Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ten Lessons I Have Learned in the Past Nine Years

(IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)

1.  I have learned to love God for who He is and not for what he gives me.

2.  I have learned that when I am weak, He is strong.

3.  I have learned that it is not only OK to need others, but God planned it this way. In Genesis, God said, "It is not good for man to be alone." He created us with a need for each other.

4.  I have learned that joy is not dependent on circumstances.

5.  I have learned that God truly does comfort us so that we can extend that comfort to others.

6.  I have seen joy come in the morning.

7.  I have experienced the peace that surpasses understanding and it is a beautifully baffling gift!

8.  I have learned that masking your pain does nothing for the healing process. Healing begins once   our hurts are brought into the light.

9.  I have learned that feelings are neither right or wrong -- they just are.  Knowing this means that there is no guilt or shame when it comes to our feelings.

10. There are no shortcuts in the grieving process. The only way to experience healing is to walk the   path through the pain. Praise God we do not have to walk it alone. There were times when Jesus carried me.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Gift I Never Wanted but I Am Grateful to Have

Nine years ago this month, I received a phone call that changed the course of my life. Michael called to say goodbye; with every fiber of my being, I thought that we would find Michael and get him to a hospital where he would received help. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that phone call would be our last conversation ever.

Since that day, my life has continued to be ravished by suicide -- some resulted in the deaths of people I love and still others survived.  Suicide simply transfers the pain of the ones who died to the ones left behind. 

The following statistics are from SPAN-GA, a suicide prevention network:

One out of every TEN students has seriously
 considered suicide in the last 12 months. 
One out of every TWENTY students has ATTEMPTED suicide in the last 12 months.
For every ONE Youth Suicide, there are up to
 200 youth suicide attempts. 

The youngest suicide loss in Georgia was  
 8 years old, and we are seeing suicidal  
ideation as young as 5.
Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for  
youth ages 15 - 24, and 2nd leading cause  
of death for college students. 

If these stats are true, why are we still silent on the issue of suicide? People are hurting and don't know where to turn to end their pain, so they take the life-threatening path.  I pray that we will listen with our hearts as well as with our ears and that we will be compassionate and non-judgmental.

I work with a support group for people who have lost loved ones to suicide; many feel embarrassed to talk to their family and friends about what happened, fearing that somehow they might be blamed for the suicide. Others heap guilt on themselves, wondering how in the world they could have missed the warning signs. I've been there, and I can tell you that going down that road only adds to the guilt and shame. Ultimately those who die by suicide are in such pain, that the only escape they see in the moment is suicide. If we could have prevented it, we would have -- sadly it was not in our control.

Iris Bolton describes the gift that many find in the healing process. Nine years ago, I would have balked at this. Today, I realize that as I share the reality of Michael's death with others, lives have been saved and others have found healing. This is not a boast about my actions but a testimony to the gift of God. Michael's death was not in vain. While I wish there had been another way, God has used it to not only transform my life, but the lives of many others as well.  The devastating pain has shaped me into a stronger more compassionate person -- an unexpected gift.

If you are hurting from the suicide of someone you love, wait for the gift. It may not be immediate, but joy comes in the morning.

 In my next post, I will share lessons I have learned in the past nine years since Michael's death.



Monday, January 5, 2015

Bottled Memories

For many years, a coke bottle from the 1998 Nagano Olympics sat on my mantle. In a curio cabinet I kept a bottle of water from the Jordan River.  I didn't keep these in my home because I was an avid bottle collector, nor for the value of the contents inside. I kept the bottles because of the memories associated with them.

A dear friend served at the Nagano Olympics and we were moved by the stories he shared. As a result, we were invited to work at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. The coke bottle was a reminder of a time when the nations came together in peace for a common cause. The bottle represented a time of joy and adventure in my life.

In 1999, I visited Israel and collected water from the Jordan River.  I didn't value this keepsake because the waters inside where miraculous, but as a reminder of the example Jesus gave when he told John the Baptist to baptize him in the Jordan.  Jesus humbled himself in order to set an example for us of a surrendered life.  The bottle reminded me to follow Christ's lead and to humble myself daily.

Most of us don't keep oodles and oodles of bottles around our home (unless you are a wine collector). We tend to hold on to things with sentimental value to remind us of special times.  Psalm 56:8 tells us that God collects our tears in bottles.  Why in the world would the God of the universe gather our tears in a bottle?  I'm not sure, but I can't help but wonder if its because he sees our pain and is moved to compassion. It is often in our pain that we draw the closest to him. Is it possible that our tears serve as a memorial of our pain?

God doesn't need a reminder, but maybe we do.  When we get to heaven, will we see these bottles and be moved by the knowledge that God not only saw our tears, but collected them?  God wants to collect more than our tears. He beckons us to lay down our heavy load and to let him carry us through the trials.

When my daughter was little, I can remember wiping her tears and holding her close. There were times I couldn't make her "boo boos" go away, but my presence seemed to calm her.  God offers the same to us. He not only wipes away our tears, but he also gathers them in bottles and offers us his comforting presence.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hopes for 2015


I watched as the sun slowly disappeared behind the acacia tree. As I stood peering over the tall grass, fighting to keep my skirt from blowing up and my hair from flying in my face, I knew that I would never be the same.

When I first started going to Kenya with my church, there were no evangelical churches among the Kuria tribe. Over the years, the gospel has spread not only among the Kuria in Kenya, but also in Tanzania. The zeal of the first generation church there is refreshing.

Seven years ago, I went to Africa thinking that it would be a neat experience. Little did I know that a continent so vast and a people so different from myself would take root as a seed in my heart. Over the many years as I’ve returned, that seed has blossomed into a love and passion that I cannot contain. I longed for the day that I could share this vision God had birthed in my heart with my family…for the day that they too, would be gripped by the beauty of a people who seek to know God and to make him known.

After much prayer, we believe that this summer my dreams of going to Africa with my family could become a reality. We have “put our yes” on the table, and Jeff, Jorjanne, and I all three are planning to go and serve the Lord side by side in both Kenya and Tanzania. This is a God-sized task. While we have willing hearts to go, the costs are high. It will cost approximately $12,000 for the three of us to go.

We plan to host yard sales, sell t-shirts, and do other odd jobs to try and raise our support. We ask you to join us in prayer as we step out in faith and trust the Lord to meet the needs for our trip. My heart is giddy at thoughts of how God will use this trip in our family. He has already radically transformed my thinking and my priorities as a result of past trips, and to think that Jorjanne will have the opportunity to go and learn at such a young age is so stinkin’ cool!

I have taught Bible studies myriads of times, but only in Africa have I taught for hours and hours and had the ladies beg for more from God’s Word. They walk for hours just to come and hear the Word proclaimed. They have a hunger and thirst for righteousness that I’d only read about. Teaching the Bible to African women has been both a privilege and a blessing.

My New Year’s resolution is to know God more and to make him known. I want to hunger for His Word like the women in Africa. When I think of 2015, I am excited about the opportunities for our family to grow closer to Christ and to each other. While I also hope for the traditional things (to eat healthier and to exercise more), I pray that this year our family will long for Christ as the deer pants for the water. We pray that God will use us to point others to the True Joy Giver this year.

Happy New Year!

 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Final Horseman

A sure-fire way to hurt your marriage is to engage in stonewalling. This is the final horseman that Gottman uses as a predictor for divorce.  Stonewalling is when we build a wall and refuse to let others inside. We often do this by making comments such as “I don’t want to talk about it; Enough,” or “End of story.”  When we cut others off and refuse to continue communicating on a topic, men tend to feel frustrated, but women often feel shafted and hurt. Women feel isolated and intimacy is killed. 

We also stonewall with our actions when we give our spouse the cold shoulder. Sometimes we do this as a means of self-protection without realizing the hurt it causes the relationship. We are afraid of what the other person will say to us so we stonewall to guard against painful comments or ridicule.  While we might avoid hearing hurtful words, we also avoid resolution. When conflict is unresolved, it tends to stew and snowball. 

When I think of stonewalling, I imagine a people that are being pursued by their enemy. They wall themselves into a fort for protection. For a while it seems to work, but when the enemy fails to retreat, the people begin to suffer within.  Supplies run low…food is scarce…sickness and death are rampant.  In order to survive, the people must get beyond the walls they created.

The same is true in marriage. When we stonewall, we may have momentary relief, but we slowly begin to feel isolated and inadequate. Our love tank begins to run dry and the relationship suffers.


Instead of stockpiling our arsons or stonewalling for protection, we need to remember that our spouse is NOT the enemy.  We have a very real enemy who seeks to kill, steal and destroy our marriages, and we need to daily put on the belt of truth and grab the sword of the Spirit and prepare for battle.