How Can I Deal With Anxious Thoughts?

I no longer have to imagine the worst thing that could happen in the life of a mother-I know exactly how it feels. 

And if I allow my heart to ponder that too often or too long, it consumes me.

So I am learning to take those anxious thoughts captive, learning to make them live in only a small corner of my mind instead of taking it over completely.

It takes effort and discipline, but it’s possible.  

I don’t have to live the rest of my days a quivering mess…

Read the rest here:  Dealing With Anxious Thoughts

Acts of Kindness (and 100 Acts of Kindness Ideas)

The world is a harsh and inhospitable place for many hurting hearts.

A single act of kindness may be just the hope a heart needs to hold on.

Julie gives us the Biblical mandate for kindness as well as many, many practical examples.

Let’s all try to be kind!

follow the light

 DChitwood_NoActOfKindnessIsEverWasted

 Proverbs 21:21

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.

 Proverbs 11:17

A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.

My life has been touched many, many times by simple, unexpected acts of kindness. Those instances include receiving unexpected notes from friends, flowers, and meals when I was a young mother. There was the couple who helped me with my bags when I was traveling alone, and countless times someone has held the door for me. There was the time someone stopped to help me change a flat tire and the time I was not charged for a service call. Such a simple gestures can really add to someone’s day. One simple act of kindness can spur another on to do the same thing.

The opposite is also true – it’s easy to aggravate someone by being thoughtless, rude, or just…

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Winter Sunrise

The sun rises behind bare branches and they look beautiful.

In just the right light and at the perfect angle, anything can be lovely.

bare winter branches

It’s true that every living thing needs rest.  Every working part must be oiled.

And while winter can be hard and heartless and cold and cruel, it is also space and time for re-creation.

If I only look harder I can already see tiny buds of springtime promise on the tips of branches overhead.

Death is winter.

Cold, hard, gray.  Every lovely thing fallen and dry underfoot.

A season of rest-not chosen, unwelcome, resisted.

But rest just the same.

Yet the sun still shines and spreads warmth and light on even these bare branches.

winter sunrise pines and zeke filter

After such a long time can the sap still rise?

Is there life left here?

Will spring come again and flowers bloom?

I’m counting on it.

IMG_1795

It will all happen so fast, in a blink, a mere flutter of the eye. The last trumpet will call, and the dead will be raised from their graves with a body that does not, cannot decay. All of us will be changed!  We’ll step out of our mortal clothes and slide into immortal bodies, replacing everything that is subject to death with eternal life.  And, when we are all redressed with bodies that do not, cannot decay, when we put immortality over our mortal frames, then it will be as Scripture says:

Life everlasting has victoriously swallowed death.
     Hey, Death! What happened to your big win?
    Hey, Death! What happened to your sting?

Sin came into this world, and death’s sting followed. Then sin took aim at the law and gained power over those who follow the law.  Thank God, then, for our Lord Jesus, the Anointed, the Liberating King, who brought us victory over the grave.

My dear brothers and sisters, stay firmly planted—be unshakable—do many good works in the name of God, and know that all your labor is not for nothing when it is for God.

I Corinthians 15:52-58 VOICE

 

Relentless

woman-grieving-loss
re·lent·less
adjective
opressively constant; incessant.
Synonyms:  persistent, continuing, nonstop, never-ending, unabating, interminable, incessant, unceasing, endless, unremitting, unrelenting, unrelieved.
please be aware i am trying

Can I Get A Witness?

What, exactly, is the value of believers in Jesus plastering an “Everything is fine” mask across our faces?

Are we afraid that if we allow someone to see our pain we are letting God down?

And how could that be?

Did not Christ Himself beg the Father in the Garden to take the cup from Him?

jesus in the garden

Yet we smile and wave and chat our way through encounters with people around us, pretending, pretending, pretending that life is easy when it most certainly is not.

all broken trees

Denying the dark and refusing to acknowledge the depth of our pain diminishes the value of the comfort of Christ.

When David wrote that, “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me” he understood both the desperate need for and the great assurance of Christ’s Presence.

When we allow others to see our broken hearts, we also bear testimony to the sustaining grace of Jesus.

heals the broken hearted

And we extend an invitation for them to meet this Savior that gives strength and comfort even in the darkest hours and hardest journeys.

walk with the broken toby mac

 

 

Repost: Grieving With Hope

The church at Thessalonica was confused about some fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  They were frightened that they had missed Christ’s second coming and they were concerned about loved ones that had preceded them in death.  So Paul wrote this letter to remind them of truth and offer comfort in their emotional distress:

And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.  I Thessalonians 4:13-14 MSG

This verse is quoted often to believers who have lost a loved one.  At first, gently, sweetly–as an invitation to remember that God is in control, that He has a plan, that the grave is not victorious and that burying the body is not the end.

And, in the early days and weeks after the funeral, it IS comforting–I chanted it to myself like a mantra and it drew my heart from the brink of despair.

But at some point, this verse begins to feel like a rebuke–the well-meaning friend says, “Don’t you know, that Jesus followers don’t grieve like those who have no hope!”

And I turn, dumbfounded, to the person saying this, and wonder, “Have you buried a child?”

Read the rest here:  Grieving With Hope

Helping Your Grieving Friend

This is a beautiful, thoughtful, thorough and extremely helpful post about how to walk with grieving hearts. ❤

Listening to Him

Timewise I’ve really only just begun this painful journey of deep grief, but I’ve already learned a number of significant lessons.  I’m sharing some here both for future reference for myself, and in hopes that they might be helpful to others walking alongside grieving friends.

I dislike the ever popular lists of “15 things you should never say to___________” or “10 things you should always do for_________”.   Those lists consistently strike me as being rooted in egocentrism and entitlement, and lacking grace.  We who are grieving do not get a free pass to be egocentric, entitled or lacking in grace.  We continue to answer to the command to be governed by love and grace, bearing with one another patiently and overlooking offenses.

My intention is not to present a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts regarding grieving people. I am simply sharing some of what I and other grieving…

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Can I Just Be Me?

Even in the very first hours after the news, my brain began instructing my heart, “Now, try to be brave.  Try not to disappoint people.  Try to say the right thing, do the right thing and be the example you should be.”

Whatever that meant.

As I made phone calls and received concerned friends and family members I was so aware that they would take a cue from me-how much can I say, how hard can I cry, should I hug or stand back, should I talk about him or be silent lest it make the tears fall harder?

And here-almost four years later-I still feel like I need to lead the way in conversations and social encounters.

If I don’t mention Dominic, no one else does and that disappoints me.

If I do mention Dominic, the response is often sympathy or rushing to another topic.

Which is also disappointing.

If I smile, then I’m “so much better’.

If I tear up, then I’m “not over it yet”.

The entire time I’m in the company of others (besides my family and a couple close friends) I am editing myself.  Everything I say or don’t say is filtered through a grid based on how others may receive it.

No off the cuff responses here.

Past experience has taught me that what most folks want from the bereaved (after the first few months or maybe a year) is evidence that they are “moving on”, “healing”, “trusting Jesus”, “getting better” or “finding the silver lining”.

Part of me would like to participate in this ruse because it’s so much easier than trying to push, pull or drag them into the reality that bereaved parents face.

But another part of me wants to rip the blinders off and let them see that this is a lifelong journey that is bumpy, hard and doesn’t look like victory.

It looks like perseverance.

Sometimes I laugh.  Sometimes I cry.  Some days are good.  Some days are awful.

I’m stronger than I was but I’m not “better”.

I’m able to greet most days but I still struggle some mornings to get out of bed.

I enjoy my family and friends but I miss my son.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could be only me.  

Not a “me” curated for public consumption.

But just me.

days-i-cant-participate

 

Trade With the Gifts God Has Given You

Sometimes it seems more trouble than it’s worth to try to tease out truth from antiquated language.  

But may I encourage you to find at least one quote a day that makes you stop and think? 

It’s good exercise for the mind and the soul!  

Here’s one I ran across just recently (with modern “translation” between stanzas):

Trade with the gifts God has given you.

Lend your minds to holy learning that

you may escape the fretting moth of

littleness of mind that would wear out your souls.

Be who you are-don’t spend time lamenting who you are not.  Do the thing God has given YOU to do.  Work the field God has given YOU to work.

Fill your mind with Truth from Scripture and from trusted sources.  Enlarge your vision by embracing an eternal perspective lest the struggle of daily life eat holes in your hope like moths in a sweater.  You might not realize it until you need it most, and then it won’t be serviceable.  

Grace your wills to action that they may

may not be the spoils of weak desires

Train your hearts and lips to song which

gives courage to the soul.

Learn to act according to principle and not desire-rise above the moment and lean into the long view.  Don’t give in to every lust that pops into your head-that only leads to sorrow and addiction.

Sing in the daylight when it’s easy and you feel like singing so that it’s a habit. 

You will need it in the dark.

Being buffeted by trials, learn to laugh.

Being reproved, give thanks.

Having failed, determine to succeed.

Homily of St. Hilda, Abbess of Whitby, 657-680 A.D.

You are going to be knocked down, learn to laugh about it-or at least to smile.

You will be criticized, learn to receive it with thanks-there is usually some truth in it.

You will fail. 

Don’t give up. 

Try again and again and again.

May we never tire of doing what is good and right before our Lord because in His season we shall bring in a great harvest if we can just persist.

Galatians 6:9 VOICE

 

OOPS!! How in the World Did I End up HERE?

My front yard is full of juvenile squirrels.  They love to chase one another round and round-playing some version of “king of the hill”.

I’m used to hearing their chatter and seeing them jump from branch to branch, tree to tree.

But yesterday I saw something I’d never seen before-two young squirrels were clinging desperately to the phone lines that stretch between two power line poles.  They were twisting and turning, grasping for a foothold and completely flabbergasted to find themselves in such a precarious position.

squirrel_on_a_wire

I looked to see how in the world they might have ended up there.  Sure enough, there is a crepe myrtle tree with branches that just graze the phone lines.

I’m pretty sure the silly young things were chasing each other and didn’t realize that they had jumped from the safety of a tree to the danger of the phone line.

As I was watching them I thought about how I can find myself in a very similar situation.

Grief is not a single emotion-it’s a whole suitcase of them!  I can’t help feeling them.  In fact, I NEED to feel them if I’m going to do the work grief requires.

heal and acknowledge

But if I allow myself to be led by my emotions, I can quickly be drawn away from the safety of truth and find myself perched precariously on the high wire of my feelings.

Once there, my sole focus becomes maintaining my balance and I lose sight of where I want to go.

In my scramble to keep my footing, I can sacrifice relationships.

I can take offense when none was intended.

I give offense because I’m angry and wounded myself.

I can allow sorrow to cloud my vision so that I can’t see the real beauty that still remains.

I need to remain aware of where my emotions are leading me so that I don’t end up somewhere I don’t want to be.

highwire image

I’m not nearly as nimble as a squirrel.  🙂