I’m Stronger and Better Able to Carry the Load

If you meet me now at the grocery store or pass me in church, I probably won’t cry.

I will most likely ask you how you are, what you’ve been doing and smile when you share the latest family news even if in the midst of the words a thousand alarms go off in my head, reminding me of Dominic.

Because I’m stronger.

There’s a common misconception about grief among those who have never experienced the loss of a close loved one.

It goes something like this:  The first few weeks, months and the first holidays celebrated without them are the hardest.  But once the bereaved make it through THOSE, things get EASIER.

I’m here to tell you that, at least for me, it’s just not true.

Read the rest here: Stronger

Lenten Reflections: Fasting Criticism, Making Space for Grace

Chole identifies several groups that were in proximity to Jesus as He was dying on the cross.

Perhaps two people were silenced by grief or gently sobbing.

The others were taunting Him, mocking Him and reveling in His [apparent] inability to save Himself or be rescued by the Father He claimed close connection to.

They had no idea that His death was a last act of willing submission and laying aside of His power, position and possible retribution against those who had put Him there.

Love held Him to the cross-not nails or impotence.

So today I fast criticism.

I will fast judging others based on half-truths or even whole ones that cast them into a role other than as an image-bearer of our God.

Every single person I meet is bearing up under some kind of burden. Every face I see has an untold story behind the smile, frown, scowl or tears.

And every single human being is known and loved by the God who made them and the Savior who died to redeem them.

Today, fast criticism. From the clerk moving slowly to the homeless vet on the streets, consider carefully that Jesus knows them by name. Today, seek to know more, assume less, and air prayers for Jesus’ ‘least of these’ boldly in the presence of your shared Father God.

Alicia Britt Chole

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience. **

Face Toward the Son

One of the magical aspects of sunflowers is how they move through the day to always face the sun.

Like other plants, they depend on light to make their food but unlike others, they seem intent on thanking the source.

I am always encouraged when I pass a patch of sunflowers standing stalwart, saluting in unison the life-giving rays. They remind me that I am just as dependent as they are.

I can’t draw breath without the light and life of Christ in me.

Praise: The Secret to Living Above Circumstances - FaithGateway

But I forget that sometimes.

Clouds of sadness and despair obscure my vision and I’m tempted to turn away. Life gets hard and I wonder why it has to be like that. Responsibility grows heavy and I can’t lift my head.

So I lose sight of the Son-who He is, what He’s done and how He continues to sustain me even when I can neither see it or feel it.

It’s just then I need to turn toward Him.

It’s that very moment I require extra grace to look up (which He supplies) and extra faith (which He endows) to see clearly.

When I do, He always renews my strength.

“Don’t you know? Haven’t you been listening?
    Yahweh is the one and only everlasting God,
    the Creator of all you can see and imagine!
    He never gets weary or worn out.
    His intelligence is unlimited;
    he is never puzzled over what to do!
 He empowers the feeble
    and infuses the powerless with increasing strength.
 Even young people faint and get exhausted;
    athletic ones may stumble and fall.
But those who wait for Yahweh’s grace
    will experience divine strength.
    They will rise up on soaring wings and fly like eagles,
    run their race without growing weary,
    and walk through life without giving up.”

Isaiah 40: 28-41 TPT

Some Unexpected Things Can Make Grieving Harder

No one wakes up one day and just “is”. We become, over time, as our innate nature interacts with the world around us. First our parents and siblings influence us and then school, friends, life experience either gently molds us or pounds us into shape.

Often we get so used to our own way of doing and being we never give it much thought. It’s just “how we are”. We work around our faults and try to use our strengths to our advantage.

Most of us are pretty good at it.

Then something earth shattering comes along and suddenly the cracks are exposed and we haven’t the energy to cover them over.

Read the rest here: What Can Make Grieving Harder? Things You Might Not Expect.

Let Me Be Real

We had to put down a sick goat the other day.

I say “we” loosely because the men in my family shield me from the hard task of taking life.

But it still hurts.

I hate that life is hard and death is the end of all living things.

More than six years after Dominic left us and I still cry. I’m OK and then I’m not OK.

I don’t know what to tell you-I’m stronger but it’s not easier.

Learning To Bear The Burden


I told the two children with me that morning that we were going to survive this awful blow.

And we have.

It has been hard and ugly and more painful than anything else we’ve ever had to do. 

But we’re still standing.

And I want to encourage the hearts that are just starting down this broken road:  You really CAN make it.

Some of you reading this are saying, “But I don’t want to make it.  I want to lie down and give up and be out of this pain.”  

I don’t blame you. 

Read the rest here: Shifting The Weight, Bearing the Burden

It Gets Heavier Before We Grow Stronger

Oh, the weight of missing the son I love!

I thought I understood just how heavy it was the moment the deputy’s words sank deep inside and crushed my heart.

But I didn’t know the half of it.

You really can’t know how large a person’s absence is until you’ve explored the edges of the world without him or her.

When folks started coming up our long and winding drive, even though I knew full well he would not be among them, my eyes strained to see inside every car. When his friends gathered in our front yard, I couldn’t help looking through the picture window trying to make out his face among the crowd. When we walked into his now-empty apartment I thought surely he was in his bedroom, around the corner, just out out of sight.

But he was nowhere to be found. And the hole in my heart where he should be but wasn’t got bigger.

Those were just the early days.

In the weeks, months and years to follow I found everywhere I set my foot that followed a path we’d walked together, I missed him. When the next movie in a series was released, he wasn’t there to watch it with me. Family gatherings, holidays, birthdays, graduations all went on without him and my heart counted his absence.

From sunrise to sunset my heart marks all the Dominic-sized spaces in a day.

At night, dark stillness invites me to recite them.

But after more than five years, most people no longer see any tale-tell sign of this mama’s heart longing desperately for one more minute, one more hug, one more quick exchange of “I love you!”

I have grown stronger and better able to carry this load of missing.

Daily exercise will do that.

And it IS a daily exercise-lifting the missing up on my shoulders or carrying it in a basket on my head like women hauling water from a well far away has taught me to bear it well.

Getty Images

I still miss him.

I will always miss him.

Greater strength means I can shift the missing to make room for living. I can carry that weight and still find room to carry joy.

Image result for joy and grief

Repost: Refuse To Cause Pain


I’m a kinder, gentler person than I was before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

It’s a high price to pay to learn to walk more grace-filled through this life.

I’ve come to find out that every heart has a story.  Every heart is carrying a burden.-perhaps not the same as mine, but a burden nonetheless.

And what causes the most pain in this life (next to the burden itself) is when another person runs over my heart without thinking about the burden it may hold inside.

So I have purposed not to do that to other people.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/08/29/refuse-to-cause-pain/

Scripture Journal Challenge: Worn Out and Weary? Jesus Understands.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired.

Not just physically tired-although there are plenty of days when chores done in the Alabama sun beat my body down.

I’m soul weary.

My heart cries out, “No more! I can’t carry a single other burden! I’m buckling under the load!”

Jesus understands.

He knows that this world is a harsh place for tender hearts. He recognizes that other people heap heavy weights on already laboring souls. He understands that work and worry and even well-doing wear us to a nub.

And He offers a way of escape.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden andoverburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]


29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([d]relief and ease and refreshment and [e]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.


30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne. ~Jesus

Matthew 11: 28-30 AMPC

The Pharisees and Sadducees (religious leaders at the time Jesus walked the earth) had overloaded people with rules, rules, rules and obscured the truth of Who God is and what He really wanted from them. They focused solely on outward compliance with man-made additions to God’s law and blinded themselves to the inward attitudes that should be a hallmark of God’s people.

Like us, they wanted boxes to check off.

They wanted lists to maintain.

Above all, they wanted to measure themselves against a standard that made them look good, often at the expense of others.

More importantly, their holier-than-thou lifestyle made regular folks feel like they fell so far short and were so far from the heart of God they didn’t dare ask Him for help.

Jesus said, “Enough!”

He said, “I don’t despise your weakness. I don’t dismiss your pain. Let Me help you take that off and give you a perfectly fitted burden. Yoke your life to Mine and we’ll carry it together.”

The most caring teamster carved the wooden yoke that joined his two oxen precisely to fit their unique shape. He checked it often to see if it was causing pain and he made adjustments when necessary. He yoked well-suited animals one to the other so that the burden was distributed evenly.

Any ill-fitting addition to a creature being asked to do a job makes that job oh, so much more difficult. It wears sore spots and tender places. It guarantees that you won’t get full cooperation nor highest performance.

We have many burdens to bear in this life. Some are of our own making, some are thrust upon us by others. Some are just a function of the fact we live in a world tainted by sin.

Jesus promises that the burden He asks us to bear He will make bearable when we bring it to Him.

Are you weak and heavy laden?

Are you struggling under a load that threatens to undo you?

Have you yoked your life to Christ and asked Him to help you?

Come.

He’s waiting for you.

QUESTIONS:

  • There are all kinds of burdens in this life. What feels heavy to you right now?
  • Have you offered it to Jesus? Have you asked Him to help you bear it?
  • Is it hard for you to lean on Jesus? Why or why not?
  • Do you ever try to hide your weakness or weariness from others?
  • The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were focused more on rules and less on relationship. What’s your faith heritage? Have you been in churches where there was a strong focus on rules? How did that impact your understanding of God?

PRAYER:

Father God, I can be like the Pharisees and make up lists of rules I think I need to follow to gain Your approval or at least to make myself look good in the eyes of others.

That’s not helpful for me or anyone else. Give me courage to tear those up.

Teach me Your gentle ways, Jesus. Help me lean into Your love and to yoke my heart to yours.

Amen

Repost: Learning Limits

An exchange with a Facebook friend got me thinking.

How much of my struggle in life is a result of ignoring my own limits?

How much pain do I inflict on myself because I won’t admit I need help?  Why do I insist on living to the edge of endurance and emotional capacity?

Why, why, why do I try so hard to keep up a front of invincibility?

Pride.

Pride goads me like a whip.

Pride makes me say, “yes” when I should say, “no”.

Read the rest here:  Learning Limits

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