Seeds or Weeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Amen

 

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

Subscribe here so this special series will be delivered directly to your inbox!

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 ~ part three

bike path

Pedaling Down the Path

Around and around and around the skinny wheels on my bike spun as I rhythmically pushed against the pedals. The tree lined bike path was identical to days before, my water bottle was in arm’s reach like always and the shoes on my feet were familiar. However, for some reason this cycling experience was panning out to be quite different from days prior.

Normally, I can ride eight miles at a quickened pace without ever having to take a rest. Invigorated by the effort I am applying, the calories I’m burning and sweat pouring from my pores, I can press in and reach my destination. Not this time! By mile four, my resolve was already wearing thin and I was entertaining taking a break. Rolling into mile six, I felt another level of exhaustion and wondered if I needed to turn around.

As I continued to strive for my goal, physical symptoms of fatigue flared. The thick muscle that runs vertically on the tops of my thighs was tingling with tightness. My shoulders felt like lead blocks causing me to lean forward and rely on the handlebars to support the weight of my torso. My upper arms were stiff and my elbows were pointing outward as I strained to spin my wheels. As burdensome as my body was, so were the thoughts of weariness racing through my brain.

“I don’t know if I can do this today,” I thought. “What the heck is going on? Why is this so hard?” I asked myself. At this point, it was either walk myself and my bike back six or seven miles or find a way to go on. Desperate to work off the ice cream from the night before, I yearned to do the distance.

With no cheering squad nearby, I looked inward for a way to keep riding. “Elizabeth, you a097b26c918c7f4b4ed156227cafcbd1are just being a wimp. So what, if you are tired,” I pushed myself to continue pedaling. “Elizabeth, just keep going. It’s OK if you are worthless the rest of the day,” I worked to excuse myself from being productive. “Elizabeth, just ignore the heaviness you are feeling. You can figure out what is wrong when you get home,” I tried to push aside what was ailing me.

After my silent self-help session, I finally reached the half way mark. This was my routine rest stop. And, boy did I stop! Certainly, the heat of the day increased the difficulty of the ride. However, I was certain something else was going on.

In order to give my legs a rest, I slid off the tiny triangular seat and tipped my chin towards my toes. Quickly, I grabbed the edge of my t-shirt and wiped away the sheet of sweat floating on my forehead before it streamed into my eyes. Pausing for a rest, I fussed, “UUggghhhh, now, I need to turn around and do it again!”

Determined, but not delighted, I pushed my buttocks back in the saddle and returned to a racing position. “Hmm, that felt a little bouncy!” I thought. Ready to dig in, I gripped the curved metal bars stretched out before me and peered down at the pavement. “Hmmm, my wheels don’t look exactly right!” I noticed.  It was then, in this crouched position with my body weight crushing the circular rubber tubes that I discovered my problem. It had little to do with my personal state of fitness. Instead, it had everything to do with my equipment!

Simply put, my tires weren’t properly inflated. Somehow the air was leaking out causing the added struggle during my workout session. “Dang! That’s it! My tires are going flat!” I confirmed to myself. There was relief, knowing the reason for the extra exertion needed had nothing to do with me. However, I still dreaded the return ride. Enduring another eight miles on deflated tires didn’t sound like any fun.

bicycle 1There was no use in stalling. So, I flexed the little muscle stored in my upper arms and went for it. Mile nine and ten weren’t easy. Mile eleven, twelve and thirteen proved to be increasingly difficult. During mile fourteen my body was in as bad a shape as before. To carry on, I needed a new strategy. So, I stirred up mental toughness and pulled my muscles taught to endure to the end. I held my breath and squinted the corners of my eyes to tap into the energy that was left. I could see the break in the trees that indicated the opening into my subdivision, but I still didn’t think I was going to make it!

And, that is when the Holy Spirit awakened and spoke to the essence of my struggle. When I was feeling tired, fatigued and wanting to give up, He had something to share,

Elizabeth, this is how people feel when they try to do life without me. They are tired, burdened, weary and ready to through in the towel. They press through time and endure the difficulty of days on their own!”  

Coming into the home stretch, the Holy Spirit was quick to make His point:

“You need to know I never intended for any of you to live this way, relying on your own strength, your own knowledge, your own will power to walk through life. I know it is too difficult to do on your own! Surely, you will wear out!” I sensed the Spirit stressing to my burnt out body.

From now on when you get tired, turn to me!” I was urged. “Allow me to pump up your Spirit! Read My Word for strength and receive My power from the scriptures!

 

By the time I rounded my street corner, I was worn out, yet renewed. Physically exhausted, but spiritually strengthened. The Holy Spirit had shown me He is the One to shore up our souls. Therefore, naturally making the journey of living more doable, more manageable, more enjoyable!

 

bike 2

As I hung my bike on the wall hook, I heard one last piece of wise council, “And Elizabeth, from now on never leave home without first checking your tires!!

Who would have thought, I could learn such a lesson while sweating so much!  

 

He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.

Ephesians 3:16 (NIV)

 

 

In the Middle of Ordinary

 

Lessons in Everyday Life – part two

Three days, three lessons. Each time it occurred, I was engaged in an average activity. Then in the middle of ordinary, the Holy Spirit stood up and had something to say.

Unlike like last time, reclined and relaxed in a beautiful beach setting, I was taught a lesson through everyday life while out on my bike.

Oh, it wasn’t a leisurely ride or one intended as exercise. Instead, riding the bikeit was all about the four legged furry animal that lives in our home. You see, I was riding my bike for the sole purpose of walking the dog. As unusual as it sounds; it’s absolutely necessary. You see, “Faith”, our family pet is a fast runner and has an abundance of energy.

Midway through our normal stunt, I began to perspire. Trying to ignore the heat, I looked down and peered at Faith’s sleek body and shiny black coat. With respect and resolve, I thought, “We aren’t going home, until I wear you out!” Around and around the neighborhood we went. I pedaled and she panted. The faster I went, the faster she ran.

On our third lap, we received a welcomed reprieve. “Hey Elizabeth! How are you today?” my neighbor calldogs-925701_960_720ed out as she walked into the street. As I slowed my pedal stroke, she approached the front tire. “I am well, how are you?” I asked, coming to a soft stop. Instantly, there were four of us squeezing in a visit on a muggy summer evening. My neighbor and I exchanged common pleasantries while watching her puppy, “Bandit” and my full grown mutt roll around.

“The girls have enjoyed watching Faith this summer,” she earnestly remarked. “I really appreciate their help while we are out of town,” I replied. “Elizabeth, she really is a great dog,” my neighbor added in gist.

My immediate response to her complement wasn’t expressed in words. Instead, all I could do was chuckle.

“Really?” I thought. I was sure she was totally unaware of the fact that Faith wiggles when she walks and runs sideways when she gets excited. Despite constant correction, she jumps on every person that walks through the door and has ripped through skin with her claws. On accident, thank goodness! As well, she eats her dinner at midnight and is traumatized when someone attempts to take her picture with a cell phone. Honestly, she hides under the bed for hours!

Regina smiled and nodded her head as I shared my laundry list of Faith’s downfalls. With the door opened to complain about our pets shortcomings, my friend added, “Yeah, I can relate. Bandit tinkles every time he gets excited. And, while out walking, sometimes, he just stops. He plops down and refuses to get up. We have to carry him home every time.”

I laughed, while I listened. After sharing faults as long as Santa’s scroll, Regina punctuated her statement, “It’s a wonder we still love them.”  “You know you are right! They make us crazy with all their antics.” I confirmed.

Jumping, barking, licking, growling and whining all of it can be annoying and difficult to deal with. People spend enormous amounts of time, effort and money trying to train their animals to behave.  Sometimes the pet’s behavior is corrected quickly.  Other times, the furry beast goes back to doggie school.

dog.jpg

 

Nonetheless, we love them!

 

 

 

As the perspiration beaded my brow, I pulled Faith’s leash a tad bit tighter, pushed back in my bicycle seat, and said my goodbyes. With each rotation of the wheels, Faith and I headed back home. However, I sensed the Spirit wasn’t ready to say, “So long …!”

“Elizabeth, there is more here to learn” stirred in my soul. Again, I felt like God wanted me to listen for His lesson. In a whisper of thoughts that wafted through my brain, I heard, “That’s exactly how I love you!”  “Despite your flaws and personality quirks, I love you!” the spirit of Jesus softly spoke. “In all your mess and madness, I will care for you!” delivered the spirit of God to the depths of my soul.

Certainly this isn’t new news. At the sweet age of two, I was singing Jesus Loves Me This I know, for the Bible tells us so…. By the age of 12, I could recite John 3:16, “For God so loved the world …” As an adult, I became aware of Augustine’s famous quote, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”

However, at that very moment slouched in a bicycle seat, sticky from the moisture that hung in the air and wheeling my way back towards my house it was the mental picture that made the difference. “Lord, thank you for that.” I whispered while climbing the cement curb. “Lord, simple imagery reminded me of your unending love,” I continued to respond to the powerful truth as I rolled down the driveway. Parking my bike in jowls of my garage, I expressed my gratitude, “Lord, I’m so grateful you speak to me in ways I can understand.”

I’m learning  

~ When the Spirit of God mingles with the mundane one can expect to hear a magnetic and mighty message! 

Certainly, a bath was required before I climbed into bed. The residual of a steamy evening spent outside needed to be removed from my skin. As I refreshed myself in the warm water, I soaked my spirit in the love of Christ.  In all my mess-ups, He is going to love me. Through all my failed attempts, He is going to love me. Regardless, of my crazy characteristics and annoying habits, He is going to love me. And, when I finally get it right, He is going to love me.

Who would have thought, I could relearn so much while out on a walk.

~ In the middle of ordinary, it is a blessing to seek and see the Almighty! ~

 

This is the way God put it:

God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will.
    Expect love, love, and more love!

Jeremiah 31:3 – The Message 

 

P.S. – stay tuned for Lessons in Everyday Life – part three

 

 

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!

My Mind is Made Up

Just before the havoc of the holidays began, my thoughts were that I might return to school and earn another degree. One that would enable me to use my unfortunate experience in a more professional way. I didn’t know if engaging in coursework was necessary nor, which identifying initials behind my name would render me certified to counsel others. (MSW, LPC, SW, CPL just to site a few) Trying to iron all of this out, I decided to consult with several counselors in the community. I choose three individuals that I thought might influence and inform my decision. Seeking them out, I scheduled appointments with each.  My first meeting took place in a coffee shop. A therapist by trade but, also a life long friend, Melanie told me what it took to get where she was today. Herself having a story to share. At times, a painful journey that led her to pursue a profession where her experiences of suffering could support someone else.
 

At the time, all I could do was talk in general terms. Carrying my own set of experiences, I was still soul searching, for the best ways to reach and teach grief-stricken souls. Yearning to know the specifics and continuing to open myself up to a preordained path, my questions centered on varying types of degrees and what each would allow me to execute. How many school years would it take and would it be worth the money and time invested. Where would I work and would I need my own office space. By the time I capped my caffeine consumption, I had received the information sought about schooling. Our discussion had been full of details but, at the end, no decision had been made. Melanie’s last statement to me was, “It will be interesting to see where you end up.” Her words were encouraging; not ones meant to mix me up. However, they brought no defining destiny. When we parted, I sensed that returning to school to earn a professional degree was secondary to something the Spirit was insisting that I do.

Even with this inkling, I sought out the second person to meet. I was familiar with who she was, but we hadn’t met face to face. Still a stranger, in a sense. I knew she was an activist in our community, supporting many lost souls and leading them to the Living God.  Somewhere along the way, I had been exposed to her story. Looking at her life now, I knew she was more than just surviving. Instead, fueled by her own testament, she spent her days steering the souls of unwed mothers, counseling those seeking relief from suffering and reaching her healing hands into the community. Watching from a distance, I saw a woman of action and involvement.

I was able to introduce myself early one morning when she allowed me to sneak in after a meeting with her staff. Shaking hands was the start but, what followed was the real beginning.  I explained the information I sought; What did her previous path look like? Did she attend school to certify herself? How did she organize her experience so others could tap into her testimony?. Her schedule is demanding so, we didn’t have time to cover all the specifics. Nonetheless, I gleaned what I needed to know to take the next step.

Unbeknownst to me, she was in attendance at The Woman of Hope Conference where I shared “Samantha’s Story” for the first time. Abbey attested to the power and providence of my experience. Proclaiming, that returning to an educational institution was not what I needed to do. Instead, she affirmed that I had passed enough tests, ones harder, requiring more endurance, discipline and commitment than anything that could be achieved on a piece of paper. Testifying, that Jesus is the Great Physician, The Great Counselor and that is what people needed to know. Once again, inserting her helping hands into the lives of learners, we scheduled a time to continue our conversation. Stating, we were Sisters in Christ and helping me was the least she could do.

Three weeks later, every obstacle imaginable surfaced and tried to interfere with our time to talk. Feeling flustered, I pressed in and conquered the attempts to dissuade me from arriving on time. Walking into the room, I knew it would be inappropriate to cave into all that had gone wrong while getting there. Instead, a peace prevailed and I calmly expressed my gratitude for grace.  I was greeted with a warm welcome, invited to sit down and settle in. We opened in prayer. My sense of hearing on high alert, enabling me to receive the wisdom in the room. Rambling, I retold how my head and heart were beating up against each other as I sought the path in finding the purpose in my pain.

All the while, Abbey held the Bible in her hands, counseling me with the written Word. She uncovered within me a doubt concerning the worthiness of sharing my story, a fear of what others would think of me when I exposed my experience and the possibility that others might question the authenticity of what I said. Maybe even more than that, challenge me, cornering me into an uncomfortable confrontation because of the my lack of biblical knowledge. The woman sitting before me addressed all of my issues with targeted truth. She lead me to scripture each time that identified my emerging emotions and in turn, clear instructions on how we are to overcome them. Clearing up any confusion about whether I was to stand in fear or follow in faith. She released the feeling of confinement when insisting, I wasn’t responsible for the outcome. That some folks would hear and others wouldn’t. But, that wasn’t up to me.

With that established, our conversation turned to ways to give identity to JustDoToday.org. Squeezed amongst all that she said, I was comforted by her comment, “Elizabeth, you remind me of myself 10 years ago. Continue to sit before the Father and He will lead you.” All of the sudden, I knew what to do. Stopping her mid-sentence, I confessed our conversation could end because I had just received my next set of instructions. “Write a letter!”, is what I heard. Abby raised and lowered her chin in agreement. Encouraging me to tackle the next task. Prayer was how we parted but, it wasn’t without homework on my part. In order for the world to recognize JustDoToday.org, a tag line, a logo and possibly a non-profit would be required. The third step is a tough one. As of yet, I am unable to wrap my brain around the idea.

Immediately, I went to work on the things that seemed doable, creating a combination of words and perusing through appropriate images. While working late into the night, everything came together. Quickly, JustDoToday.org had a purpose and a picture.

IMG_5214Next step, write the letter. Sitting down and sifting through what I wanted it to say, I outlined my main thoughts. Working with a friend, we arranged the words, organized the paragraphs and penned a page size letter explaining why and what I am being led to do. Putting all the pieces together, I was ready to run my first copies. Walking out of Office Depot, I knew I was about to make myself vulnerable to the world.

Since then, I have mailed out 40 letters to local and out of state pastors, varying grief groups and individuals whom I know play a part in the spiritual development of others.   Each day a new group is placed on my heart, I respond by connecting with them so I can share “Samantha’s Story.” Today, it is time to share the letter with those of you online. Please read it and if you know of any gathering, group, conference, retreat, etc. whose lives would be sustained and whose faith would be strengthened by listening to “Samantha’s Story”, please contact me.

JustDoToday.org Outreach Letter

P.S. – I believe this blog was for my benefit. Like the old days of http://www.my_walk_with_thee.blogspot.com, there are times when I just need to write. When I do, the golden thread that is weaved throughout the ordinary events in my life, stands out and shines.  But, boy, do I have something to share in my next post!

By the way, I met with the third person. Lately, the licks of life led me back to my personal therapist, giving me a good reason to call and crawl back for her wise counsel. She was one of the three but, I fought the fact that I needed help again. Visiting with her allows me a safe place of honesty and time to hear advice from an objective resource. Knowing she is a committed Christian makes it easy for me to open up and express all that I hold within. I shared my doubts, my fears and my desires. The same story as I did before. I received identical reinforcement, “Write the letter. Mail it out. Wait and see what happens.”

******If you can believe it, as I connect with the keyboard, to recognize the work of The Almighty, I just received my second invitation to share “Samantha’s Story.” On January 20th, I will participate in a grief group at a local Hospice Care. I am excited about it, if you can imagine that. I know, it doesn’t make sense. How can sharing in a grief group, bring peace and joy? Only, when walking in the will of the Lord would such a thing occur!!!! ********

Oh, there are many scriptures resounding within me!!!!

The LORD says, “At that time young women will dance and be glad. Young men and old men will rejoice. I will turn their grief into gladness. I will give them comfort and joy in place of their sorrow.

Jeremiah 31:13

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:9

What an incredible experience to be a part of The Kingdom!

 

 

 

 

Liz’s Library

Liz's Library 3Still trying to find my voice on this blog, I’m searching for ways to share what I know, where I learned it and how it helped me. Thinking, it is one of the things, I’m suppose to be doing.

There is a passage of scripture that has stuck with me about who to watch and how to walk. It wasn’t one that I was familiar with until I was aware that I needed to learn how to live all over again. What once was, was no more. Samantha was gone and I had to go on.

By God’s grace, I was introduced to a beautiful soul in my own community that had suffered the loss of 2 children. Unbeknownest to her, their first son would be born with a genetic disorder; for the second son, she knew early in utero that he would be born with the same circumstances’ which had the same result. With 2 sons in Heaven, she stood before me, beautiful, bold, tender, compassionate and Christ-like. We were at  a birthday party and she was actually in a celebratory mood. Me, not so much, it was too early in the process. Nonetheless, I took note of her smiles and lighthearted nature. She spoke to me, sharing her story. Telling me she had watched and learned from others that had walked through the fire. Stressing the importance that she do the same for me. Citing Jeremiah 31:21 as her eternal instructions to do so.

Set-up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take.”

Jeremiah 31:21

Reading is a tool I have in my “trauma” toolbox. Many, many personal stories sit upon my bookshelf. The authors write about their unique circumstances. However, the stories are similar because of the “pain”component; loss, tragedy, sadness, sickness, grief, death, divorce.  Those aren’t the reasons I chose to let their lives enter mine. Trust me, I had enough of that in my own home. What was causing their strife was not what attracted me. Instead, and more importantly it was their hope and healing that I longed for. I knew I wanted to get better, had to get better. Knowing, I needed help to get there. While I was reading, I was working. I gleaned information on how these families handled their loss  and what happened along the way. How they responded in certain situations and reacted when they were asked questions. What they thought and where they placed their trust. Looking forward, how they would live and what would be important. At that time in my life, the families in the books were my personal friends. Those were the people I was sharing similar emotions and experiences with. All of us grasping everlasting promises to enable us continue on. Honestly, by exposing their experiences, they placed their guideposts for me to see.

I know the same set of biblical instructions apply to me. Show and share with others what has been given to me. Liz’s Library will allow me to remember and recall what I learned, from what I read. I imagine each entry to be a book report of sort; outlining the circumstances of other’s stories but, more importantly what I learned from as I read and walked through the fire with them.

Following in their footsteps, I pray I will end up on the other side, just as they did. Able to talk and teach about the fire I walked through. I’m working on that, not quite having arrived where I’m can see “in full” what that will look like or be. As of yet, His complete plan for JustDoToday.org hasn’t been revealed to me. Each day I wrangle, wondering what I’m to do next. Shame on me, I know all I need to do is rest and watch where He leads me. In the meantime, what I can do is pass on what I have read and how it has touched me. Furthering my own progress to peace. As well, following the eternal instructions given to me.

david jeremiah

When Your World Falls Apart ~ Seeing Past the Pain of the Present

by Dr. David Jeremiah

Drawing on his insightful sermon series, renowned pastor/teacher David Jeremiah shares the comfort and hope of the Psalms and how these truths can guide believers through life’s greatest challenges. He includes inspiring real-life stories of people who have struggled with terminal illness, the loss of a child, or the imprisonment of a spouse. Jeremiah interweaves his own journal entries, revealing his battle with cancer and how the Psalms helped to sustain him during the fight of his life. When Your World Falls Apart is an invaluable source of help and encouragement for people facing major obstacles in life.

This was one of the very first books that I read after the accident. The title, “When Your World Falls Apart” caught my attention. A book title exactly explaining my life. The subtitle, “Seeing Past the Pain” gave me hope for the future. I believe I ran out of ink having underlined so much. When I was finished, I remember thinking this is the goal of my thinking. Honestly, my thoughts weren’t there yet but, I was being taught where they should be. Peace was the prize. David Jeremiah laid before me how to label the struggle that comes with suffering and who I could become if I allowed myself to see my story with a heavenly perspective. Some of his thoughts that captured mine:

“His hand gathered me up through the Scriptures and pulled me into His powerful embrace. In the late-night loneliness and lack of sound mind, i found blessed hope.”

“Trials put us in place for that to happen. They are for our benefit, as unwelcome as they are at the time. They make us better men and woman, which makes us more influential men and women who can make a difference for God’s purposes. When you have walked through the fire, people begin to listen to you. When you have the wisdom borne of suffering, you begin to have the tools to accomplish something in the world.

I have let earthly comforts fail you, that, by turning to me, you may obtain everlasting consolation (Thessalonians 2:16, 17)

Depth and wisdom can only come from shadowy valley of tears, sickness, loss, disappointment and broken dreams.

But we are stubborn creatures who struggle to learn. And we learn the least when the sun is shining and when the winds are crisp and life feels good. Peace and prosperity have never provided effective classrooms. Crisis and catastrophe, on the other hand, offer master’s degrees. By the way, that accreditation makes you a Master of Disaster.

“When we begin to praise God, not in response to prosperity but in defiance of misfortune, we align ourselves with the deepest truths of the universe, the place where God dispenses deep wisdom and spiritual maturity. We unleash His victorious power in the world of pain and suffering. We create environments where miracles occur.”

“As terrible as the time was, it was also filled with irrefutable evidence of the presence and grace of God.”

“If a candid journal can be a healthy thing, how much more can an honest prayerful expression be, when we bring our concerns before the Lord?”

“A devoted believer will pray for God’s deliverance from problems, but a wiser one will pray for God’s use of them.”

“The Lord reminds us that the mind is a powerful element in our armory-both weapon and shield. Our thought patterns are crucial in the midst of our difficulties. In the spiritual realm, we must go into battle with our thoughts fixated on Him.”

“Never forget that He has offered us a storehouse of guidance in the field of adversity. We have the answers for how God’s people can face heir trials with courage, faith and hope. That storehouse can be found between the covers of your Bible.”

I could list so many more lines. But, I will stop. So, that others will read the words on their own. Allowing their thoughts and hearts to be healed by the signposts and guideposts laid out before us by others.

Thank you, Dr. David Jeremiah

Quotes, Creeds and Other Words of Wisdom

final cathartic quotes image

I’m a nerd and I know it! No longer am I going to hide from my love of words and excitedly looking up their definitions to know their origin and understand their meaning.

Trying to figure out a way to share some of the sentences that have impacted my heart, I researched the word “cathartic”. I thought the word had something to do with “action” (i.e. – catalyst) and healing. Thinking I had the gist but, wanting to assure I was using the word the correct way. Actually, the meaning was better than I thought:

Catharsis (from the Greek κάθαρσις katharsis meaning “purification” or “cleansing”) is the purification and purgation of emotions—especially pity and fear—through art or any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration

Ooooo, I liked it. This word describes what some of the words that I have read had done for me. Alas, the weren’t mine. So, I clarified the word quote:

Quotation is the repetition of one expression as part of another one, particularly when the quoted expression is well-known or explicitly attributed by citation to its original source

Voila, Cathartic Quotes, a spot at JustDoToday.org that allows me to share some of what I have read, that others have said, that had an impact on how I thought which resulted in a purification or renewal of my emotions. Each gathering of words, a grace given, altering my thinking for that day and thereafter. Whether it is a quote, a creed or words of wisdom, I’m going to pass along the reflections of others that helped me along my way.

I knew that how I responded to the accident and functioned as a father would make all the difference in the world to them. They were my “big project.” As it turned out, they were also my redemption, but I didn’t know it at the time.

A Grace Disguised ~ How the Soul Grows Through Grief

Authored by Jerry Sittser