Note To Self: Forward is Forward

I’m pretty sure the first time I wrote a note to myself was in second grade.

I had discovered a book of quotes and decided that some were worth remembering so I copied them down and taped them to my bedroom wall

Now I have notes all over the house-on kitchen cabinets, the refrigerator door, my bathroom mirror, above my bed-anywhere my eyes might land when my heart needs encouragement.

Here are the ones I have posted now:

[Be present.]

I don’t want to miss a single moment with the ones I love because I know too well that more moments are not promised.

[Choose to listen.]

It’s so easy to babble on and not HEAR the other person in front of me or on the phone.  I already know what I’M thinking and feeling, listening is the only way to know what THEY’RE thinking and feeling.

[Escape ruts.]

Habits are helpful when they remind me to brush my teeth.  Not so much when they lead me down paths of fruitless relationship patterns and knee-jerk responses.  I’m not a thoughtless amoeba.  I can change.

[Forward is forward.]

If I am ONE INCH closer to my goal then I have made progress.  I refuse to be discouraged, no matter how slowly I am walking, crawling or limping ahead.

[Laugh!]

Laughter makes life lighter.  There is already too much heaviness in this journey.  Never miss a chance to laugh and lighten the load.

[Do small things with great love.]

I will never take a national stage or be able to address giant problems, but I can bend down to kiss a skinned knee, open a door for an old lady and bake cookies for my neighbor.  I won’t neglect or despise the small things waiting for the big ones that will never come along.

[The best is yet to come.]

The life I see is not all the life there is.  In fact, it’s not even the best life there is.  The best is yet to come when all this pain and sorrow and hurt will be redeemed.  My heart and my family will be restored.  My tears will be wiped away and I will stand in the glorious Presence of God and Christ forever.

[Love wins.]

I have a choice of what I allow to fill my broken heart.  I will not choose bitterness. Bitterness is buried with the heart that carries it.  But love lasts forever.  Its impact ripples through eternity.  It cannot be silenced or stopped.

 

love God love others rocks

Dispelling Marriage Myths Surrounding Child Loss

Today my husband and I celebrate 33 years of marriage.  

Our thirtieth anniversary was a mere two months after we buried our son.

Here’s the last “before” anniversary photo (2013)-unfeigned smiles, genuine joy, excitement to have made it that far:

hector and me 29 anniversary

This is us on our thirtieth anniversary, at our oldest son’s wedding -holding one another up as best we could:

IMG_2151

This is us last Christmas:  

beach hector and me and boys in sand

We are definitely the worse for wear, but we are still here.

Together.

There are a lot of myths floating around about what happens to a marriage on the other side of child loss.  The one tossed out most often cites a “study” reporting 90 percent of marriages fail after the death of a child.  

It’s just not true.

But the danger is that if you believe it is true, you may stop trying.  You may stop reaching out across the painful abyss that threatens to keep you apart forever.  You may decide that living alone with your broken heart is better than living alongside someone who may be broken in very different ways than you are.

It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The truth is that child loss is no more likely to destroy a marriage than a list of other terrible life events-even though child loss is the most terrible.

A child’s death shakes a marriage to its foundations and reveals the weak spots. And EVERY marriage has weak spots.

So the challenge in this season of marriage-like every season of marriage-is to turn toward one another instead of away.  Choose to do the work necessary to make it:

  • Do the best you can to take care of your own emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual health so that you can come together stronger and better able to help one another.
  • Assume the best and not the worst about your spouse.
  • Allow for different grieving styles and different ways of honoring your missing child.
  • Get help from others.
  • Don’t expect your spouse to carry your load of grief as well as his or her own.

It takes energy and commitment right when we don’t have any to spare. But at least in this, we have a choice.

I have already lost so much over which I had no control.  

I will fight for what I CAN hold onto as hard as I know how.

wedding rings

 

 

To The Friends Who Stay

Sticking with a friend whose life is hard and is going to continue to be hard is not for the faint of heart.

Not all wounds can be healed.  

Not all problems have a resolution.

Not all relationships follow a path that leads to a happy ending. 

grief lasts longer than sympathy

So here’s to the friends that don’t give up, that refuse to leave and whose presence remind me that while life is painful, it is also beautiful.  

Here’s to the ones whose commitment to love me in the dark places reminds me that love still lives.  

You’re my lifeline.  

good friends

 

Have You Seen His Glory?

If I had been around in the intertestamental years of Israel’s history,  I think I’d have been tired of waiting for that promised Messiah the prophets kept crowing about.

I mean, really-how long was it going to take?

What was God waiting on?

What was the plan anyway?

And then, when this young woman shows up claiming to have been overcome by the power of the Holy Ghost-well, that’s a nice fairy tale but hardly how I think God would work this whole thing out.

Except that was EXACTLY how He worked it out-God Himself sent His Son to be born of a virgin and to live as a perfect man and to offer Himself as the perfect and sufficient sacrifice for sin.

Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, revealed Himself to His disciples.  He gave them a glimpse of His glory-the glory of the one and only Son of the Living God.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1;14 NIV

We no longer have to wonder what God is like or what He is up to.

He is full of grace and truth and He is up to reconciling the world to Himself through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.

THAT is glorious.

word became flesh

God Doesn’t Grade on a Curve

When I was in school it was popular to ask a teacher after a test:  “Will you grade on a curve?” The hope was always that since it was unlikely anyone would get a perfect score, the brackets would be moved downward.

cartoon grade on a curve

Very few of us like absolutes.  We prefer to be judged one against another instead of against an unbendable standard.

It’s no different with morality.

If you asked me to judge myself on a scale from Hitler to Mother Teresa, I would definitely put myself closer to her rather to him.

As long I measure myself against other humans, I am comfortable saying I fall in the top 50 percent.

Trouble is, that’s not the standard.

The standard against which my actions and heart attitudes are measured is unchangeable and inflexible.

It is perfection itself-the holiness of a holy God.

And when I place myself next to that measuring rod, I am woefully short.

Jesus shocked His followers by telling them that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the Pharisees (considered the most upstanding and holy in that day) they would never enter the kingdom of God.  He expounded on every aspect of the Ten Commandments by addressing not only outward conformity (which, in truth, was impossible) but also motive and intention.

By that standard, even my “good deeds” are inadequate because they are often done with a wrong heart attitude.

I give because I want someone to think I’m generous.

I volunteer because I am a people pleaser.

I work hard because I want a raise.

Paul wrote in Romans “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23)

I can never “measure up” to the perfect standard of a perfect God.  And while my flesh may be happy with “good enough” the holiness of God demands absolute perfection.

Truth is, I am a sinner-I miss the mark, I step outside the boundaries, I do what I shouldn’t do and don’t do what I should do.

Just like our first parents, I listen to my flesh and the evil one and question God’s goodness and His wisdom.  I want to plot my own course, captain my own ship.

And also like our first parents, I find that I cannot do it.  

I fall woefully short.

I am naked and ashamed, exposed in my sin and without hope for redemption by my own efforts .

In any other story, this would be the end-no hope, no second chances.

But God….

Two of the most beautiful words in the world!  

God has not left me without hope.

He has not left me in my sin.

He has not abandoned me in my desperate state of alienation from my Creator.

He Himself has provided the Sacrifice,

the Perfect Lamb,

the propitiation for my sin.  

lamb of god with crosses

 

 

Made for Relationship

I’ve always taught even very young children straight from Scripture because I believe there is no better way to introduce them to Jesus and God than by the words the Spirit breathed into the world through the pens of chosen men.

In preparation for sharing with the children of our community this week at VBS, I’ve been studying the Bible verses chosen for each day.

When I study, I look up parallel verses and use several Bible translations and some paraphrases to try to get a better grasp of everything God may be saying.  I don’t use commentaries because I find them distracting and because I am convinced that the Holy Spirit can lead me into all truth.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 14: 26 KJV

Since I’ll be busy these next five days, I thought I’d share my study notes with you.

the relationship begins

The first day’s theme is “The Relationship Begins”:  

Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that every thing was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation. And now he is the head of the body which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.

Colossians 1:15-20 PHILLIPS

Jesus is God made visible!  Selah

(Pause and think about that!)

The eternal, omnipotent God of the universe chose to clothe Himself with flesh and enter His creation as a creature.   He subjected Himself to the same forces of nature I’m subject to.  He walked like I walk, talked like I talk, was hungry, thirsty, happy, sad-just like me.

But He is also utterly unlike me.

He was before ALL things.

He MADE all things.

His power keeps all things TOGETHER.

He made me and as my Creator, He has the absolute authority to direct my path.

“Life from nothing began through Him, and life from the dead began through Him”-He is the Author of physical life and the Author of eternal life.

There is no life apart from Him.

Whether or not I acknowledge this truth doesn’t change that it IS truth.

Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

John 14:6-7 MSG

Christ’s sacrifice and His blood make it possible for me to dwell with God eternally.  He is the propitiation for sin, the payment in full for the penalty I deserve.

For that reason He is justly called, “Lord of all”.

God’s Son shines out with God’s glory, and all that God’s Son is and does marks him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honor beside the great God of heaven.

Hebrews 1:3 TLB

 

radiance-hebrews-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attitude Adjustment

This week has been challenging on multiple fronts and the challenges kept coming at the most inopportune moments.  None of the things I faced was truly awful but each wave of stress swept over me exactly when I thought my head would be above water and I could breathe easy for just a bit.

I admit that by Friday morning my attitude was pretty awful.

And I was feeling rather justified and satisfied in my bad attitude-some people had let me down, some people had lashed out against me, my hips hurt, my feet hurt and my “to do” list had lengthened every day instead of getting shorter as I worked through the items.  I was not looking forward to next week which is going to be filled with daily interaction with strangers and increased responsibility for children I don’t know.

But a conversation with my daughter (O Wise One!) helped turn that around.  

She didn’t do it by shaming me or tossing Bible verses at me or refusing to acknowledge the very real challenges, stress and pain I faced.

She did it by turning my heart and mind to the children I would have the opportunity to reach next week in our community through VBS.

She did it by reminding me of the many children she and our family have known through the years that may not need to hear the ABCs of how to receive Christ (because they have heard that before) but may need the undivided attention of a trusted adult for just five minutes out of a long summer.  

let the little children come to me

She helped me remember I love children and I love seeing their faces light up in the glow of genuine affirmation and encouragement.

She reminded me who I really am.  

Sometimes we all need an attitude adjustment and her wise words helped adjust mine.

I have a shepherd’s heart.

It’s why I go to extraordinary lengths to save a member of my flock.  It’s why I will drop everything to come to the aid of a broken heart.  It’s why there is no such thing in our house as being “too busy” when someone reaches out and needs a hug.

But for a few days I forgot that.

I had forgotten my true identity in the frenzy of trying to live up to others’ expectations and in allowing others’ remarks or actions to dictate my own.

I forgot that the only One Who matters is the One Who made me.

When I remember that I am the beloved child of a loving Father Who has promised to meet every need I have through the riches of His bounty in Christ Jesus, I am free to be the person He created me to be.

And that’s who I want to be.

Nothing-you-do-can-change-Gods-love