before me, I actually welcomed it. You see, spending time scrutinizing the scriptures brought me serenity. After the loss of Samantha nothing the world had to offer eased the constant ache of every day. Early on, to arm myself against bouts of sadness and depression, I added weekly Bible study to my routine. The daily reading required to complete each chapter helped me stay connected to the treasures tucked away in God’s Word. The questions that I was asked to answer at the end of each section served to teach me about myself. As I struggled through a season of trauma, the work helped me in many ways

So, there I sat with my left palm propping open my Holy handbook and with a pencil perched between my thumb and index finger. I was readied to read and take notes on the

bible-studysubject material. Certainly, as with most studies there was a particular point or “moral of the story” mindset I was to focus on. So as I read, my mind worked to grasp the geographical context of each story, the hidden meaning in each passage and how the outcomes of the stories shaped the history of Christianity. All the while, I jotted down notes on the pages of my spiral notebook so I would be prepared for my next class.

Yes, I was task-orientated as I read God’s word, intent on learning what the workbook aimed to teach me through studying the scripture.

However, when my eyes arrived at Deuteronomy 30:19-20, without warning, smack in the middle of my studies, the dynamics did a detour. All of the sudden, I wasn’t reading God’s words. Instead, He had decided to read to me! The idea of a lesson gave way to real life.

I imagine if God had chosen to make Himself audible to me, I would have heard, “Quit taking notes because we need to have a talk!”, “Stop seeking because I have something to say!” Or, maybe He would have closed the Big Book altogether, lifted my chin with a gentle touch so I could meet His stare as He said, “Look at me and listen!”

Oh, I was moved spiritually and leaned into the written word and flexed my ears making them receptacles for words possessing listeningthe power to change my mindset and to steer my feet on a solid path to recovery.

No longer was I learning, instead I was listening:

 

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV)

The words carried such a punch, I had to ponder them. Then, I went back and insert myself into the message to grasp the full potential of the passage. Being 10 or so months into my recovery, my brain was just beginning to comprehend again. (trauma has the tendency to scramble one’s ability to read) and my spirit was settled enough to receive. (meaning I wasn’t so crazed that God’s word couldn’t sink in). However, it was necessary for me to slow down the pace to reap the full reward. This resulted in an fantasized dialogue that went something like this:

God to Elizabeth: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you …”  

(I imagined a thunderous voice)

Elizabeth to God: “Wait, you are calling the heavens and earth AGAINST me? You have all of creation standing at attention! Why? This must be serious … Ok, you have my attention, too!”

(I imagined responding shakily.)

God to Elizabeth: “… I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.”  

(I imagined He said this authoritatively and very matter of factly … there was no wiggle room and He only mentioned two options)

Elizabeth to God: “OK, I get it! There are two ways of doing things. One will result in more pain than I have already experienced, curses. The other promises goodness as I take the time to recover, blessings.

(So often, Samantha’s accident and the aftermath is the “reference point” in my life.)

One can appreciate the two way conversation that my study time turned into. Initially, the scripture was stated to me. After that, God lovingly stuck around so we could discuss and I could flush out what He wanted me to hear.

The pivotal point was made in the next phrase, “Now, choose ….”

Elizabeth to God:  “Wait, I have a choice? What do you want me to choose?”

God to Elizabeth: ” … choose LIFE” (emphasis mine, but I imagine He would have made Himself very clear)

Oh, I was aware of His adamant urging. With authority, He was pointing me in a particular direction. (I think he would have even banged his almighty hand on the table that might have sat between us!)

Then, with compassion and understanding He laid out the reasons to my “WHY?” (knowing in my human frailty I needed to understand the benefits before entering into the bargain)

So with words He painted a picture of peace for me.

God to Elizabeth:so that you and your children may live …”  

(Oh, I did not like being sad and tormented with loss each day. It was like death repeating itself every 24 hours! And, by no means did I want that kind of life for Brooke, nor for my nieces, Claire and Hannah or any other child suffering after the loss of Sam) In addition, God made me aware that my behavior would impact others. (Yikes!)

God to Elizabeth: “… and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”  (He continued to shower me with more reasons to live His way!  )

The next few words ensured me that God would be the reason that I carried on, that He would be the One to give me my life back. … “for the Lord is your Life.”

My reading was ended with an invitation to enter a special place  …and  he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” That is, … the land of milk and honey. Oh, I knew a little bit about this particular piece of land from my studies. But, after my time with the Lord came to an end I did a little more research. 

Yes, I went quickly went back to learning. I searched for details and descriptions and became aware of explanations for what the land of milk and honey was like. A land of promise, a place like heaven or paradise, the mountaintop, a place that appeals greatly to someone were phrases that brought this sacred place to life.

After what I had been through and staring into a life without Samantha, this offer was one I couldn’t refuse. I knew it was where I wanted to arrive and I knew I wanted to bring Brooke and David  and others that I loved with me. And, to think I could help lead even more there!

No longer were the words that I read simply a story about God speaking to the Israelite’s. Instead, it was God revealing to me how to live a life so that I was alive!

Oh my, I was moved and without hesitation, I made my decision. I linked arms with Jesus and decided to do things His way.i-choose-life

No, it isn’t always easy. Yes, sometimes, I have to dig deep and fight the demons to find my way . And, as always, some days are easier than others.

However, always fashioning my choices after the truth found in Deuteronomy 30:19-20 has made all the difference.

And, listening, not learning has given me life!

 

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