Helping loved ones through Grief

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I am still very much in this world…but with the passing of several dear ones lately, it occurred to me that NOW, while I am still alive, I have the ability to do at least some small things that might bring a measure of comfort to the hearts of those I love. Were I to pass suddenly, I might even be instrumental in helping them keep their sights firmly where they ought to remain. Purposefully living, while loving fully…

My Dearest: You are a Survivor.

There is surely pain in the realization, because right now, if you are reading this, you more likely feel alone, abandoned and afraid.

But be assured, my precious one: you are not.

Whatever befell me was simply my doorway into Eternity with Jesus – and you need to draw comfort from knowing with absolute certainty that I am whole, healed and happy – and rejoicing with Jesus! I Thes. 4:13-18

Believe me, I understand how you are feeling – that’s why I am writing this reminder to you – for you to find when I am gone, that it might bring you comfort in your grief.

I love you. You must know that of all the gifts from God’s good hand, that of Family has been the very dearest to me!

And so, at this low point, in this trial, I want to linger a bit with you. I wish I could stroke your hair and dry your tears…but through these words, I pray I might offer help to your hurting heart. Oh my loved one – do not despair! We have such a glorious Hope!

As I write this, my mind fills with memories of happy times, so many days bright with promise…what a marvel, really, that in a sin cursed world there can still be JOY – Isn’t that a remarkable gift from God?? Oh honey: embrace LIFE and all it has to offer! Do not be dismayed, defeated or lose hope…Satan would love to shake your faith. Surely doubt follows pain – but you must remain steadfast in your Trust. You must see the Possibilities – what man sees as tragic, senseless, futile and Final, God in His Sovereignty has already victoriously defeated. So Death, in His hand is just a tool – to build a platform from which we can proclaim His sufficiency, His sustaining Power and His comfort. The truth is that trials and hardships ought to be used (and often are!) as a wake up call to those who have wandered, or have let their faith dim… (Yes, I know I am lecturing now – permit me this small indulgence – now that I’ve passed, it will be my last J)

Where was I? Oh yes – reminding you, my treasured one, that you must make the most of the opportunity afforded you by my passing. You will have no end of those sympathizing with you – after all, such a loss of our loved ones brings out great compassion in people.

Let their affections warm your heart; do not close yourself off from the reach of Comfort. Grieving without hope is left to those who have none – but that is not US – we have Hope!

I guess that is the crux of what I want to say…and yet, while I am still afforded time, I will write a bit more, that the looping figures on these pages might themselves bring a small amount of peace to you…like an old recipe written out by a loved one – not only does the actual dish offer a remembered joy, but the familiar scrawl as well, brings a smile to the one who misses the owner’s hand.

We have shared plenty of conversations through the years for you to be grounded in the knowledge of the Gospel. You must continue the work – the task and joy of sharing the Good News with others who need yet to hear of it. It is every Believer’s obligation to carry on the proclamation of God’s salvation through the cross of Jesus…and we – you and I together – will have Eternity to rejoice and revel in His provision, love and grace.

Together…isn’t that such a lovely word? This parting of ours is temporary – only for a while – oh, what a comfort we can have knowing that Christ bore separation from His Father while on the cross, to make possible the fact that we will be together forever! Amazing!

And so, though death holds us for a brief second, and we grieve its sting, it is a temporary pain, a necessary reminder to the fact that our sin cursed world groans in agony.

Aren’t you so grateful, my dear one, that “we have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep, in the Savior’s love”?!

You’ll be humming that one for the rest of the day, I bet. J

What more can be said? I began by calling you a Survivor – for that is what you are…I like that term – it’s not necessarily ‘heroic’, though it could be. I think I like that within it is the very essence of ‘one who rises above their circumstances’. Life is full of tragedy. Uncertainty and danger lie all around us – human beings have a tendency to try to skirt all threats and snares – and understandably so…

BUT the believer in Jesus has the steadying truth that God is IN CONTROL.

Do you remember my quote, “Do not worry…God has already measured out all the days needed for you to get done whatever He has called you to do, so take time to do things well, and as unto Him.”?  Well, I thoroughly enjoyed each day measured out to me, with the pleasure and joy of walking my journey with YOU, my treasured family by my side.

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” II Tim 4:8

I love you. May you always know how deeply thankful I am to God for giving me the gift of you! I could fill pages more with a steady flow of praise for you! (In fact, be sure to read my journals, the baby books where I related many wonderful stories that you’ll want to remember and pass along – oh and my prayer journal, and the basketfuls of cards and notes and letters…I’ve left enough material for you to be reading for months. J)

I only hope that your discovery of this letter has brought you some healing, my darling… There is a delicious little thrill in my heart knowing that this awaits your discovery. I seal it with a prayer that you find great comfort in this, our final time ‘together’ on this side of Heaven’s Gate.

Know that I’ll be looking for you when your time comes ~ and we will delight together, forevermore! Now dry your tears ~ LIFE Awaits you! And it’s a wonderful Gift from our Father’s loving hand! Live it out fully, for Him and you won’t regret a moment…

All my love,

Sarah

Wife, Mom, Daughter, Sister, and Friend, but mostly,

Follower of Jesus Christ, my Savior

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Hope for the Hurting!

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Life is complex and complicated; evil flourishes, and trouble comes swiftly. The problems of today rarely resolve, but rather, they multiply, muddying the waters even further.

Thousands of mega problems crowd our daily newsfeed: what is the solution for the starvation crisis in Venezuela? What to do with the refugees fleeing war-torn countries? How to stop horrific sex trafficking, the drug epidemic, or the threat of worldwide terrorism? Is there an answer for abortion, corruption, or abuse; political disunity, bullying, or flagrant rebellion of authority in our nation? And what to do about vicious dictators of nations who misuse their power, bringing tremendous suffering on their own countrymen? Which battles to fight? Do we have some responsibility to fight for the plight of the weak and helpless, or is it all just too much? Compassion demands some sort of action, and yet… what to do?? … The endless list of twisted and tangled gargantuan issues leaves one reeling!

Sifting through all of these impossibly massive “macro level” problems, while coping at the same time with “micro level” problems – the individuals we each know who are languishing in their own personal agonies – battles with cancer, grief of familial suicide, loss, pain, disease, heartache and despair. How to walk alongside the many who are facing such overwhelming challenges?

And what about the more “minor” struggles – even for those not facing persecution, or poverty, death or disease, what to do with the heartache of errant children or loss of a job? Stress from bad relationships, or pain from the past? Disappointed hopes, dashed dreams or searching for significance?

The fact is, our entire world is groaning under the weight and curse of Sin, and there are no “simple solutions” that will automatically fix the consequences of it.

Overwhelm: to defeat completely; bury or drown beneath a huge mass.

So, is that it? Are there no answers to be found? Or is there some hope to escape the immense fallout from the depravity of sin and its devastating consequences?

Thankfully, yes!

Satan’s strategy is to leave us feeling overwhelmed, powerless and alone, but God’s solution has already been set into motion: the victory won by Jesus Christ when he sacrificed his life on the cross for All the sins of All of humanity for All time…and then rose again, victorious over death. Jesus conquered for us what we could not win for ourselves: Victory over death, and over the pull of sin on our lives. (I Corinthians 15:55-57)

Because God loves people so much, He made a way out from the bondage of sin and the hopelessness that every human being faces – Don’t believe the lie that all roads lead to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

We all like sheep have gone astray, we have turned – every one- to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

So for the person who puts their trust in the finished work of Jesus, there is a precious hope, and a peace that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:7, Isaiah 26:3) More so, we are no longer bound by sin, and sin’s curse, but can live abundant and joy filled lives, despite the pain that surrounds us, knowing that God is working all things together for good for them who love Him and are called according to His purposes. (John 10:10, Romans 8:28, Galatians 5:22-23)

Our hope lies in a future place as we await Christ’s return, sharing the truth of this Good news with others while there is still time, and using every opportunity to show the love of Jesus to a dark and hurting world. (II Timothy 4:6-8, John 9:4)

If you like me, have put your faith in the shed blood of Jesus for your sins, but still find yourself struggling with the heartache of the consequences of sin (which we won’t fully escape until Heaven), I pray you find wonderful encouragement from this poem I published in my book, Still She Speaks:

What do you think when you see the plight

Of our fellow humans who suffer the blight

Of this earth and her troubles? Of pain and distress

Of disease and poverty, anguish and death? 

 

As they wander and ponder the meaning of life,

Observe all the scandal, partake of the strife, 

They can glimpse of the beauty that lies all around

But have no understanding, no footing, no ground

  

They persist in the cycle, but long to be free.

What must they think of you and of me,

When they see that true joy can exist in this place,

Despite all the trials and chaos and waste?

 

Are we fragrant? Inviting? Attractive? Or no?

Do we carry deep sorrow, and reek of the woe

That they long to escape? I must ask this dear friend:

Does your life reflect hope for a better end? 

 

Do we bask in God’s goodness despite earthly pain?

Trust that our Savior has a perfect plan?

Keep our eyes trained on heaven where eternity dwells?

Are we offering hope while the world offers hell? 

 

This world’s pains are hard, prolonged and deep,

But for those without Christ, it’s the best they will see.

Are we sharing our faith while there is still time? 

Or getting bogged down in the muck and the grime?

 

Are we resting in Him when the storm swirls around?

Clinging to Him when our enemies hound?

Running to Him when lonely and scared?

Praying and soaking our mind in His word?

 

Storing His scriptures away in our hearts,

When the enemy comes with his fiery darts?

Do we thank Him –yes, thank Him for allowing us pain

That would tether us to Him again and again?

 

This is difficult – no- an Impossible task –

Except we have Jesus to whom we can ask

To carry our burden and fix our eyes,

So our load becomes his   ~ he’s our fortress and prize!

 

Rejoice in the gifts that his love has bought!

Oh friend – this is big – has your heart been caught? 

We have The Answer, the Hope and the Key~

Are we sharing with prisoners that they can be free? 

 

Bondage and heartache should not be the plight

For the child of Jesus who is offered delight –

Yes – delight that our troubles though hard and so deep,

Are temporary afflictions – they will not keep!

 

Our hope lies in a future place

Where pain does not live, where sorrows cease.

Where tests and tears do not abound,

Where heartache and death cannot be found. 

 

Where His will is done and perfection reigns,

Where right does rule, and joy remains!

This place does exist and it’s free to the one

Who would come to the cross and believe in the Son

Who has paid all the debt we owe for our sin –

Impossible, yes – but not for Him! 

 

He’s building a mansion – working details out –

And soon He will come back with a shout!

And take us home to be with Him there –

Can you picture it friend? Are you fixing your stare

Toward the place we’ll reside forevermore?

 

No more death, or mourning, or crying or pain!

Where glory goes on and on and on.

Rejoice in this truth! And share it with men 

Who need to hear it again and again!

 

So I ask once more time: What does your life say?

Are you trusting in Jesus, or throwing it away?

Let’s get our eyes off our troubles, and our knees on the floor –

Seek Jesus – we’ll find Him…His grace ~ and much more! 

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Being a Truth Teller

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It doesn’t always matter what you think.

Do you believe that? That there are some things not up for ‘debate’?

For example, wouldn’t it be foolish to argue against the fact of gravity? Although there may have been a time where people couldn’t explain how it works, or have an actual word to ascribe to it, nonetheless, gravity exists. Wouldn’t it sound ridiculous to hear someone say, “I don’t believe in a natural pull that causes mass to fall towards the earth, and keeps us from flying off into space”? Yes, it would. Some things are simply factual.

But what if that person were to say, “but that’s what I believe. You can’t question my opinion. It’s how I feel”? Would we rush to accommodate their belief, to try to make them feel that their “opinion” on the subject held value; or would the loving thing be to tell them the truth, “It doesn’t matter what you think about it, the fact is that gravity does exist, whether you want it to or not. You need to change your way of thinking.”

We would want to move toward that person, and share truth with them, desiring them to come to a place of understanding, wouldn’t we?

That is what our response should also be toward people who deny the existence of God, or the fact that He has a standard of righteousness, by which all who are not found in Christ will be judged. Those of us who have put our trust in Jesus stand in his righteousness, not our own.

Psalm 14:1 tells us that, “the fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’” God calls the person who refuses to accept the truth of His existence, a “fool”.

Rather than rushing to affirm them and make them feel like their ‘belief’ holds value, it ought to cause us to lovingly correct their incorrect thinking, pointing them to the truth that a loving God created them, with a glorious purpose and value. But our own sin has separated us from Him.

The rebelliousness in human hearts is called sin. The refusal to look at things God’s way: sin. Choosing corrupt life patterns: sin. Seeking to come up with alternative methods to Heaven outside of His revealed plan: sin.

What hope has anyone, to break free from the grip of sin? The only way that God provided: through the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, for us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 That is the Good News of the Gospel! God sent hope for sinners into the world – and his name is Jesus!

Are we lovingly sharing with hurting people the fact that Jesus loves them, and died for sinners, so that those who put their faith in him can escape the coming judgment of God’s wrath? Those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus must use our time well, sharing the truth with men and women who need to hear this Good News. We need to be praying that hearts will be convicted of sin, minds be opened to understand truth, and souls have their eternal destination changed.

We don’t change the standard; we ask God to change the hearts of those who don’t yet understand the truth.

Paul instructed Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Are we prepared with the message that offers life? Its a privilege to share in the ministry of the gospel that brings salvation to all who hear and are changed by it’s message… let us be about our Father’s business, and tellers of the truth, while there is still time.

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The Fruit of the Spirit in Action

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In this red-hot environment of political debate, both “sides” have fallen into pits of self-righteous indignation, having ‘clays of opinion’ that quickly harden, without allowing outside thoughts to permeate that might soften the jagged edges that have formed.

The subject matters are more numerous than there are Olympic sports; stretching from Immigration, Abortion, Taxation to National defense, Cabinet picks, Supreme Court justices and beyond. Everything’s up for battle.

The methods of dissemination vary as well: protests, arguments via volatile comment threads, op-ends, Facebook posts, Twitter jabs, late night TV skits, University rallies and, far too rarely, discussions over cups of coffee. (Best not choose Starbucks for now)

Worn and stale labels are slung like so many horseshoes, each side hoping for a ringer, while both are guilty of assumptions of understanding, without actually communicating anything fresh.

But the truth is, no one understands fully the vast majority of the problems that beset us. The issues have become far too complex and complicated; cloaked in controversiality and beyond human reasoning.

Oh sure- I can say that I stand on God’s standard when I stand against such a thing as abortion. (And frankly, I do believe that). But my friend, with equal claim to the grace of God through the blood of Christ, stands just as adamantly for the legitimacy of organizations such as Black Lives Matter, citing past wrongs that caused the formation of such a group to begin with.

Who is “right”, and who is “wrong”? And who gets to decide? And what to do with the umpteen other topics, some that intertwine like bowls of spaghetti, confusing and chaotic? On principle I believe we all have the right to our opinions on many matters if based on the framework of God’s Word. But where does that get us as far as actually persuading anyone?

Certainly I would like to think that every human being could agree that a recent example, a woman, a teacher of pre-schoolers, no less, who was recorded screaming racial epithets and demanding that “all white people give up their @!$& homes and money and give it to black people now!” would be unanimously given a thumbs down. That it wasn’t is highly disturbing, and a clear sign of our times.

The fighter in me wants to insist that “the liberals had 8 years of policies enacted that conservatives had to cope with, and it’s our turn to show them the wonderful good that conservative principles can do for all, if only given a chance.” However, that just inflames the already heated atmosphere.

The weary part of me wants to pass along non-controversial pictures of funny pets and dinner recipes, and hide away from the raging debates. But if Christians won’t engage in the public discussions, are we ceding our voice of reason, and the ability to fight against our nation’s cultural and moral decay? Passivity and apathy are avenues to usher in tragedy, as seen in plenty of world horrors where good people did nothing to fight evil.

But, I wonder if there is another option?

One that invites differing opinions to be heard in an arena of open, respectful discussion; where labels are prohibited (as well as name calling and nasty language). Where thoughts are presented, with the underlying belief that everyone participating has our nation’s best interests at heart, and that one’s allegiance to and love of Jesus Christ isn’t debated, even if perspectives might be challenged, with kindness and cordiality.

That such a board of banter and thought, diverse yet fraught with – dare I say it?: Love, could exist, gives my heart a tug of hopefulness.

Perhaps, by adding a “water” such as Love to our clay, our opinions may form more gently, giving a chance to smooth those jagged edges away with which we have been slashing at one another, preventing the cuts that wound deeply, and instead, helping one another arrive at conclusions based on truth, justice, respect and love, as well as a willingness to wait patiently and prayerfully for one another as we walk this journey of life together. In fact, evidencing the fruit of lives that are controlled by the Holy Spirit –  of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

In this age of rages and rants and rampages, imagine how much better it would be, how mutually beneficial and edifying (let alone, providing a model for our children!) to come up with a better way to conduct public discourse that is solidly built on a platform of respect, kindness and love.

Is it possible? I don’t know… but I am willing to try it and see.
I Corinthians 13:1-13

What do you think? Let’s talk – you know – between friends.

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Broken by pain, mended by God

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Her confession that came to my ears delivered a crushing blow to my gut. Unsuspected. Unforeseen. Unbearable.

I was devastated.

Where could one even go from there? Where to find any hope? Any healing? 

The beginning of that journey brought me to my knees, renewed my trust in my Savior, and caused me to cling all the more to His Truths. Journaling was cathartic. And, it turned out, became the nugget at the core of a work of fiction, borne from our pain.

Still She Speaks, my first published work, was wrought from the discovery and the journey of healing that we went through with our precious daughter. God’s faithfulness surrounded us during those dreadfully dark months; my heart wavered between lamenting, and rejoicing. Some days, grief flooded hope. Other days, hope won. Pride toppled as I learned that even Love cannot forbid entry to sin. As a parent, I had to rethink the foundations of my trust – they’d been built on a flimsy platform of thinking “that couldn’t happen to us” and “my kids are doing great”. Truth came crashing in that day. And with it, the walls of pride fell down around me.

Oh – but HE is faithful! And together, we rebuilt my understanding of what it means to be a “Good Parent”. Instruction? Yes. Love? Certainly. But more than that – more than my modeling as best I could; more than serving and helping, praying and providing… Going deeper with God was a must. Trusting in His sovereign hand became my lifeline.

As I learned what it means to cling to Jesus, our daughter was also on her journey of healing and growing, and taking ownership of her own faith. As much as I wanted to – ached to! – have my ever deepening faith grafted into her own heart, I could not. It was something she was going to have to embrace on her own, and for herself. Thankfully, she did.

My journal sat on the shelf, successful in it’s initial goal of bringing me a sense of therapeutic healing. But in my spirit, I wondered, “Does God have a greater purpose in bringing us through this heartache? What if someone else can glean some encouragement from hearing this story?”

And so began the work that eventually became Still She Speaks. Overall, it is a work of fiction; certainly I draw a few things here and there to add the personal touches that make it mine; but mostly, it’s fiction. Excepting the core, the nugget that sits nestled in the middle of the story, poignantly reminding me that for all it’s highs and lows, characters and plots, joys, tears and sorrows – really, I guess, just like the timeline of life itself… we have a Hope, that the hurting world cannot understand. And His name is Jesus.

I pray that you are blessed hearing the back story of how this book came to be; and that you find tremendous blessing in reading my book. If you do, would you take a minute to share a word of how it ministered to you? Reviews left on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com are extremely helpful and very much appreciated! Thank you!

And if you have a word to share, or a journey you’ve been on that you have seen God’s faithfulness – let’s rejoice together! Or if you’re in the middle of a season of hurt, and need prayer – please leave a comment here – it would be my privilege to lift you up in prayer. (I won’t ever publish any comments that people prefer remain private – just mention it when you post)

May you be blessed, as we walk this journey of life, together. And let’s talk- you know – between friends.

 

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Words of Wisdom

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A letter I wrote recently to my children (edited for length). I pray it is a blessing to you, as well. If you have some words of wisdom you’d like to share, I would love to hear from you! Let’s talk – you know – between friends. 🙂

My precious children ~

This world is confusing. Noisy with congestion of thought and opinions that make it hard at times to know truth from falsity. The newest revelations demand to be hailed; but ground your understanding in God’s truth, and it will guide you always.

You will make mistakes. That’s part of life. Learn from them, and they won’t have been wasted.

Water the flowers. Enjoy God’s beauty. Be wary of your own. Do not let vanity be your downfall. Do not get too caught up in pleasing yourself, but lavish on others.

Love. Like. Avoid. Never hate, unless it is directed at Sin, not Sinners. We all have need of compassion, forgiveness and second chances. Be sure to offer all.

Find comfort in knowing that God knows the truth. Always. About everything. It will free you from the urge to fix everybody and everything.

Spend time more carefully than you would gold – money can be earned, Time alone is parceled in lots that cannot be purchased.

Swift is the Unexpected – it comes rushing in… don’t fear, but make the most of what you’ve been given.

Be aware that jumping out to frighten people can come back to haunt you.

Laugh deliciously… the kind where you roll on the floor in tremendous mirth feels the very best.

Tears are not to be feared. Nor scorned. In fact, tears can release pent up emotions … allow yourself a periodic cleansing, if needed.

Don’t skimp on good sleep nor good food. They are the fuels that drive the human body.

Use wrinkle cream.

Regrets are best avoided by applying wisdom and good sense.

Having said that, don’t let past regrets dominate your present or your future. It’s a tremendous waste of time and energy. Learn and move on. God can use both good and bad to shape us, if we let Him.

Balance is best achieved by putting God first, and letting everything else fall into line behind Him.

Good dental and hygienic care will never be out of fashion. If they are, don’t you participate.

Learn to do activities you don’t think you’ll enjoy: spending time with those you love is worth sacrificing your own pleasures. And who knows? You may discover a new interest.

Take up a new hobby periodically… the world is spilling over with a magnificent array of activities to enjoy, and you will be a more interesting person.

Appreciate diversity. God in His glorious splendor made people unique… we all bring a fresh perspective.

Listen with a heart that aims to please God and love people.

Discussion is best done by listening well, then speaking if you have something worthwhile to add.

If you’re not sure if you should say something, go with that impulse. It’s easier to stay silent than to take back a hasty word.

Read good books. Enrich your mind.

Kindness is never wrong.

Don’t worry… it does no good and robs you of joy.

Live cleanly, but partake in small indulgences – denying all delights will not help you embrace the understanding of God’s lavishness. He made the cocoa bean just as He made broccoli.

Do a thorough clean out periodically- just give stuff away. It blesses others and releases you from the burden of having to care for so much.

Gain wisdom from God’s Word. Gain empathy from observing those hurting around you. If you are able to, alleviate the suffering of others. But recognize that God has His purposes in allowing pain in life, as well. His Sovereignty should be our comfort.

Be charitable, hospitable, loving and loyal.

Walk humbly.

Develop a few skills that you can quickly employ to bless others – a meal, a dessert, a Bible verse memorized, a stash of cards to mail- think and plan ahead.

Trust is a precious gift: do not trample any given to you.

Never be too rushed to see the beauty around you. Loveliness in all its forms come from God’s good hand. Let His poetry speak to your heart and the richness of His beautiful creation dazzle your soul.

Never be afraid to sing out loud and let your voice mingle with that of the angels.

Cultivate a myriad of interests that express your uniqueness and you will never be bored.

Keep an eye out for the lonely.

Simple action is better than eloquent emptiness.

Kindness to animals is a must.

Never harm others on purpose.

Live purposefully. Set goals. Aim for some things and don’t let naysayers deny you your dreams.

Embrace whimsy. It is a light hearted innocence that can turn dreary days into delight.

A sincere apology is quickly done. Asking forgiveness is the best way to discover if your apology was accepted.

Look people in the eye when you speak to them, but do not stare at those who are different from you.

Learn to see people’s hearts from their actions, before you judge based on their outside.

When you fail, do not quit. Attempting and failing is part of the human experience, and it brings more of a thrill to finally Succeeding.

Ask God’s guidance before you rise, for His mercy and loving kindness. Spend time daily with Him and marvel in the awesome fact that The Almighty wishes to have a relationship with us!

Wipe your feet at the door and save yourself unnecessary work.

Only find shortcuts that don’t jeopardize quality. Remember – Excellence in all you do- do not hasten. Don’t worry, God has already measured out all the days needed for you to get done whatever He’s called you to do, so take time to do things well and as unto Him.

Remember back to those who have helped you and acknowledge with affection all who walk alongside you. Take time to say Thank You. We are all on the journey- be patient.

Learn a few good jokes that can be pulled out as needed.

Make your bed each day. It will get you started in the right direction.

There is a difference in Being and Becoming. Being is how one is; becoming allows for growth and change… Be someone who is Becoming more like Jesus.

Use the time you’ve been given to share with others — if you’ve found something that brings a smile, or relief, hope or help, a joy or a sweet encouragement – share it. Keeping something for oneself alone can never bring the soul satisfaction that God designed that sharing can.

My final hope is this: knowing how much I love you and treasure the gift that parenting each of you has been, will you show me this last kindness and forget anything I may have said or done, that didn’t line up with these words here? My prayer is that you would see my heart for you, and forgive my foibles and shortcomings, remembering only the deep love I have for you, and that in your mind, you might preserve just the good, and with a gentle puff of breath, blow away any hurts that may linger from past foolishness on my part. Know this – I love you. I say to you now, if I could go back and do it all again, I would, with a hearty “Amen!”, and with great delight for such a chance as to relive this life with you, my precious ones.

Keep your chin up and your eyes fixed on Jesus, do not forget what you’ve been entrusted with – a heritage that points to Jesus as our only hope and Savior. Do not squander what you’ve been given. And remember this: we will glory in heaven together forever.
All my love to each of you– Mom

For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face. Psalm 11:7

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True Christmas Joy by Sarah Depledge

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“Come along, my son- hurry along, my son,

Try to keep up with me.

We have a shop or two we’ll pop into,

Then Santa we’ll go see.”

 

He toddled right beside her,

Just above her knee,

He clutched onto her finger

And stared wide-eyed with glee.

 

Meager clothing labeled him

As a needy boy;

He was unaware of this,

And watched the world with joy.

 

She bagged some orange carrots

And bartered with the grocer,

“This pepper has a squishy spot-

Might you, please, take less, sir?”

 

They wove through mobs of shoppers,

And looked up at the tree,

Strings of lights and ribbons

Cascaded merrily.

 

Every branch bore ornaments,

Amid bright, sparkling lights,

The little boy stared wonderingly

As he beheld the sights.

 

He sat on Santa’s lap and shared

That he had just turned three,

Excited for the lollipop-

“Look what he gave me!”

 

His mother smiled as Santa said,

“You be both kind and good.”

He nodded and he promised:

He would do just as he should.

 

They walked on home and put the bag

Of vegetables away,

She started making supper,

While he began to play.

 

He made a lovely picture,

Drawn by his own hand.

She smiled and tied it on their tree,

With string to a bare strand.

 

“But Mama, it is all we have

Hanging on our tree.

The one we saw was jammed with things –

And it was so pretty.”

 

He pointed with his finger,

“That only fills an empty spot.”

She pulled him close and kissed him,

“With love we don’t need a lot.”

 

“Christmas belongs to everyone

Whether rich or poor;

It’s not about a tree, or things

You purchase at a store.

 

Christmas celebrates Jesus’ birth

And the gift He brought,

When He paid for all our sins,

And became the gift, for us.”

 

He climbed into his rickety chair,

Folded his hands and prayed,

“Thank you, God, for our food,

And for this day You made.”

 

They ate their simple meal.

Worriedly she said,

“I wish I had more to give you –

Some meat, perhaps some bread.”

 

“I’m fine, Mama, really.

May I get down and play?”

“Indeed”, she said and kissed his head,

Blessed by his sweet way.

 

After a bit, she told him,

My son, it’s time to sleep.”

He yawned and gave her a big hug,

And crawled under the sheet.

 

She tucked the fabric round him

Trying to keep out the cold,

“I wish you had a blanket-

This sheet’s so worn and old.”

 

Assuring her, he touched her hand,

“I’m fine, Mama- toasty hot…

Besides, it’s like you said-

With love, we don’t need a lot.”

 

A tear fell down her cheek

That she quickly brushed away.

She laid beside her little boy,

And she began to pray,

 

“Dear God, I want to thank You,

For your many gifts to me.

For food to eat- even for this sheet-

And your gift on Calvary.”

 

The years passed swiftly, hard and lean,

All with little ease.

He grew up and she grew old,

A victim of disease.

 

Over time the difficult

Hardship took its toll;

She watched sadly as his joy,

The thief called Anger, stole.

 

She grew weak and he grew cold,

And deeper in despair.

In his temper at her fate,

He raged, “It is not fair!”

 

But her lips would only praise,

Despite her need and pain,

“Son, God has been so good to me,

Why should I complain?”

 

“Good?” he snarled, “Good, you say?

How can you believe?

We went without- I have my doubt

If God cares that we grieve.

 

The hardships of this world are cruel-

You suffer needlessly.

You may choose to trust in God-

I don’t – just let me be.”

 

In protest and in pleading,

She tried to help him see,

“My son, don’t grieve this life I leave –

Put a smile on your face for me.”

 

“Remember the truth you learned from youth

Of all that I have taught –

If we trust in Jesus’ gift of love

We really don’t need a lot.”

 

He could not give this joy to her

For destruction in his heart,

Had deepened over several years…

Soon, this life she did depart.

 

Alone and angry with the world,

The loss of her he felt.

Fed by his bitter, lonely lot,

His anger would not melt.

 

He employed every moment

Into money making schemes;

Clever thoughts and constant work

Turned reality from dreams.

 

Though rich with wealth, and good in health,

He enjoyed not his new treasure:

He harbored anger from his past

And rarely enjoyed pleasure.

 

Stiff and stingy, mean and hard

He cared not for another.

Lonely, dark and brooding,

He thought not about his mother.

 

One day he was walking home,

His usual, surly way

When he heard a little boy

To his mother say,

 

“Oh, Mama, please don’t worry-

My tummy is full enough-

I love you, and it’s like you say,

‘With Jesus, we don’t need ‘stuff.'”

 

The man gasped as he remembered,

Words from long before,

That expressed his faith in Jesus,

Despite pain at his door.

 

He glimpsed the boy whose simple trust

Pierced through his bitter haze:

Love shone like a beacon

From the mother’s smiling gaze.

 

Crippled and in clear need,

The pair stood close together,

Hands clasped in prayerful trust

A sweet boy and his mother.

 

Much in need of earthly things,

But Faith their biggest treasure;

The man’s convicted heart

Warmed a noticeable measure.

 

Contrite, he felt a tear

Coursing down his face;

How had he let all his hurt

Let all his joy, erase?

 

Hadn’t his mother’s example been

To trust in God above?

Despite the heartaches of this world,

To have faith in Jesus’s love?

 

New softness shone upon his face,

A smile replaced his frown

He almost became giddy,

Touched by the hope he’d found.

 

He dug into his pockets,

Gave them all that he had there,

“Thank you, sir! May God be praised!

And bless you for your care!”

 

He danced a little step,

His eyes – they twinkled brightly,

He tipped his hat, light-hearted,

And walked the street more sprightly.

 

Freed from hate’s dark bondage,

He raised his voice in praise,

“I’d forgotten what joy feels like!”

He marveled, in a daze.

 

He greeted those around him,

Gave to all with generous heart;

Lightened from his burden:

He’d been granted a fresh start.

 

A few nights later on Christmas Eve,

He was kneeling near her grave.

“Mother, thank you for the life you led,

And for the love you gave.”

 

The tears that fell upon the stone

Bearing record of her name,

Were softened by his gentle cry,

And his heartfelt shame.

 

“It took a while for me to learn

What you tried to teach,

This life is hard, but we have hope,

That’s far beyond death’s reach.

 

I wish it hadn’t taken me

So long to embrace the truth;

I came tonight to thank you,

For teaching me from youth.

 

You were right – it is true

Now Jesus is my Savior.

I trust in him alone,

And rejoice in his favor.

 

Know some day I’ll join you and

Be blessed, oh, Mother, dear,

For I have learned to trust in God

Now, death I do not fear.

 

Late I come, with this last hope –

That somehow you may see,

The smile on my face you wished,

But I would not grant thee.”

 

Like windows into Heaven,

Stars were twinkling in the night,

And he imagined she gazed down

At him with great delight.

 

He left there with a firmer step,

And comfort on his part.

For he was sure his mother knew

That Love had pierced his heart.

 

He thought back to the words of Christ

He’d heard from long ago,

Wishing he hadn’t forgotten

Or time had wasted so:

 

“Peace I leave you, peace on Earth;

Not like the world can give-

Let all who come to Me have rest,

And all who come, will Live.”

 

So, this Christmas season,

May Joy be in your heart,

For we have hope beyond the grave,

Through Christ, a brand-new start!

 

~ sarah depledge

 

 

 

 

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Roots of Bitterness

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I listened carefully and with sympathy to the woman who shared her story of pain. There was room for legitimate grief in what she had experienced. But the thing I began to hear the most was the thread of bitterness woven through her narrative. Years earlier she had been neglected, abused, misused, and unfairly treated. She had suffered at the hand of someone she had trusted. And she blamed God.

As I sat there, a phrase jumped into my mind that my dear Mom used to use with us girls: Mental Attitude Sin. I remember if one of us shared a woeful tale of some hurtful situation, she would listen and let us unburden ourselves; but it stopped there. “That was a painful thing you endured. But now you need to let it go and not let it develop into a sinful mental attitude on your part, honey.” Boy those were painful lessons.

There were times I felt like she didn’t understand. Couldn’t I soak just a little in the luxury of harboring anger toward the one who had wronged me? Nope – not with our Mom. She would remind us that self-pity parties were dangerous events to host, because they appeal to our fleshly desire to wallow instead of heal, to let it fester instead of forgive, and can build a thick wall that hardens us to the truth of how to become truly FREE.

All these years later, I am very thankful for her Godly wisdom. So many people are trapped by the stranglehold of bitterness. Yes, there are hard and painful circumstances that are wrong, cruel and sinful; but life isn’t always easy, and God expects us to come running to Him with our burdens and hurts, not to nurse them into reasons to become angry.

When we allow the pain to fester, we are hurting ourselves most. The definition of the word fester is: to rot, mold, decay, putrefy, rankle, smolder, gnaw away, spoil, deteriorate. Is that really something we want taking root in our hearts and minds??

Hebrews 12:15 tells us, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Roots are underground, out of sight, but left undisturbed, they grow and the “fruit” becomes evident. The fruit of the root of bitterness is resentment, heartache and left unchecked, hardness of heart.

So what is the solution? What should our response be to difficulty in life?

Hebrews 12:7-11, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Oh my dear sister, isn’t that wonderful news to hear?! I rejoice in the truth that God has designed even the hard things of life to become tools for good in His masterful hand!

If we willingly submit, even to painful circumstances, asking God to help us, and keep us soft and pliant for His glory, He will help us to endure – and bring us to the place where the “fruit” of righteousness and peace are produced in our lives. That gives me such hope.

This life is short – for the follower of Jesus, we have the hope of better things to come! Are we using the time we have here on Earth to forgive and release people from their sins against us, and to build a healthy and reverent submission to God? Or, are we working on making our root of bitterness stronger by staying out of God’s word and resisting His gentle prompting to come to Him to experience His healing comfort?

It’s a choice each person must decide for themselves.

What is your choice? Let’s talk – you know – between friends.

 

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The Power of Words

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Caught off guard? Absolutely. Left speechless? Completely.

A group of women I regularly gather with to pray, surprised me with making one of our gatherings incredibly special – For ME. I was in on the idea of making one of our weeks a bit more special by each bringing a dish to pass and meeting at one of our ladies’ lovely home. However, I was not informed of the actual purpose of this meeting – to celebrate the recent launch of my first published book, Still She Speaks. Talk about blown away.

These precious women ministered to me in such a profound way, and I am fairly sure they didn’t even know it.

Last to arrive, I hastily assembled the veggie pizza I had brought to contribute. Feeling bedraggled, I was slow to notice a couple of copies of my book on the counter, like a centerpiece arranged amongst the delicious foods. Then, gathered in a circle, their words of love poured over me, as each one shared something they thought of when they thought of me. Then they prayed a beautiful prayer over me, that ministered to my very soul.

For those of you who have read this blog for a while and know me at all, you won’t be surprised to hear that  the whole experience did me in. Tears flowed, and only by exercising great control was I able to keep it to a trickle rather than a torrent.

I just sat under the flood of their words of praise and felt so completely undone. Because anything that I am, is only because of the work of Jesus Christ in my life. He gets ALL of the praise. He gets ALL of the glory. Without Him, I am nothing. With Him, He gives me the unbelievable privilege of sharing in the joy that comes from living a life rooted in Him.

Ephesians tells us, “But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved…and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (2:4,5,8-10)

Oh my dear sister, isn’t that incredible? I marvel that God chooses to not only lavish on us all grace and wisdom and strength, when we are all so undeserving; but then He also allows us to share in the blessing of ministry, using the very gifts He gave us?! It’s simply Amazing! And I tell you – It’s ALL Him!

So those dear ladies, sharing such priceless words of affirmation with me, were only identifying what they see in me because of Christ at work in me. And it was powerful.

It reminds me that I need to be more purposeful in telling those around me what a blessing they are to me.

What an awesome gift to give someone – the gift of letting people know that we can see Christ at work in their lives, and are blessed by them. 

How might your encouragement spur on the hearer in your midst? Could it cause them to feel revived and ready to press on? Re-invigorated to love with Christ’s love? Strengthened to continue on in a difficult relationship or a hard trial? We may never know until Eternity the power of our words; but we can be sure that God wants us to use them well.

The writer of Hebrews says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

In that kitchen, basking in the glow of friendship and celebration over God’s goodness and lavish love, my friends took the opportunity to ‘spur me on’.

What about you? Do you have a time when you were encouraged that God was using you to bless others? Is there someone in your life you feel prompted to share with, to let them know that you have been ministered to through them? Why not do it Today, and see the truth of Proverbs 25:11 at work…

Let’s talk…you know – between friends.

 

 

 

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Forgiven

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Once in awhile, I find myself saying things that dismay me. It shouldn’t be that hard – after all, I am the gatekeeper to my own mouth, right? So how can any words sneak past my lips, that I flinch about too late?

Recently I had that experience – the words were barely off my tongue when I was already regretting them – but, they were too late to take back, and no handy excuse could possibly explain my plain-out rudeness…and it troubled me. In fact, not only did the conviction of my ungracious words haunt me for the rest of the day, they prevented me from sleeping soundly that night.  The next morning, I knew I needed to “make things right” before I did anything else.

I composed an email to the people I had carelessly offended, and did not try to hide behind any excuses because, well, there simply weren’t any. I confessed my rude behavior and told them I was so sorry, humbly asking their forgiveness.  And the guilt started to lift.

I eagerly checked my inbox for their response, praying they would offer me the grace I didn’t deserve, but so desperately needed. When their reply came, it was exactly what a Christ-follower’s words should be: Kind and seasoned with gentleness and compassion. Tremendous relief flooded my heart!

Forgiven! Is there any greater word in the English language than that? It is what God offers all of us sinners who repent and confess our sin to Him, embracing the gift of Jesus for our forgiveness and salvation.

It is what we need to extend to one another when we offend one another. And it gives a palpable relief when it is offered and accepted.

We are reminded in Ephesians 4:1-3, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” and 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

I am so thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit; He guides me, convicting me of my ugly sin when necessary, and helping me do the things I know I ought to do… and what a wonderful feeling when we obey His gentle prodding in our hearts! Freedom from guilt and worry, and freedom to carry on in our calling to follow Jesus, not perfectly, but growingly.

Is there anyone in your life that you need to ask forgiveness from? It is a wonderful feeling when we confess our offenses, seeking forgiveness from those we have hurt. Has someone hurt you and asked your forgiveness and perhaps you’ve resisted offering it, preferring instead to hold them hostage to the guilt they carry? God asks us to forgive as we have been forgiven – freely, quickly, and in all things.

This life isn’t always easy. There are many blocks to stumble over; but God has made a way for us to get back on the right path, following Him. That is where Victory is. Let’s spur one another on to love and forgiveness. And let’s talk…you know – between friends.

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