Christian Communicators, Christian Mentors, College age women, Mentors, Millenials, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, women, Women in Ministry, Women's Ministries, Writers

Holding Grief & Joy…

Is it really possible to hold grief and joy at the same time?

Yes, I do believe it is.

November is a precious month to me because of what happened two years ago. I learned to hold grief and joy, together in my heart, like a mother would hold two newborns in her arms. You cherish both, you learn from both…one does not have to win out over the other. But man, it’s so hard to hold them both.

Our oldest daughter got married two years ago at the beginning of November and it truly could not have been a more perfect day! After three days of torrential downpours (which in SoCal is always a shock!) Saturday dawned with a freshness in the air, a promise of the joy to come that day! The blue sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds, no sign of rain at all. Watching your child get married is a surreal thing. It brings you back to your own wedding day. I was keenly aware of this man who was marrying my daughter, I knew him before I knew him because I prayed for him for 24 years. I trusted that the Lord was watching over this man who would one day capture my daughter’s heart. What tremendous joy!! I get teary every time I think of this fantastic privilege to see a prayer come to life. It was a perfect day.

The weeks that followed however, I would not classify them in the “perfect” category. I think this is when I began to learn how to hold grief and joy in the same embrace.

The Friday after the wedding, my husband was struck with a terrible case of shingles…on…his…face! It was awful and painful and a bit terrifying. He was on medication and had many doctor and ophthalmologist appointments to make sure the virus didn’t affect his vision. It was so painful to watch him go through it all.

We had just come from such a high high and now experiencing a tremendous low.

On top of that, a few days before the shingles hit my honey’s darling face, I discovered why my neck had been hurting for a few weeks. I had somehow popped the top right back rib out of place. I would seriously rather give birth without drugs (because I have!) than feel the pain of having a rib put BACK into place several times before it finally stayed in place. Oh, the tears and the ugly-cry that happened in the chiropractor’s office for the first week or two of treatment! Thankfully it was where my now married daughter worked, so she was a bright spot in my day!

So, in the span of a few weeks, we’ve got…wedding…popped rib…shingles…we had enough riding on the emotional rollercoaster of life and were looking forward to things settling down.

At the end of November my father-in-law, Jim, passed away. It wasn’t completely unexpected but it’s still never easy. My husband and I were able to be there the night before and have our time with him and we knew that was a huge blessing.

As I sat at the funeral home with my mother-in-law and two of my sisters-in-law, my own mom called and said that I should make my way to my grandmother’s apartment as soon as I could. Again, not completely unexpected, but still came as a shock. Her goal was to make it to her great-granddaughter’s wedding and we’re so thankful she was able to!

As I drove the hour from Orange County to Burbank, I cried and pleaded with the Lord to give me one more day with my grandma. I knew our little family couldn’t handle two deaths on the same day.

God was so gracious and there was my sweet grandma Marie, fully dressed with her shoes on, resting comfortably in her lift chair. She was sleeping, but she had changed so much. My grief took over, and I bolted from the room. In the midst of my own mother’s grief, she comforted me in mine. I knew my amazing grandmother was so close to heaven and I didn’t know how I could deal with it all.

But let me tell you part of the secret of holding grief and joy together…it’s what my grandma said to me when I went back into her apartment.

I sat down next to her and held her hand. She opened up her eyes, that were still sparkling with all that grandma love, and said how happy she was to see me and patted the back of my hand. But she could see the grief in my eyes. Her next question, “How’s Jim?” She had closed her eyes after asking for a just a bit, long enough for me to try and pull myself together. When she opened her eyes and say the tears streaming down my face, she just said, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry. But we know where he is.”

This is how we hold grief and joy at the same time.

She knew was she was not far from seeing the Lord face to face, something she was joyous about, but she was still able to have a tender heart toward my sadness.

We cannot press down and suffocate the grief.

We have to face it.

We cry and we are sad. Maybe we are confused or mad.

Those feelings must both be experienced fully to come out of pain on the other side and be okay.

But in the grief, there was joy knowing that all the pain and suffering my father-in-law experienced was completely gone. He was wholly healed and I love to imagine my staunch Missionary Baptist father-in-law, dancing and singing praises in heaven to the King of Kings. That is joy!

I spent the rest of the day with my grandmother, and much of the family began to come in. We gathered around her chair and celebrated her. We told stories and every now and then, she would too. When she finally needed to rest in her own room, we were able to go in individually, and have some time with her. And I treasure the knowledge that she prayed for her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren every single day! What a legacy of faith!

Those moments too were held together by grief and joy.

None of us wanted to leave that night because we knew what was coming.

The next day, I arrived and checked in with my parents who’d gotten there a while before me. We thought we had a few more days. But as quickly as the hospice nurses arrived to do their assessment, days became moments. They rushed us in, my parents and I, and we had the honor of singing her into heaven.

Another moment held together with equal parts of grief and joy. 

Yes, equal parts.

The next few weeks were a bit of blur as we had services for both my grandmother and my father-in-law. And all of that in the midst of preparing for Christmas. Family coming into town, hosting dinners and being together as much as we could. Even in all of this, the experiences are different for everyone. Our oldest daughter was a newlywed. Our middle daughter lives out of state. Our youngest daughter was navigating her Freshman year of college. My husband was still dealing with the effects of shingles. And I could now get dressed without wincing in extreme pain.

The physical and emotional pain. The grief and the joy. 

They don’t always take turns.

Sometimes they arrive at the same time.

But here’s the best part, as I believe we are created in the image of God, He orchestrates our life and helps guide us through those times when we are required to hold grief and joy at the same time. He is in fact an expert at this.

That moment on the Cross, when His beloved Son took upon every single sin and all depravity of every human being that had been born and was still to be born, He had to look away. The grief that God the Father had to sit with is unimaginable to me. But He did it because of the magnitude of joy that was brought on by Jesus’ death and resurrection ~ the joy that we now had the free gift of reconciliation with our heavenly Father.

Here’s a passage from Matthew 27:45-54 ~ take some time and ponder this in your heart of how God the Father had to hold grief and joy at the same time…

45 “Now from the sixth hour (noon) there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.). 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud [agonized] voice, [j]Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 47 When some of the bystanders there heard it, they began saying, “This man is calling for [k]Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran, and took a sponge, soaked it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49 But the rest said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him [from death].” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud [agonized] voice, and gave up His spirit [voluntarily, sovereignly dismissing and releasing His spirit from His body in submission to His Father’s plan]. 51 And [at once] the veil [of the Holy of Holies] of the temple was [l]torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split apart. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints (God’s people) who had fallen asleep [in death] were raised [to life]; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered the holy city (Jerusalem) and appeared to many people. 54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The Lord has felt it all ~

Every feeling.

Every emotion.

Every hardship.

Every trial.

Every joy.

Every happiness.

With Him, we can do the same. We can experience grief and we can celebrate joy.

And we can do this at the same time.

We can hold grief and joy together.

Blessings,

René

Holding Together Grief and Joy - blog pic

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

 

Christian Mentors, College age women, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Uncategorized, women, Women in Ministry, Women's Ministries, Writers

Do we understand blessings…

What does it really mean to be blessed by God? I’ve been thinking about this a lot since one of our church members taught in our class on Sunday. She had us shout out what we were thankful for…what we felt was a blessing in our life.

You guessed it…no one shouted out any hardships!  So easily we see hardships as an inconvenience, an interruption, something done to us instead of for us, something that is flat out hard to deal with! But there really are blessings in all of that!

I was struck by the Amplified Bible version of the Beattitudes in Matthew 5. I simply love the verbiage of this translation. As I study, it helps me to put new perspective, particularly verses I’ve read many many many times before. Each time the word ‘blessed’ is used, the amplified version describes that blessing in a unique way. I think it’s quite impactful and hope you do too!

So thank you for letting me share my heart with you today through these verses in Matthew 5:3-12…

“Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

  • When I focus on the Lord, leaning on Him for knowledge and guidance, I will more clearly see the path He has created for us to join in Him in heaven one day.

“Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted].

  • Not that I will live a sinless life, but when I admit my sins and ask the Father for forgiveness, He is so good to do that and to blot out any record of it! Even though I’ve known the Lord as my Savior for over 40 years now, this gift still amazes me!

“Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth.

  • Beginning each day with a soft heart toward the things of God, with a clear mind to receive instructions from His Word ~ this is what makes it easier day by day to walk in peace with myself, with the Lord, and with the people around me.

“Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied.

  • Yes!! I want to live fully satisfied with all God allows in my life ~ the happy times and the struggles….they all happen for a reason. Oh to be “nourished by God’s goodness” ~ who doesn’t want that!  Truth is the best way to satiate the soul!!

“Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

  • Those moments when I am tempted to withhold grace and mercy from someone, the Holy Spirit is tender to remind me that I wake up with renewed grace and mercy from the Father in Heaven…the God of all Creation. Since He gives me those gifts so freely, how can I not extend the same gifts to others!

“Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God.

  • Are you experiencing a time in your life that you don’t feel close to God? You aren’t hearing Him like you used to? The devil will tempt us to believe that God has turned His back on us…oh friend…fight that lie! When we feel distance with the Lord, we are the ones who have walked away. Return to a desire to live with godly character and seek spiritual guidance and you will dwell in a rush of the Father’s love for you…because it never went away!

“Blessed [spiritually calm with life-joy in God’s favor] are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they will [express His character and] be called the sons of God.

  • Whoa!  Yes!! “Spiritually calm with life-joy” ~ oh a 1000x yes!! When we rest in God’s goodness and have an unshakeable faith that our day, our month, our life for that matter will turn out good for us, that is when we are settled into peace and will be able to exude the character of Christ through our life.

10 “Blessed [comforted by inner peace and God’s love] are those who are persecuted for doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

  • Standing firm in your biblical and spiritually sound beliefs against the attitude of the world, is never going to be easy. Being mocked by others because you believe what the Bible says is true, is painful but it serves a purpose. Knowing how to share the truth of God’s Word without compromise, but also with love from God, is a treasure. Those who are truly searching will seek out the spiritual treasure you hold in your heart; those who believe the lies that they are “good enough” won’t.

11 “Blessed [morally courageous and spiritually alive with life-joy in God’s goodness] are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of [your association with] Me.

  • These are qualities I desire to have in my life ~ to be morally courageous and spiritually alive! Having those two attributes in my life {and when I remember I have them!} will make the flaming arrows of lies and persecution easier to deal with. It doesn’t mean that the arrows and barbs won’t hit us, or penetrate the flesh of our heart. It means that those wounds won’t last and they won’t determine our identity!  Amen!! The devil absolutely hates our battle scars, but we are fighting already FROM a place of victory because of Jesus!!  Remember that!!

12 Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great [absolutely inexhaustible]; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

One of the beautiful reminders I received from reading through this translation is that a blessing from the Lord rarely, if ever, refers to something earthly ~ there is nothing temporal or financial referred to here in these verses.

The so-called ‘prosperity gospel’ does not exist. You will never find proof of that in God’s Word and I’m fully convinced of that. Our rewards are in heaven. Our worst day here on earth, as followers of Christ, will not follow us to our Heavenly home. This is why we cannot be jealous or strive after earthly riches like those who do not serve the Lord. Sadly, by choosing to live their life here on earth without Jesus as their Savior, they will live their eternal life separated from Him as well. This concept is harsh to many, but think of what Christ did for us dying on the cross and all that He suffered in the days leading up to His crucifixion. We will never be “good enough” to enter into Heaven on our own…if we were, then the death and resurrection of Christ was for nothing…and I believe in ALL that He did to bring us back into reconciliation with Him!

Being on the receiving end of God’s blessings is all about how we live for Him; how we are growing into His image; how we can bless others with sharing the gospel; and how we can emanate the glory of God and the impact of the Living Word to those around us in our sphere of influence.

Be blessed today ~ filled with all the life-joy that God’s goodness brings!

Blessings,

René

Let the Blessings flow!

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries, Writers

Seasons change….

Well, it’s officially been the “Fall” season here in SoCal for almost a month.  And do you know what that means? Well, it means something different here than it does in almost every other state in America.  It means our brownish lawns (due to the water shortage) actually look acceptable.  The brownish hue to our mountains seem to be promising that they are just in hibernation and will burst forth with beautiful green come the Spring.  It means that we still hit the 90’s several times a week.  Literally, I’m serious…at this very minute, my weather app tells me it’s a balmy 89 degrees outside, with tomorrow and Friday promising to hit in the low 90’s, then by the weekend it’ll creep down to a chilly 80 degrees on Sunday.  Really people, my heart just did a little happy dance because on Monday & Tuesday next week, it says we’ll have a high of 73 degrees and…wait for it…RAIN!  TWO DAYS of RAIN IN A ROW!!  A change of season…

Okay, okay….I’m calm now.  Honestly, I know that just because it is forecasted to actually be cold (yeah I know…72 isn’t actually cold, just go with me here) and rainy next week, it could change.  I won’t be too surprised, but I’ll be disappointed.  When we think of all the seasons in our own life, we could say the same thing.  The things that we have planned are amazing and exciting.  Then things that are completely out of our control happen, and we are sad, angry, irritated, feeling let down, and may walk around in a fog for a bit wondering if the sun will come out?  Will our season change to a better one?

Even though we are surprised and challenged by the seasons in our life, God never is.

The verses in Psalm 139:15-16 are a perfect and beautiful example of what I mean by this.  Actually, the entire chapter of Psalm 139 is full of promise and faithfulness.  Read these intentional words and let them sink in to your soul…

My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery]. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.” (Amplified Version).

God saw our whole life before we were born; before we began to add to our own story; before everything!  He is absolutely a loving God and His heart breaks when we sin, when we choose to walk a different way than what we know to be right.  He does not rejoice in our suffering.  He does not anticipate with glee any hardship we go through.  He is good…He always has been and He always will be.

There are plenty of times in my own life when I doubted God’s goodness.  When kids in high school spread rumors about me and my friends did not come to my defense.  When the people I thought were my friends actually began believing those lies and never came to talk to me about it.  When the boy I thought wanted to marry me, changed his mind and moved to another state. When plans would not work out like I wanted them to and it meant taking a harder road to accomplish various goals.  When our family hit hard times and had major financial difficulties.  When other kids were horribly mean to my children and appeared to get away with the damage they caused. When my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, and good friends, all went through cancer (and thankfully beat it!).  When my aunt and other other friends and family members were ravaged by cancer and did not make it through.  So many things happen in our life that we don’t understand.

In all these seasons, God was there.  God knew what was going to happen, how it was going to happen, why it happened, and how it was going to end.

And all of these tough seasons have brought incredible fruit to my life that I wouldn’t have otherwise tasted.  I know the importance of speaking up when lies are being spoken.  I know the indelible imprint you will make in a friends life when you believe their story.  I know the vigilance that is needed to keep our kids safe.  I know the joy and harmony that God brought me in the man that HE intended for me to marry.  I know the humble gratitude of the anonymous grocery store gift card arriving in my mailbox at exactly the right moment.  I know the peace and relief when a friend or family member is healed of a disease.  And I know the mourning of friend and family member, will turn to dancing when I see them again in Heaven.

I’m not going to sugarcoat anything here and tell you that I always handled myself in a spiritually sound way.  Nope!  Many many times I cried to God how unfair life was.  How unfair He was!  After all, if He loves me so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for me, why in the heck do I have to go through a bunch of garbage in my life?  Why does life seem to be easier for other people than it does for me and our family?

Sadly, many times I reverted to a season of being a whiny little baby.  Instead of going for the meat of God’s Word to fulfill and sustain me, I chose ice cream and candy bars.  And where did that get me?  In a new cycle of self-hate and doubt that I would never matter to anyone or amount to anything.  I vacuumed up all the lies Satan was sprinkling out before me. He was tickled pink by my decisions toward destruction, while my loving Heavenly Father was heartsick that I was not turning to Him.  How selfish I was.

The brightest star that God created is the Sun.  It is one singular orb that illuminates the entire world.  Not all at once, not all with the same intensity, but with distinct purpose, direction, and intention.  If we had sunlight all the time we would suffer from heat exhaustion, burns, and drought…just to name a few.  We would not know the joy of a cool evening breeze on our face, or the intense radiant beauty of a sky filled with stars on a cloudless night.

Think about your favorite season?  I personally love it when it stays between 65-75.  I am not a heat-loving person.  But if I never experienced heat, I wouldn’t know the complete bliss of wrapping up in a warm blanket with a cup of tea on a chilly night in winter. (Yeah…it happens a few times a year!).

Even when we are encountering a stressful season, where things seem bleak and spiritually torturous…God can and will bring the rain, the cool breeze, the warm blanket.  It is possible to have peace within the storm.  I’ve lived through enough storms of every level, that I undoubtedly know this is true.  When I am faced with tough seasons now, I am much quicker to run to the Father.  To read His love letter of scripture, to pray and allow the Holy Spirit to pour out the oil of gladness over my soul, to fix my eyes and gaze on His holiness ~ that is the beginning of living peaceful in the midst of the storm.

Every part of the earthly creation comes to play with our spiritual story.  God created the world very specifically with incredibly detailed functions.  He created light and dark, day and night, man and woman, and seasons.  We are created with the same distinction and purpose.  We are meant to grow and change, to rejoice in the knowledge of who God is and how we are to honor and glorify Him with our life.

Reading through a bible study on Ecclesiastes is a wonderful reminder of just that.  Christian or not, most everyone is familiar with the beginning words from Ecclesiastes chapter 3, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven:” ~ not just some moments in time, but in every single moment.  In some ways going through this study, I feel like I’m reading Ecclesiastes for the first time and I’m loving it!  It is proof once more that the scripture God fashioned into the Bible we have known for centuries now, is just like He is…the same today, yesterday and forever.  Take a moment to read through the book of Ecclesiastes and see what I mean!

I believe the main purpose for the changing seasons of our life is to constantly bring us back to the knowledge that God alone is the sustainer of our life and the ONLY ONE who can fill the gaps and emptiness we experience.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

God alone satisfies our every desire, wish, want, and need.  He is the director and perfecter of the seasons in our life.  Allow Him to till the soil of your heart, to plant the goodness of His Word, and to harvest the completion of that work that He started in you before you were born.

Live blessed and live loved, in every season, by the God who created the Universe.  He took His time with you ~ now take your time with Him.

Blessings,

René

psalm-139-verses-15-and-16

{all scripture verses are taken from the Amplified Bible Version}