Scrolling through social media apps, what do you see? Pictures, always pictures. Pictures of the family, dog, scenery, parents, siblings, work, co-workers, the list goes on. All those pictures show the best of the best, but things aren’t always as they appear. If you look closely at the above picture, you see what appears to be a mother and daughter. A happy and healthy family is what you see. Let me explain what I see. I see an aunt who took it upon herself to protect her niece when her mother couldn’t. I see a niece that loves her aunt as a mother. I see a grieving sister. I see a growing child who was robbed of the opportunity to know her mom due to the selfishness of others. I see my daughter displaying the ultimate love for her sister by raising her child.
My girls fought. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was bad. They were each other’s biggest cheerleader but worst enemies. I’m grateful that they resolved their differences two days before the accident. I’m grateful that they had one another and I’m grateful that my granddaughter has her aunt.
Families are not always blood and they don’t have to be. Families fight for each other, love unapologetically and stand up for one another. Every family has a weird person. If you don’t know who that is, it’s probably you. But….it’s ok. You’re ok. Maybe you have an aunt that is now your mom. Maybe grandma is your mom. And maybe, like me, your cousin is your mom. We must love people where they are and no matter what the situation is.
My oldest daughter was pushed. She was pushed by her sister-in-law. Pushed into driving fast. Pushed into losing control of her car. Pushed into an accident. Those same people made a mockery of her death and funeral. Her sister and I were subjected to many episodes of bullying behavior. We were told that we should have died. We didn’t love her. She died hating you. We had no right being at the funeral. Every tear that you cried was fake, I was told. You are evil, I was told. You will never see your granddaughter again, I was told. BUT GOD…(vengeance does belong to God). He knew exactly what He was doing. In 424 days, I have realized His purpose and His plan to take my daughter. I’ve never been mad at God even though I have every right to be. His plan was for my granddaughter to be rescued and He used her aunt to make it happen. I miss my daughter incredibly. 424 days later, I still see Him working and I will see my daughter again.
If you had ever met Megan, you would have immediately loved her. She had very high highs and very low lows but anytime she met someone, she made an impression on you. She was kind and compassionate soul that would give you the last of what she had and do without herself. She had a tough life, partly because of her choices, but she tried.
I cannot tell you how many times I prayed for this child. At 18, I was pregnant, unmarried and scared. I had no idea what God was up to. She was a child that I didn’t know I wanted until I got her. I remember sitting at the hospital holding a newborn baby thinking, now what do I do? I had never been around children. I have never even changed a diaper. She moved quickly through the growing up. She never could sit still. She crawled for one day. One day. She was walking the next. I joked with her as she grew up, you are my experiment. We would laugh together when I told her that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. She reassured me that I was doing fine and then she would tell me what to change. It was usually something that was in her favor. Sneaky kid. We laughed more than we cried. We grew up together. And at the end of the day, we muddled along and both turned out okay. I wanted to teach her things about life that I had learned from the school of hard knocks. I never wanted her to deal with the things that I did. I never wanted her to hurt, be in pain or miss any good opportunities. I was her mom, her cheerleader, her friend, her encourager, and sometimes her conscience aka Jiminy Cricket. She was full of questions. Most of them I didn’t have an answer for but I tried. That is all I can say, this momma tried. Mommying is hard. Very hard. I had to do it alone for most of her life. I do feel that the greatest thing that I ever done for her is to pray for her. I didn’t have anything else. It was my greatest source of defense. I don’t think she ever knew how much I prayed for her. And I do not regret one second of it. I literally wore out my knees on that child. She was a challenge. I tried to teach her but honestly, she taught me more than I ever taught her. She taught me unconditional love, honesty, patience, heartache, consistency and compassion. Did I mention patience? This kid was so stubborn. She wanted to find her own way. She was determined to do what she wanted. I prayed wisdom, peace and joy over her. Constantly. It was needed. Time and time again, she would call me. She didn’t have to tell me anything, I could tell in the tone of her voice that she needed to hear 4 words from me. You are worth more. I have no idea why but I began telling her that when she was young. Megan, you are worth more. Low self-esteem plagued her life. No matter how hard she tried to move past it, it remained a hardship. She just wanted to fit, belong and be content. She befriended everyone and never knew a stranger. I would come home from work to find strange people in my house. It was kind of nerve wracking but that was Megan. She would do anything for her friends. Feed them, gave them clothes and shoes, talked to them, cried with them and loved them where they were. She was the example of a person who felt true and honest compassion for people and it didn’t matter their background, color or religion.
Deep sorrow, misery, sadness, anguish, pain, distress, heartache, heartbreak, agony, torment, affliction, suffering, woe, desolation, despair, mourning, bereavement, lamentation.
Although this is the official definition of grief, personally, I can define grief in one word…ugly. There is no perfect transition between denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. There is no straight line between point a to point e. I believe that if you truly grief losing someone, you bounce from a to c, c to b etc. It’s just ugly. Life never goes back to normal. All we can do is adjust to a new normal. Whatever that looks like. None of us like change but it is going to happen. You cannot lose someone you love and continue life just like it never happened. I do believe that for some people, when they have been sick for some time, when a death is expected, somehow it is almost comforting. When they finally take their last breath is it an end to pain and suffering. We do not want the ones that we love to suffer. I remember sitting by my dad’s bedside. It was so difficult to watch the biggest, strongest man that I ever loved, reduce to pain. I was prepared but not prepared. The aftermath of his passing has been a challenge. I have a mother to care for now. Her care has increased over the years and the responsibility falls to me. It’s extra time that I must give her. My life on hold. No doing what I want to do on days off from work. I do what she needs and take care of things. I have learned and adjusted to doing what needs to be done. Things that dad would have done or taken care of around the house. Help her make decisions etc. Do I want this job? Is this normal? No, but it is a responsibility that I have and I do it with joy.
What about the death that we don’t see coming? Those unexpected ones. We think we have more time. Valuable time. If I give you my time, I care about you and your life. We are only allowed so many times to circle the sun. Just like your checkbook, where you write the most checks equals what you value as the most important thing in your life. Where you spend the most of your time equals what you value the most in life. How on earth do you deal with those unexpected deaths? The ones that you think you have a lifetime with. The ones who give you joy. The ones who you depend on. The ones that you think will bury you instead of the other way around.
(This is the first part in a twelve part series. More to come.)
‘Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’
Abound, large numbers or generous amounts. A large amount of hope by the power of the Holy Spirit is basically what verse 13 is telling us. It is hard for us to have a small amount of hope let alone a large amount. So how do we get there? Smallest amount to largest. First, realize that God is watching over you. Isaiah 41:10, ‘fear not, for I am with you.’ God will never leave us. Sometimes it feels like it but He doesn’t ever leave. People leave but God does not. Psalms 32:8 tells us that He guides us with His eye.
Remember when your children were little and you took them to the park. They wanted to do everything on their own. Reluctantly, we let them climb to the top of the slide unattended or swing from the tallest part of the monkey bars. Even though they thought they were on their own, we sat and watched them, ready to run towards them in troubled times to pick up the pieces. We waited for them to scream out our names. We carefully guided their steps even though they may have been unaware of our actions. We would eliminate obstacles before they got there, filled a hole, killed a bee or wiped water from a slick step to prevent injury. Even though they were on their own, we carefully watched and never left them. We see them tackle things that we knew all along they could do, we seen them share a piece of candy with a stranger, we seen them include an ‘outcast’ in the game, we seen them encourage a shy, timid child to the top rung. In those moments, we realized that the lessons that we had been teaching them we finally sinking in. Not only did they have hope and faith in themselves but also in others.
God was working in their lives even though they were completely oblivious to that fact. Sometimes, no matter what they did, there was someone that they couldn’t get along with. Another child said hurtful things. Psalm 147, He heals the brokenhearted. He wants to heal us but we should ask for healing in faith. Emotional energy used on past hurts only damages our present and our future. We must release those who hurt and let go of the right to get even. If you get pushed off the swing, dust yourself off and swing higher to the sky than before the fall. God is watching with His careful eye and vengeance is His.
Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.
There are many tests and trial that we endure in this life. I believe that the types of test can be condensed to four distinct categories.
- Pressure test – reminds me of when my mom used to can tomatoes. Once the pressure was built up enough, the steam would overflow from the spout. We do that. Hold circumstances, events and disappointments inside until it bubbles over. Psalm 50:15 tells us to call on Him, when we do, He delivers us. Here’s the kicker, in that deliverance from the pressure, we are to glorify Him. We are commanded to give Him the glory for overcoming the trial.
- People test – everyone, and I mean everyone will disappoint you in some way, shape or form. The answer to our worries, depression and dissatisfaction is not found in another person but only in God. Isaiah 2:22 is very clear about such a thought. “stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” People cannot save you. We place hope and trust in people that will lead us to destruction. Isaiah 49:23 says that once we see people for who they are, then we will know that He is the Lord.
- Commitment test – Ecclesiastes 5:45 “when you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed. Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.” What commitment have you made to God that you haven’t followed thru on your promise? It is a test of our character. A weak person does not follow up on a promise without an action.
- Priorities test – Placing a job, task or person above something else. We all do it, don’t we? Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek His kingdom first, once we do, all things will be added to us. Keep in mind that God doesn’t place chess. We should never seek out to do God’s work for God to give a blessing. Our actions should glorify Him always not just when we need something. Call upon God in all ways and in all situations first and foremost. Rest in Him only.
Exodus 33:17 ‘So the Lord said to Moses, I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.’
Isn’t that great to know that one day you will audibly hear God whisper your name? The creator of the universe knows your name. The creator of the heavens and the earth wants a relationship with you. The creator of the stars placed each one in the sky just for you to enjoy. If that doesn’t give you chills, you need a spiritual double-check!
In searching for the Bible references to the word grace, Paul probably used the word more than any other writer. It was possibly because of his prior experience with grace and the journey that his life took before encountering Jesus on the Damascus road.
Talking about God’s grace and defining God’s grace are two completely different things. You see, the definition of grace cannot be found in the dictionary nor can words be assembled in a sentence that can give the word justice. I’m afraid that God’s grace cannot be expounded upon. We can use words like good will, favor, lovingkindness….but even those words fail in comparison.
God’s grace was wrapped in swaddling clothes. God’s grace is in His healing touch. God’s grace is in the sunset. God’s grace is in our salvation. God’s grace is _____. We can fill the blank with anything. That is God’s grace. Paul made attempts in the book of Ephesians but he could only use adjectives and descriptive words like ‘the glory of His grace’ Ephesians 1:6 and ‘exceeding riches of His grace’ Ephesians 2:7. The bottom line is that we are not worthy of His grace. His grace is also free. We must only believe that we can put our faith in God for anything at anytime for anyone, period. We can do all the right things, live for Him, pray, minister, teach, do great works, write, sing, worship, but it still isn’t enough to deserve His grace. That is compassion, that is love….that is grace.
‘Stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.’
Paul challenged the Galatian church to stand firm in their faith and not to return to the bondage of the law. Deliverance from the curse that law pronounces on the sinners who has been striving unsuccessfully to achieve his own righteousness. Making a commitment to God mean that He demands your attention. Just like any relationship worth pursing, we must give attention, nurture and cultivate those relationships. Our relationship with God is no exception. He demands immediate obedience. When you are told to do something, you must listen and obey. God doesn’t give us suggestions but instead give us commands. It is a privilege for us to do His work. He doesn’t call just anyone to a particular place for a particular task. It is like being a member of a ball team and just standing on the court not playing. We will not be productive and we will not be showing God’s love just standing there in the middle of the court. It is an honor to know that God placed you in a particular place for a particular reason. Enjoy that thought. You were made for a reason. He had plans for you when you were created by Him. When we pray to Him, He promises that He will listen. He wants that conversation with us. There is nothing we can say to Him that He won’t understand. As David told his son Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:9, ‘the Lord searches all hearts and understand all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you.’ Are we really seeking? Are we really committed? Do we really surrender all? If we are honest, you will probably admit that we surrender about a quarter of our lives. That means that we are only about a quarter full. Our cups do not run over. If our cups are dry, how can the love of God overflow onto others? Correct me I’m wrong but isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing here? Filled with Christ and the overflow from our worship fall onto others so that they see His love through us? You see, that is the definition of true freedom, being ‘full’ of God. Keeping the tank on F. Drinking in His spirit from the Living Water, Feeding on His Word. Finding rest in His Peace and becoming a light so that others can see a path directly to Him. Anything else we do in life is unimportant.
Let’s concentrate on the word steadfast. It is an interesting word. It is one of those words that the meaning could be misunderstood. Steadfast means unwavering, firmly fixed, constant, firmly loyal or totally dependent upon. Over 200 times the word steadfast is mentioned in the Bible.
Proverbs 4:26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. I’m reminded of the kid’s song that says, oh be careful little feet where you go. That is exactly what this verse tells us. Don’t go where you don’t belong and be firmly fixed in the ways of God.
Isaiah 54:10 ‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed but my steadfast love shall not depart from you.’ His constant love shall never leave you. He moves mountains and removes hills. Climbing those mountains and hills are daunting. Allow Him to move them for you and you will never be alone.
Psalm 103:8 ‘The Lord is merciful and gracious and abounding in steadfast love. Constant – never changes, never stops. Unlike humans who leave us, forsake us and seek to destroy us; God never does. He is merciful and gracious to us always.
Grasp the full definition of steadfast. God is unwavering, He never changes. His is firmly fixed in His love for us. He is constant with His grace and mercy. He is firmly loyal and we can fully and totally depend on Him.
We desire things. Material possessions, money, houses, cars and the latest technology. This passage clearly tells us what we should desire, to seek, dwell, behold and inquire.
- Seeking God – going to church is where we learn, grow and fellowship. Attending worship is a vital part of our growth as a child of God. I believe that this scripture is instructing us to go deeper than weekly attendance. We are to read, study, memorize scripture, share Christ with others and be actively involved in our local church. We are to drink from the Living Well, fill our cups, cast every care and think about Him every moment of every day.
- Dwelling upon God – dwellings are places of rest. We rest, let down our guards and relax. Exactly what we are to do with God. No matter what happens, we are to rest in God’s promises, even when our lives do not make sense.
- Behold – behold the Lamb in all His wonderful glory. The Lamb whom was sacrificed for you so that you can have eternal life. How can you not share this Lamb with others?
- Inquire – Imagine with me for a moment. Streets of gold, lush hills, beautiful scenery, loved ones who have passed, reunions, bountiful feasts, no worries, no cares, no stress and no tears. Overwhelming, isn’t it? In this scenario, one detail is overlooked. One important detail is missing. Where is Jesus? I can tell you. He is looking for you. He is waiting at the gate, rolling out the red carpet, summoning the welcome committee and welcoming you with open arms. He inquires about us, He knows the exact moment of our arrival and He smiles when He sees His children. He welcomes us home. So, a God who does all those things for us, prepares our home and shows us around, He will never forsake us when we earnestly search for Him.
Seek Him, Dwell in Him, behold in Him and inquire about Him in all areas of your life. Our first thought when we wake and our last thought before sleep and every thought in between are moments that we need to be dwelling on Him instead of anything else. I agree, it’s hard, but it’s doable.
Psalm 27:4-5 ‘One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.’
One sweet day, I will dwell in His house all the days of my life, I will gaze upon Him and His beauty. I’m seeking for Him because I know He keeps my safe and hides me from harm.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Trials – The Unseen
If you have ever operated a car, you know that if you see a careless driver, you turn the other direction. You stop at stop signs and lights and you may even yield to oncoming cars. It is because we rely on our eyes and common sense to tell us to detour. When we trust God, we are not steering. He takes us to the unseen and the unbeaten paths so that we will trust Him. Not one of us is exempt from a trial. We are given trials according to His goodness and He gives us the strength to be steadfast. I know there have been many times I’ve wondered, ‘are you absolutely sure that I can handle this God? Cause I’m not sure’. I think I’ve dealt with the same trials that everyone else has, some less and some greater. But you know what? I have survived 100% of my trials and each time that I make it through another one, God is there saying, yes child, I knew you could handle it. The important thing is to not lose heart just like 2 Corinthians 4:16 tells us. Everyday our mortal bodies die a little but inward (our souls) are renewed each day.
These verses should give us hope. Every morning His mercies are new and each day we can be renewed if we allow God to penetrate our hearts and souls. Those trials work for us to give us eternal glory and faith in the unseen. God wants us to look past the trial and see Him. Look past the storm raging and cling to the anchor. Whisper His name into the storm, you will find peace there. Do not focus on the temporary but the eternal Godly things. I wish I could tell you that it is easy. I wish I could tell you that life is a cakewalk, but it isn’t. Not even close. Do not place your faith in man but only in Christ.