A Christmas Coffee

Better late than never!

Life has moved me in many ways over the past two months. However, the last few days have presented themselves with a much slower pace. Therefore, allowing me to think, to reflect and then to seize the wonder in my life.

If busyness creates an auto-pilot attitude; relaxation allows space for awareness and contemplation.

As I sit in the stillness, I acknowledge the nudging that I received. First, it came by way of a few lines of text I read from Andy Andrew’s book, The Traveler’s Summit. There Mr. AA The Travelers SummitAndrew expounded upon the responsibility of sharing our stories, so others may be strengthened. Then, in a series of Sunday sermons, Pastor Josh, emphasized the importance of witnessing to others the power of God in our lives. Combining those two outward signals with my internal awareness and I am convinced it is time to write; time to capture in words that special meeting that occurred in a coffee shop that sits on a corner.

The world around me was bustling during December of 2016, the holiday season was in full swing and expectations were high. Gifts to purchase, decorations to put up and out and family gatherings were all on the to -do list. Yes, my body was busy as I pressed in to prepare. However, I wasn’t fully engaged because my mind often wondered to what was planned for the morning of December the 26th.

Melissa and I would meet each other for the first time. Can you imagine, meeting your daughter for the first time after 35 years. (If that statement doesn’t strike a cord with a reader, I don’t know what will.) Only Brooke, David and I knew what the day after Christmas would bring.

Combine the chaos of the season and the crazy twist my life had taken, and you can imagine I had to work hard to maintain my composure. And, the only way it happened was staying in step with My Savior and bouncing and running everything that was happening by Him. As well, I unpacked and used several of the well-honed tools in my spiritual tool kit. Ones, I had perfected while coping with the loss of Samantha.

Honestly, I can remember sitting in the wooden chair with my bottom pressed to the cushion covered wicker seat and my back set straight while passing the rolls at the festively decorated dinner table. To control my thoughts and calm my body, I recited to myself my personal mantra, “Elizabeth, Just Do Today! Today, is Christmas, when we gather together and celebrate Christ’s birth. That is what today is about! However, tomorrow is a new day and that is when I will meet Melissa.” This mindset, given to us by God Himself, has served me well in the past. Christmas Day 2016 was no different. I did the day with joy, gratefulness and a minimum amount of anxiety.

Days before I questioned, ” Brooke, do you want to join me?” “Yes, absolutely, I want to go with you!” she answered.  Brooke embraced the newness of the situation with an obvious affection. Brooke’s longtime friend Kate helped instill this grateful mindset.

During an online chat exchange between the two, at the same time I was bearing my teenage soul to Brooke, Kate typed a life changing response, (in blinking curly-que typeset I imagine) “Brooke, you have a sister, you have a sister now. After Sam died, that is all you ever wanted and now you have one!”

Because of Kate’s encouragement and positive perspective, Brooke’s thoughts were centered on gratitude rather than groveling or judgement. She welcomed the circumstances rather than seeing them as an intrusion.

What a beautiful thing to witness when a friend whispers the words that echo the power of love to a longtime friend.

So, because of a mixture of curiosity, excitement and I pray a tad bit of support Brooke was led to accept my genuine invitation.

Through it all, I didn’t try to figure out how “I” “felt“, but I knew my steps were ordered by The Spirit. So, having learned to level my emotions, because to respond to truth is more sacred, I went to sleep after a busy Christmas Day knowing I would wake to a new chapter of my life. As unsure as I was in my flesh, I was that solid in my Spirit.

The answer to any hesitancy that tried to enter the situation was to not waiver in my humanity, but instead to move forward with my eyes on the cross!

I believed God brought me to this crossroad and I believed that He would carry me through. I trusted in His nature, but it was an inner struggle to maintain my grip on His supernatural presence. The world told me to be afraid, ashamed, unsure and overwhelmed. I’m certain, if I had relied on myself, the mid-morning meeting might never have occurred. And, I knew that was not what Jesus was about.

anchor

Instead, Jesus is about redemption and restoration, completion and compassion.

I anchored my entire body weight in this truth to see me through!

“Mom, would you like me to drive?” Brooke asked as we stepped into the garage. “Yes, please, I think that will be a good idea.” I responded appreciatively. By now, I knew it was smart to receive any offer of help or support thrown my way.

The conversation while we crossed the bridge was intense. ” Mom, I would want to know, too if I was Melissa!” Brooke showed her full support and understanding with Melissa’s position. “OK, well I am thankful you are able to consider her position in all of this. I appreciate your sensitivity.” I responded honestly.

The conversation continued to be powerful and honest and endearing. I was grateful for Brooke’s maturity, her external awareness and eagerness. It sure did pave the way for me. I took the humble approach and hung onto Brooke’s coat straps as she boldly swept through the door of the coffee shop.

Brooke and I looked around, starting left we scanned the sparsely seated booths, on over past the checkout counter, scanned across the hallway to the restrooms and then we spotted her. There was no mistaken, who Melissa was. She was anticipating our arrival as much as we were anticipating our own. Willingly, I let Brooke lead the way, as if to fashion my steps in sync with her open heart. As I was becoming slightly unhinged on the inside, Brooke walked with a courageous cadence and made a beeline to the beautiful woman who was tucked into the corner.

Oh, just imagine, the hugs, the tears, the apologies, and the forgiveness that was on public display. It was as epic as you can imagine! And, a sacred time indeed! Eventually, we settled down and the emotional introductions moved to a more formal precautious conversation. Everything was new, and nothing was guaranteed. We all had a lot of skin on the table and no one wanted to come out more scathed and scarred than they went in.

As the Holy Spirit moved among us and our tender hearts began to take over our skeptical heads our dialogue became sweet, compassionate and open, especially, between Brooke and Melissa. At one point, I remember thinking, “Why am I even here?” Melissa and Brooke were so deep in conversation about being DENTISTS,  I thought they had forgotten I was there!

Yes, God’s first confirmation that he had ordained our reunion came in the acknowledgement that Melissa was a practicing dentist in the New Orleans area. By this time, Brooke’s career choice of dentistry was solidly chosen. Yet, Brooke needed to complete the entrance requirements and be accepted into school. The bond between the two was set immediately – they saw themselves- in each others’ eyes and immediately stepped onto common ground. Their conversation was excited, animated and energetic!

On the other hand, as their relationship hit the ground running, I sat in the far-right corner of the booth and realized, I wasn’t there! Emotionally and spiritually I was still deeply wounded by what had happened. It takes time to process and recover from a 35 year secret.  Simply put, I wasn’t ready to fully engage in this new relationship and expect it to work if I didn’t start from a solid foundation. I was disappointed in myself and in my current state of soul. But, I knew it best to backup, be honest with myself about what had happened, get the required help I needed to heal and then begin again.

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The mid-morning reunion between Melissa, Brooke and myself continued, when, somewhere in the middle, Brooke abruptly stopped the conversation and stood up. Not knowing what was happening, I narrowed my eyes and watched Brooke’s actions like an eagle.

Honestly, there were a lot of emotions criss crossing across the shiny slick wooden table top. Anything was possible, but all was set straight when Brooke, with LOVE in her eyes asked Melissa, ” Can I hug you?! You need to know I never thought it was possible to have a sister again. After Samantha died, I knew there simply wasn’t a way for that to happen! She was gone and that was that! So, to stand here before you is truly a miracle and I am grateful for that!”

Melissa stood in response and received what Brooke offered; love, acceptance, an abundance of life and a future more blessed than imagined! Melissa, in return, shared how much she longed for and would cherish a relationship with her younger sister.

Oh, the embrace was beautiful between the two!!  The tears started all over again in streams thicker and swifter than before. I was once again the privileged one that sat in the corner seat of the booth and witnessed the immediate connection and affection between the two.

At this point, no matter what I thought, there was no turning back for these two! They were ready to fall in love and to do life.

To acknowledge my unreadiness, I told the girls, “I see for myself what is already at work between you two. I can’t stop it, nor do I want to. But, I am not there yet. I have some work to do with and on myself. Before I can dive in and do life with you guys I need to be the healthiest version of myself.” Both nodded in agreement. They understood I needed time to deal with other issues because I was coming at this from a different angle. Oh, the joy and eagerness where there, but there was no denying that I needed to deal with the voices of destruction that danced in my head.

By now the three of us were emotionally haggared! The ups and downs and emotional upheaval of the morning had taken its toll. We knew it was time say good-bye, so Melissa could return to her family and Brooke and I could reconnect with David. We certainly had a lot to share.

Before we left, Brooke and I were refueled when Melissa extended her hands across the table and offered each of us a Christmas gift – a hand painted cross on a beautifully painted canvas. Oh, how I knew we were being saturated with the Spirit. Then, to close our sacred time together, Melissa asked to pray. My heart melted into her request as the three of us clenched hands together and acknowledge The Heavenly One that had ordained, orchestrated, presided over and protected us and all those involved as we tiptoed through tender ground.

By now our coffee cups were dry, along with our eyes. We were in better shape emotionally and spiritually after asking Jesus to cover our next steps and acknowledging our trust in His providence. Brooke and Melissa agreed they would see each other again. I simply smiled on the inside and outside but knew I wouldn’t be joining them right away. And, we were all OK with that.

Instead, I knew my time needed to be spent with my Savior, so eventually I could receive in full the gift God gave to me during that special Christmas Coffee!

 

tom family
Sammy, Melissa, Katherine, Samuel and Madalyn Tom

 

 

 

 

11 Months Later

Believing in Beautiful … was written 11 months ago. What in the world have I been doing since then? Why no writing? Have I no words?

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The truth is, I took a self-imposed sabbatical from justdotoday, citing personal reasons. I needed space to breath and be still, to seek God’s will and to hear his whispers, to respond to new ways with love and then always allow redemption to lead the way.

Simply put, my world, other’s worlds needed to settle and to solidify and our souls needed time to spend with each other before I exposed one of the greatest love stories in my life.

Love as exquisite as it is, takes time to grow and to become the bond that cements relationships. I knew better than to charge through this season of relationship building like the Bull Run we see in Spain. To treat this next life chapter as a set of mechanics would have been a sin.

Instead, the Holy Spirit guided me to stay sensitive, to let the pace and rhythm of my life and all those involved to work its way out, and to move through this unprecedented time period with ease, but with acute awareness.  Truly, we were and are traveling through Holy Ground and He let me know, time was His gift, allowing everyone to settle down, to settle in and then to see and experience the fruits of His love. He let me know there was a lot of living left to do. Therefore, rushing and pushing through with my own agenda or allowing anyone else to establish their preferred course of action simply wasn’t going to work.

That isn’t to say, I haven’t been lovingly harassed and chided for the last 330 days!! “Mom, you need to write a blog!”, Brooke tried to enforce. Her excitement always propelling her to push. “Elizabeth, what about justdotoday and your book?” David prodded on a weekly basis. His reasoning was to get back to the business of writing and ultimately finishing my publishing project. I understood and loved their ways and reasons to move everything forward at a faster pace.

Yes. I heard them. Yet. I knew not to listen. Instead, I intentionally instituted selective hearing when they spoke.

Why? Well, simply put, I wasn’t taking my direction from them. What they didn’t realize was nothing they could say or do would have swayed me to tell the story, until I knew it was time. Their constant attempts at persuasion were love punches, I know. However, this isn’t their story to write.

This is God’s story and watching for His ques and listening for His whispers was and is where my inspiration swells from.

Over time and in person, the story has been told to others in safe settings and with trusted souls. I have shared it myself. As well, I have been a bystander when someone else is revealing the blessing bestowed upon our family. Each time, the orator and it’s audience reap God’s riches! Teary eyes and tender hugs are the genuine responses “we” receive when we share. Whether it be Brooke, David, Melissa, myself or even an extended family member telling a friend, when people hear, they are happy. Happy for her, happy for us, happy for everybody!!!!

This week a Facebook post where David and I were referred to as “Grands” moved God’s story beyond the sacred circle of family and close friends. Oh, what a beautiful year and a half it has been; creating new memories, laughing and smiling ALOT, loving in new ways and being busier than before! It is all so good. Yet, I’m grateful for the more private space we carved out for ourselves, giving our family time and space to grow and be united as ONE before opening up to the world.

However, as I showered on Monday morning, I processed the FB post that was shared and the responses from people it elicited.

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“Grand role? What did I miss?” a friend wrote seeking explanation. Like often before, my thoughts traveled to, “Oh my, I wonder what they will think, when they know?” I have no reason or past actions to make me think someone will have an adverse reaction. However, inevitably that thought snakes itself into my thinking and creates unnecessary havoc! (Satan get under my feet!!!)

But, no doubt, during this 18-month journey, that question has caused anxiety and fear to run rabid inside of me. Shame would try to steal the show and shut down any light being shed on love. But, by the grace and goodness of God, this particular cleansing on this particular Monday morning had a different outcome.

Instead, of feeling embarrassed of my past, where I wanted to scrub the past sin off my skin. I was ecstatic and alive and free to share my future. Goose bumps traveled up my spine and caused my scalp to tingle and my heart raced with excitement!! Combine that with the new expensive shampoo I have been sampling, I didn’t want to get out of the shower!!! Honestly, I was held by the heavenly massage my mind and body were receiving. But, my soul was experienceing a Go Tell It On The Mountain kinda moment!!!

Indeed, this was the kind of holy harassing I have been waiting and watching for!!!!! It is this internal signal of readiness, the knowledge that happens on the inside, not suggestions from an outer source, but instead a confirmation from within that has signaled me to open up!

Yes, the time has come to share! I’m ready, we are ready, I believe so many involved are in a healthy place making them ready . But, most importantly, it is God that said, “Go!, Be excited and share my love with all!”

“Yes”, friend, you did miss something!!!! But, it wasn’t your fault because I held it a secret, in a sacred, holy kind of way, on purpose. I simply cherished keeping it all close to my heart as we allowed love to seal the deal!!!

BUT, this gift, in Melissa Gray Tom, is so unbelievably astounding you and everybody else need to know!  She is simply lovely; a beautiful woman, with a compassionate heart for Christ and raising an incredible family (Katherine, Madelyn (twin 7 year old girls and a 4 year old son, Samuel) alongisde her husband, Sammy Tom.

And to think, she is part MINE!! (Of course, I know I have to share her with others; there are many many others that love this beautiful lady BIG! 🙂 )

So here it is – I’m incredibly blessed to share that in December 2016, I was lovingly reunited with the daughter I placed for adoption 35 years ago. For the past 18 months we have been opening up our hearts to one another and learning to do life together!!! David and Brooke are totally in love too and because of that our family has doubled and then some in size !

Me and Melissa
March 2017

Rest with that for awhile, I know it is a doozy. But undoubtedly, stay tuned. Over the next few months, I will be sharing God’s story of redemption and hope in a series of blogs capturing our journey thus far!

Next Month – A Christmas Coffee

Pray with me:

Heavenly Father,

We are so grateful for your promises of redemption. Thank you for loving me enough to forgive me of my sin and the in return, instead of punishment, you bless me ten-fold. It is through you we can do hard things and conquer situations that could hurt. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit that lives inside each of us, so that we can better walk in your ways – ways that lead to healing and love and light. We offer praise and thanksgiving to you, Lord,

In your precious names, Jesus we pray these things.

 

Believing in Beautiful …

“Mom, what does God tell you about all this?”, Brooke asked as she scanned the shelves of the refrigerator. It looked as though Brooke was searching for something to eat, whenrefrigerator asking this fateful question, But, deep inside I knew she was seeking so much more.

When life takes a sudden shift, the new set of circumstances creates a myriad of unanswered questions. Brooke was searching for solid ground. She was attempting to create a feeling of security by collecting information and threading together the knowledge she would gain. Then, I knew, because it is human tendency, she would go on to mentally map out potential outcomes, to create scenarios that sounded good and to carve out a story she created.

Standing on the other side of the kitchen counter, I longed to paint the easiest picture for her; one where everything goes just right and everyone involved is immediately  excited. Her heart has been broken before, I find myself wanting to knee-jerk to protect her from any more.

However, I simply didn’t have the authority to do that. I didn’t have any facts to share. Nor, was there a road map to refer to. Yes, this next God appointed adventure guaranteed a tremendous amount of uncertainty.

Even though it wasn’t voiced, I think Brooke subconsciously knew this. She knew I couldn’t predict the future. Nor, how it would unfold. Hence, in her wisdom and quest for something solid she aimed her question towards my Savior and the counsel He might offer.

Immediately, I was grateful she knew I would seek God’s advice.  And, be interested in what He had to say. She acknowledged and honored the relationship I had with Him.

And, that is when I knew I was time to share what had settled in my heart. For days, I had rumbled with how God wanted me to respond to this new  unexpected blessing. Trust me, as beautiful and unbelievable as it is, it held the power to shake the trusted ties that united our weathered family.

Rounding the edge of the counter, I walked towards Brooke and stopped in front of the stove. By now, her perusal for food had ended and she turned toward me with her full attention.

I paused before I answered. Not because I didn’t have an answer. God had already given me His sense of response before Brooke ever inquired about our inner conversations. Instead, I took a second before responding so the air would settle and my words could be heard.

Surmising the fore coming series of events and the twisting and turning it would take to assimilate and comprehend this new chapter of life was impossible. But better than giving Brooke a sense of security by speculating on earthly events, I affirmed Who I would follow.  Therefore, laying a solid foundation for all things going forward.

“Brooke, God has made it very clear to me that all of this can stay very uncomplicated if I, we simply love. That is all there is too it, simply love.”, I explained.

We continued our conversation of Christ’s instructions. I chose my words carefully to get Brooke to accept the truth that God doesn’t want us to search for answers, to predict actions nor to find security in knowing the outcome before it happens.

Instead, He asks us to move forward in faith. To be OK with not knowing everything. And, to trust that as we make room for the Holy Spirit to move , everything falls into place.

Watching with spiritual eyes, I was acutely aware of the interchange unfolding and was totally consumed with sharing the wisdom …

Control does not guarantee comfort. Instead, it is the power of Jesus that brings peace!

Brooke seemed satisfied with my reply, that the message  left for us in 1 Corinthians 13:13:

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” would see us through.

With ease, she twisted toward the simmering pan and started to rhythmically stir.  Inches apart, we stood still, both feeling the security of God’s sovereignty. But, the goodness didn’t end there because I had more to share.

“Brooke, there is something else I sense.” I said, recapturing her attention. With the wooden spoon in her hand, she turned and readied herself to receive.

Feeding her soul, I shared “The spirit inside of me says, don’t flinch and have absolutely no fear!”  I expounded on God’s guidance wanting Brooke to understand that as we stepped into this next leg of life it was important for me, for her for all of us to cast off any thought that might prevent us from fully embracing the fullness of what was yet to be.

Holding back because something might go wrong was not going to work.

Brooke relaxed into the words, her shoulders inched down and the edges of her lips inched up. She understood that if we allowed love and the Spirit of Christ to set our course, that bumpy it might be.

But because of Jesus we could believe in beautiful!

 

Romans 8:28

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

KJV

 

Believe in beautiful

 

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A Box of Miracles in my Backyard

As Easter Sunday approaches, I find myself contemplating the Cross and Christ’s Resurrection.

Everywhere I go, walking, running errands or even alone my thoughts continue to wrap around this Gospel message of hope and eternal healing, of rebirth and renewal, and of celebration and miraculous occurrences. It has been kinda of a constant cerebral conversation.

I work to replay the events of Holy Week in my mind. Then, I try to understand the emotions attached to the events. I ask myself, “What did the people witness and how did they respond?”

Of course, each mini-series evokes a unique set of feelings, stretching from humility to horror and then onto heartbroken. As Jesus moves through the acts of the Easter story, the setting shifts as well.

Like Jesus, in my own pressed state I have spent time in the garden. Gardens have always served as an inspiring backdrop in the Bible. After all, God first planted humanity in a garden in Eden. And the most redemptive act in history began in a garden in Gethsemane. And the story ends in Revelation with the image of the garden taking over the City of God.

Like Jesus, my garden served me during my own season of sorrow.  “Elizabeth, anything to do with nature is healing and good for the soul” I was told.  In response, I grabbed a hoe and hoped for the best. Certainly, tears were shed, as I shoveled the dry soil.  However, there was a healing component to digging in and getting dirty.

Today, my garden continues to serve me. However, it is in a new way! Rather than seeking the comfort the warmth of the earth has to offer, I sing in celebration about what has sprouted!!! As well, the overwhelming growth and the abundance of fruit that is growing in the box of miracles in my backyard!!!

It’s magical to pull a carrot out of the ground and exciting to see a ruby red strawberry gracefully hang from its thin green stem. The zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower buds are poised to break open and the eggplants are lush and tinted lavender. The carrots are ready and the tomatoes are ripening.  Yes, my vegetables plants are poised to have a party.

 

strawberries carrot

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And, my friends, so are we. As we approach the Celebration of Resurrection,  we as believing Christians know the glory that is coming!!!

Remember, we are a resurrection people!

We celebrate this belief in unity on Easter!

Together, we affirm the miracle of Jesus rising from the dead and ascending into Heaven, Together, we acknowledge the triumph of light over dark and as the body of Christ give thanks for the gift of eternal life.  Easter is the anniversary, the yearly commemoration of all these things.

However, the little box of miracles in my backyard reminds me resurrection happens everyday.  That seeds planted and buried deep in the dirt, because of a miracle, can grow into a maturing plant with an abundance of  fruit.

Jesus’ miracles of renewal and regeneration are evident and alive in the world around us. His power loves people to life and His message brings beauty out of our brokenness.

So today and everyday, I celebrate the miracle of Resurrection and what it represents!!

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And Yet …

Enjoy and allow the spirit of Christ to rest in you as you read this devotional written by my wonderful friend, Karen Rewerts. 

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This morning, I was reading my devotional and I came across this verse:

“I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Ps. 13:6.

You know how much I LOVE music and singing, and I thought, “How beautiful!”

This was the King James translation, so I decided to look up the verse in my NIV Bible, and it said,

“I will sing the Lord’s praise for He has been good to me.”   

Isn’t that wonderful?!

As I re-read the verse, I realized this was the last verse in Psalm 13 and I thought, “This is a short Psalm.” So I decided to read it from the beginning and it starts with this:  “How long, Lord?  Will you forget me forever?  How long will You hide Your face from me?”

Whoa.

Who goes from “How long,” to “I will sing,” in six verses?

As you might guess, it was David and for four verses, he cries to God.  Not only that, he demands that God look at him and answer him. Then in verse five, he says, “But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.”  Then comes the beautiful verse 6.

David.

David the shepherd boy.

David who killed Goliath.

David the King, chosen by God to lead Israel.

David of the lineage of Jesus.

David, the special man after God’s own heart.

YET…David was human.  David was not perfect and in fact, David did some downright horrible things. And David suffered.  He cried out to God.  He felt terribly alone.  He wrestled with his thoughts.  He was so sad.  David demanded relief from God.  Read Psalm 13 and you’ll see what I mean.

For all David went through, (and he didn’t even know Jesus,) he still chose to trust God.  He chose to rejoice.  And he chose to sing.  Whatever we deal with in this life – this beautiful, tragic, crazy, stressful, amazing experience – we can trust and rejoice and even sing because we know that God is faithful.  We know that God loves us.  We know that God has been good to us.  We know that God is worthy of our song.   And praise God, we have resurrection hope through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Thanks for letting me share.

Karen, thank you for sharing!

Your lesson is livable and your writing is relateable. As well, your love of Christ is contagious! 

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Moving from Grief to Grace …

About a year ago, I met Susan B. Mead.

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Susan B Mead

Quickly, I was captivated by her outgoing and gregarious personality.  Humor sparkled just about every sentence she spoke and a smile grew across her cheeks constantly!

We were gathered together, along with some other ladies for a work session and work we did do! Susan is smart and she was charged with and eagerly shared her professional experiences concerning writing, public speaking and internet blogging. I was all ears and leaned in to receive what she had to say.

Truly, I enjoyed our time of learning that had been laced with laughter!

Indeed, Susan provided a wealth of knowledge I needed.

As our session drew to a close I scooped up my notes, packed away my computer equipment and began to say my goodbyes.

And, that is when this organized exchange of ideas suddenly shifted to a time of inspiration and appreciation!

The last few minutes of time spent at the gathering allowed for more intimate conversations. The attendees mingled with one another and met on a more personal note.

It was then, I learned that Susan and I shared the same painful loss. For her, it was a beloved 21 year old son whose life was lost to a lethal combination of drugs and alcohol. In turn, I exposed the circumstances surrounding the loss of Samantha, my precious 12 year old daughter.

We agreed, the death of a child, regardless of how it happens just plain HURTS!!!!!!!

Thankfully our conversation didn’t end there. Instead, I poised myself as the learner and listener again, leaning in to receive what Susan had to say. She was further into the painstaking ping pong process of lamenting and living.  As well, I figured I could use a tip or two about how to go on.

No longer did her language focus on web page clicks and FB friends.

Instead, her previous instructive tone turned into exuberance as she sang the praises of her Savior, glorifying the God who had saved her from the dark depths of grief and despair!

Her testament was real! She spoke of anguish and heartache! But excitement and a sense of awe overcame her as  she extolled the saving grace and mercy she received from Jesus Christ.

I invite you to hear the same healing message as I did on that day!

Be blessed, allow yourself to be carried and let peace prevail as you read Susan B Mead’s devotional –

Moving From Grief to Grace

March 31, 2015

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

Grief hits each one of us and can come from so many different directions.

A romantic relationship gone awry. The loss of a cherished friendship. A puppy put down. Empty arms and a broken heart due to abortion. Infertility. Abuse. The death of a loved one.

Dreams with a hope and future dashed in an instant. I know. I’ve lived it, too.

A phone call changed my hopes and future as Matt, my older son, wailed into the phone about my younger son, “Kyle died last night!”

 

– See more at: http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/moving-from-grief-to-grace/#sthash.gpXF27IO.dpuf

 

Today, Susan’s high spirit and happy heart are offer hope and healing to all who are hurting! 

Thank you Gracious God for your everlasting promise to move us from grief to grace!

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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Trauma … Take Two

cinema clipboard 1

“PTSD from Katrina kicking in, smells that you can never imagine. Every house has lost everything including at least 2 cars. Y’all pray for Louisiana!!!

When I saw this Facebook status posted alongside a photo of piled up debris, I knew I wasn’t the only one sliding backwards.

For so many affected by the recent floods in the Baton Rouge/Lafayette area, this current cataclysmic event is a flashback to the aftermath of some other natural disaster experienced or overwhelming sense of loss incurred. Whether it is the smell of sweltering garbage, the reality of all of your belongings stacked in a heap on the curb in front of your house, the loss of a loved one to the raging flood waters or possible even a beloved pet, the triggers all point to the same underlying issue.

TRAUMA – an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident or natural disaster. A traumatic event or situation creates psychological trauma when it overwhelms the individual’s ability to cope.

water rescueWould it be surprising to know that the above list didn’t do it for me? Rather, it was the process of saving the people and the water recovery that sent me reeling backwards. The scenes of boats racing over the water, men in life jackets intent on rescue and helicopters overhead that pulled me to a painful place. The scenes were so familiar and carried a past so stressful that it felt like a smoldering piece of metal piercing my heart every time I saw a picture.

Physical symptoms of distress began to manifest as tears trickled down my cheeks while out for a walk, I noticed myself upset and unsettled in the evenings when it was time to relax and I began waking up in the wee hours of the morning because my mind was racing with thoughts. The third time I confessed to David, “I feel like tears are filling my ears and a bulge of emotions is blocking my throat.” I knew I needed to stop with the activity and devote some time to myself.

 It was then, in the stillness of assessing what was messing with my head and in turn twisting my heart that a light was shown on what I was going through. I realized something happening in my current environment was causing me to look backwards, to revisit, to relive, to revive an extraordinarily painful time in my life.

ptss

Oh, and I was guilty of “going there” and walking in defeat for a few days. I withdrew from helping with relief efforts out of sheer self-protection. I sought refuge from the chaos by seeking calm environments. Honestly, being in the disarray of recovery mixed me up mentally. As well, reopened an emotional wound I would rather leave untouched. My empathy overflowed at the overwhelming sense of loss that so many are experiencing to the point I couldn’t concentrate. I know what it feels like to have your life turned upside down and scattered like a 10,000 piece puzzle.

Truly, being amidst the shambles was causing me to stumble.

(I wish I could say it isn’t so, that I’m stronger than that, that I can handle any situation that comes my way. Instead, I’m realizing I can’t. Nor, am I called, too. )

So, in an effort to find my way out of the slimy pit that I sunk into, I began to pay attention to myself and worked to mentally challenge the triggers. I made a concerted effort to turn off the memories that possessed the potential to wreck my well-being. As I used the tools in my trauma toolbox to help me cope, room was made in my mind to remember what served to save me during my personal season of trauma.

Yes, during that time God showed up in miraculous ways on numerous days, but it was His Word that carried me through the tedious times. When fear, anxiety, stress, and uncertainty arose (symptoms of PTSS)  I recited, chanted, sung, wrote, read and clung to God’s written word, knowing that through it He shares His wisdom with us, that He teaches us the perspective He wants us to adopt and that He states the promises we can trust in.

Sams Bible

The longer I sat, the more grateful I became for the time and foresight to regain my composure. As I rested, a sense of urgency swelled inside of me to reread the scriptures that were earmarked with a sticky note in Samantha’s Bible. The ones that I had repeated over and over, the ones I read then implemented in my own life, the ones I trusted in, the ones that encouraged me to take another step and the ones that promised a fruitful future after profound loss.

Ahhhh, rest, renewal and reassurance soothed my heart. Words that served to revive me before where breathing life into me again. Text that brought dominion and order over this world were doing it again. Passages that promised God’s presence and offered hope were pouring into my spirit again.

Yes, God’s Word had gotten me through a season of personal trauma. And, it was doing it again!

I invite you to journey with me over the next few weeks as I share ten scriptures that serve to sustain me. Along, with how, when, where and why they work for me. Whether it is past or present circumstances doesn’t make a difference. What is important to remember is God’s Word is living and actionable in all situations and it works!

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:4

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Matthew 7:24

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What I’ve Been Reading

lizs-library

“Elizabeth, you need to read this book!” my friend exclaimed.

“Ok!” I replied, showing my openness to be inspired.

“The story is about a family from Bogalusa, LA, right here, in our own backyard,” my friend continued as she bobbled the book in front of my face. Her jerky movements were meant to get my attention and keep me engaged.

“Elizabeth, you know how this story came into print?” she asked pinching her voice to make a point. I rounded my lips to respond, but didn’t have enough time for a sound to form.

In a split second, I realized my friend had no intention of hearing from me. Instead, she was determined to move her end of the conversation forward and motivate me.

“Rebecca, the author of the book was sharing her story during a Bible Study. The people in attendance were so moved by what they heard they convinced her to write the story down. Elizabeth, God took it from there, leading Rebecca on a path to get it published,” she added.

“You know, the same thing is going to happen to you!” she punctuated her words with firmness.

I nodded my head to let her know I was listening. As well, I received her words of encouragement because I needed them. I am beginning to learn there is nothing easy about publishing a book. Besides the writing process that is required, there is a social media platform that must be built (YUCK!) and many rejection letters to be received before finding the right publisher, all of which have stretched me beyond myself.

However, anything that I am feeling in the department of discomfort pales in comparison to what Rebecca and her family were called to endure. As I read, The Devil in Pew Number Seven, I was reminded of the pain Christians are often time called to endure. Surely, the Nichols family suffered their fair share. Often times when reading, I thought more than what they could possibly handle. Fear, persecution and feeling hated played a part in their journey. They were constantly harassed, bombs were set off near their home and a broken glass window pane shattered on top of their newborn son.

As difficult as it was to read, God’s grace in the lives of these people was ever present. Rebecca is honest about the scars that are left on her family. However, she doesn’t park herself there and hang onto the pain that was inflicted on her nor, the family she loved.

Instead, she moves past the affliction and learns how to forgive. She isn’t shy about sharing the struggles. However her ending emphasis is one of deliverance. Ultimately, she shares a story of survival. Therefore, allowing her readers to tag along with her as she breaks the chains of trauma, allowing her to live a life of freedom.

If you can imagine, when I turned the last page, I found a gentle smile on my face.

Oh, yes I ached on the inside and my empathy was in over drive!

However, the message that I walked away with is Forgiveness is the Answer to Freedom. In the end, Rebecca’s faith allowed her to heal after living through a season of scarring. Then as the years past, she was led to a place of peace about what had happened.

On top of that, she took the time to write down her experience so that another person could glean from the wisdom she gained, be inspired by her perseverance and to illustrate an example that faith in Jesus Christ works.

Thank you Rebecca for showing me how it is done. You made yourself vulnerable and for that I appreciate you. You kept my eyes on the cross as you walked me through your crisis. As well, you showered me with hope, love and faith all the way to the end.

A few days later, during a quick phone call my precious yet pesky friend asked “And, how did you like the book?”  “It was unbelievable and reading it was good for so many reasons,” I started my response. Quickly sucking air through my nostrils, I readied myself to unleash all that I reaped by reading Rebecca’s book. Unlike our last conversation, this time I had plenty to say. “You were right,” I confirmed to my loving phone caller. “Reading her story inspires me! Seeing her story in printed form lets me know publishing can happen for little ole’ me living in Mandeville and her faith journey has nourished the hope inside of my heart.” I added.

Before we hung up, I ended our conversation with,”You know, it is my prayer, that one day I could touch as many lives as Rebecca has.”

Here’s to hoping Sam was Here … (my proposed book title) will be used in the same way.”

Be blessed as you read this book:

The Devil in Pew Number Seven

 

 

 

Dear Lord,

Guide me as I try to do the same good work as Rebecca. I know, just as she does, that you are present in all things and that what occurs in our lives will be worked for good. Help me as I work to record your presence in the middle of my mayhem. Possess my writing so that my words are interesting, easily understood and carry your message of healing. I ask that you open doors wide so that I can step through them. I ask that you lead me to the places, to the people  and to the publisher that are waiting for me to arrive, so that together  we can send forth your message of hope.

Amen

Lessons in Everyday Life

beach

The sun was shining and the waves were rolling in. David and I sat in lounge chairs, protected from the afternoon heat by a large blue and white striped canvas umbrella. Our seats were angled just a tad, allowing me a bird’s eye view of the family to my right.

Yes, we were at the beach and I was relaxed. The crew next to me, not so much, taking little ones to the beach can turn into a lot of work. I witnessed this as the parents lathered three little bodies with ample amounts of sunscreen. Then, the older boy called out, “Mom, can you help me find my goggles?” I looked on; her shoulders dropped as she pulled herself out of the folding beach chair slung close to the sand. Plodding through the shifting granules of the beach floor, she reach into their overstuffed straw bag and rifled under the brightly colored beach towels. Fumbling her fingers on the bottom of the rattan sack, relieved, she called across to her son, “I found them.” Minutes later her brood of hungry beach goers begged for a snack, along with asking for an ice cold bottle of water. Eventually, everyone was appeased enough to play.

Father and sons frolicked in the waves. Mom stole a few minutes of rest and read a book. Their third child, wearing a sunhat as big as a serving saucer, quietly played in the sand. Her little fingers sifted through the mixture of shiny and matte, tan colored crystals. She poked a plastic shovel into miniature sand dunes and flung what she scochild playing in the sand 2oped up over her soft rounded shoulder. Bowing over her personal playground, she was satisfied and oblivious to the wonder surrounding her. The majesty and motion of the ocean were just steps away. The
seagulls that decorated and danced in the sky were straight above her head. The rays of the sun that warmed the sand were on display behind her back. However, she was calm, content and carefree. Why would anyone want to interrupt such a peaceful scene? Especially one that involved a toddler.

With a peaceful heart, I watched the family drama unfold. The father’s aqua swimming trunks clung to his muscular thighs as he trotted away from the entertainment of the ocean. His quickened steps through the hot sand were aimed towards the youngest of his clan. Without warning and from behind, he tucked one strong hand under the youngster’s pudgy little armpit and slid his other muscular appendage under her diaper clad bottom. Lifting her into his safe embrace, he must have had good reason to disturb her.

Immediately, his daughter didn’t like it. She erupted into a fountain of tears that stung her pink cheeks and rapidly flashed her legs in an attempt to wrangle herself from his firm
dad and little girl in the wavesgrip. I believe, she liked what she was doing and saw no good reason to leave. The father held her tight and took a second to tenderly whisper a few words into her tiny ear. Whatever he said, didn’t work. Despite her two year old protest, he carried her towards the crystal blue waters of the nearby aquatic playground. He knew there were seashells to see, fish to find and the waves offered pure enjoyment, serving up splashes and sprays of cooling mist as they lapped up against the sandy shores. However, the unexpected interruption bringing her to a different place to play was not well received by the independent and absorbed young girl.

Initially, I chuckled at the unnecessary upheaval of an otherwise serene setting. As a mother watching from afar, my first thought was, “You should have just left her alone. She was perfectly happy just playing in the sand.”

Then, the Holy Spirit stood up and clamored for control, posing for battle against my average thoughts. This sacred part of me, which invites me to see the world through the eyes of Jesus began to write it’s version of what was going on across the ticker tape of thoughts passing through my brain. I sensed God was urging me to see below the surface. Within in seconds, I found myself asking,”What should I learn from this scene?”

Living in a new season of life, I have more space to tease out these kinds of questions. No longer do they rise inside of me, only to be swept away by the next item on my to-do list. With Sam in Heaven and Brooke away at college, the demands on my energy and attention have lessened. Therefore, allowing me space to ponder and soak up the wisdom that comes from everyday life. So, in my attuned frame of mind, I worked to reveal what the Holy Spirit told me I needed to see.

blog 1First, my eyes fixated on the father/daughter combo having fun in the sea. No longer did the little girl cry. Instead, she wore a smile that caused her cheekbones to touch the outside corners of her almond shaped eyes. Squeals of laughter and delight filled the heated air as her father tossed her up above the crests of the incoming waves. Her initial intimidation with the overwhelming body of water had given way to a relaxed posture while held in her father’s protective arms.

Sweetly, silently the lesson I was to learn eased into my soul.

“How many times have I acted like that little girl?” I asked myself.  Even as an adult, I have put on such a show.

Comfortable, contented, and complacent, I pitch a fit when God points me in a new direction. Not trusting when He moves me away from my easy-go-luck environment that surely, the place He is leading me will be overflowing with abundance. So many times, I have behaved like that youngest sibling, kicking and flailing when swept away from what’s familiar to try something new.

I had hours in the shadows of a glowing sunset to lean into what I was to learn. As the afternoon eased into a cooler evening, I gleaned the wisdom everyday life has to offer.

See, I believe the adoring dad wanted to share the wonders of the ocean with his cherished daughter. That is reason he returned to the beach and scooped her up, without asking. Actually, it was his job as a pareblog 4nt to always enhance her experience of living. He knew the added joy the ocean would bring. Despite her hesitation and unhappy reaction, he knew what lay ahead was better. In addition, he knew she would like, if she just gave it a chance. Gently he carried her to something more wonderful. When he decided to test her trust by dipping her toes in the bubbling waters below, he never let her go.

As so it is with our Heavenly Father, often He asks us to relinquish our comfort zone. So that, he can lead us to a richer environment. We kick and scream against change and fuss because we become worried about our future. Gently, he carries us as we struggle against what He knows is best, never letting us go as we come to peace with our new place.

Who knew a little girl playing in the sand could teach me so much?

Lord, 

Please forgive me when I choose to kick and scream with every new thing you ask me to do. Help me to rise into your arms willingly and embrace the constant wonder, joy, and excitement you offer. If I start feeling a little scared of what is to come, please cover me with your peace.

I give thanks for the Holy Spirit that stands ready to bring me closer to you. Everything you do, whether we like it or not, understand it or are confounded by it, welcome it or want to walk away from it is for our good. Help me to remember this, so I can step into the abundant living you have promised. 

I ask these things in the sweet name of Jesus.  Amen!