Sunday, August 20, 2017

Part Two

Why "Part Two"? Because this is the rest of the story...written in response to a request to share how God has chosen to use my journey to help others.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. 
When they are troubled, we will be able to give them 
the same comfort God has given us.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Is there a purpose to my pain? Is there a point to all this struggle?

I asked myself those questions time and time again as I watched my husband suffer and slowly, yet far too quickly, decline. And God answered time and time again by opening little windows into what He was doing with our story. He allowed us the blessing of seeing lives affected positively and even changed by Michael’s story and testimony.

And it helped. It gave us courage. It gave us a reason for our situation. And having a reason somehow made it all a bit more bearable. We knew these windows into God’s plan were a blessing. And we knew that not everyone gets that blessing.

Is there a purpose to my pain? Is there a point to all this struggle?

I asked myself those questions time and time again as I faced the demon of depression, experienced panic attacks, and felt very, very, very alone when facing some serious and extremely difficult situations. Relationships were fractured, hearts were hurt, and hope was nowhere in sight.

And…at the time, I couldn’t find a good answer. It seemed…unfair. Was God only going to use parts of our story to help others? Was this pain all for nothing? If it came about just to teach ME something, why couldn’t God just make it plain so that I could learn the lesson, move on, and stop having to deal with all of this trauma!

Is there a purpose to my pain? Is there a point to all this struggle?

I asked myself those questions time and time again as I endured the grief of losing my very best friend. I asked when I cried myself to sleep night after night. I asked when I faced decisions I felt unprepared and unqualified to make. I asked when grief-induced depression rendered me helpless and useless for anything and to anyone.

And, slowly…slowly, but surely, God began showing me here and there, in little bite-sized pieces, that…yes. There was a purpose. There was a point. There was a reason.

In some ways, this journey has just begun. This story is just starting to unfold.
But here is what I know now.

My God held me as I endured my pain!
My God comforted me in my darkest, most lonely moments!
My God never left my side for even one second as I lived through my worst nightmares!
My God has fulfilled every promise He has made to care for me!

My God now asks that I share what I’ve learned with others.
And He is gently teaching me how this works!
He is teaching me there is no need to resent my pain.

You see, my pain allows me to see one face in a crowded room as it crumples in response to some inner pain. It moves me to head straight for that person and offer a hug and a few words to show my concern.

My pain means I’m not afraid of the hard questions people ask me as they work through their own challenges. It means I can truly hear them and validate their emotions, keeping them from feeling so alone.

My pain has opened doors for me to reach out to so many people, from all walks of life. An atheist mom friend asked me how I could deal with the pain of losing my husband…and I got to talk to her about God’s grace for over an hour. A receptionist at a doctor’s office has asked me for marriage and parenting advice several times. I express comfort to other struggling widows who share their needs in a Facebook group and I swap coping and survival techniques with some widow friends who also homeschool. I walked alongside a dear friend via texts until she entered her darkest challenge yet and I could no longer support her in that way. Moms ask me for help dealing with the tough stuff of raising kids, cancer patients feel free to share their fear and anxiety with me, caretakers share their struggles and discouragements with me, college kids ask for advice and share their heartaches, women share their emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, and even marital challenges, and the list goes on.

I text, email, and use FB messenger to listen to, encourage, empathize with, and counsel hurting people. I’ve taken phone calls and listened as a young person shared his suicidal thoughts and his struggles facing his own pain.

People seem to know they can unload on me. I’m glad.

I write about my crazy emotions on my blog, and something about that resonates with people. Sometimes they even tell me it is helpful to them as they climb their own mountains.

I cry for people. I cry with people. I pray for people. I pray with people.

This somewhat scattered ministry has led to an official, although volunteer, position with an organization called Crisis Family Care. The director, Butch Heath, does personal and couples counseling, phone or in person; he teaches seminars and does marriage intensives, etc. all working toward rebuilding families and marriages and lives wherever his help is needed! He asked me to join his team answering email inquiries for help from locations outside the U.S. So I have been communicating with people in locations from Africa to Canada, offering encouragement, prayer, resources, and some basic Bible based insight into their situations.

This is new ground for me. This is sometimes uncomfortably new and scary. But – If I truly believe God, then I also must believe that this…this ministry is part of the purpose for my pain. My heart has been changed dramatically because of my pain. My mission for this season of my life seems to be being available to hear and respond to the pain of other people. That might mean chatting with someone until 3 AM. That might mean setting household chores aside to text or talk for a while. That might mean dropping everything to pray with someone right before they face a challenge.

I pray often that God will use my words, written or spoken, to be an encouragement and help to someone else and lead them toward finding hope and healing in our great God.

And in some ways, at some points, it seems He is answering that prayer.

For the Kingdom,

Friday, August 18, 2017

...who fights this battle?

What is going on?
I don’t understand this, God.
I thought I had moved past being so strongly affected by circumstances around me.

I guess not.

I thought I had reached a point where I could reach out and comfort and help families who had lost loved ones or faced difficult situations. I thought maybe I’d now know what to say, how to comfort others as I have been comforted. I thought maybe I’d be better at seeing what needs are present and how to go about helping to meet those needs.

I guess not.

Because I’m over here huddled in the proverbial corner, unsure of how to help anyone around me who is hurting right now. I’m feeling their pain, yet I’m unsure of how to step in to aid them in carrying their heavy loads. I’m understanding there is a need, yet I’m unsure of how to go about meeting it.

I’m longing to reach out,
to bring encouragement,
to ease troubled minds,
to cheer sagging spirits,
to comfort grieving hearts,

What is WRONG with me??
I’m supposed to have “moved on” by now.
I’m supposed to have this all figured out by now.
I’m supposed to be in full swing ministry mode by now.

And sometimes, yeah. Sometimes, I CAN reach out.
But sometimes, I just…still…can’t.

This must be one of those times.
No, it’s not just an excuse.
It’s my reality.

It often happens that molehills for some people are mountains to me since I’m endeavoring to conquer them basically alone. It also often happens that at the same time I am over here trying to devise a strategy for smashing said mountain/molehill, several events occur in which other people important to me could benefit from my encouragement and help.

Yet I feel helpless.
I KNOW these crises situations are NOT about me and my needs.
I don’t WANT them to be about me.

This is when I find myself depending heavily on my Father’s resources once again.
This is when I find myself digging way down, searching for any self-discipline that might still be there.
This is when I find myself needing extra grace – grace extended when others don’t understand, and grace for myself when I feel I’ve failed someone once again.

None of this is new.
It has happened many times.
It’s just that…now I’m finding it harder to be okay with it happening.

I’m not sure ANY of this even makes any sense to anyone else.
It’s okay.
It doesn’t have to.
This is MY journey, after all.
No one else has to live it.
Or answer for it.

Just…please don’t judge it.
Because I am doing my best to hear God’s voice and follow His gentle leading.
Because I am doing my best to give regularly to others – through encouragement, comfort, time - understanding, sharing, listening…
Because I am doing my best to be all God has called me to be in this moment.

And sometimes I find I can’t go one step farther on my own.
And I must wait until God steps in and fills me back up, renewing my spirit before venturing out into that world of hurting people once again.

I will make it back out there. I will.

But for this moment, I might just be hiding a tiny bit longer.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

...feeling this way?

Sometimes my heart hurts in ways difficult to express. 
The sting becomes central to my focus when new challenges present themselves - challenges that I have and still do fear. 

This week has presented me with some of these challenges. 

To some of you, what challenged me this week would seem...almost laughable. 
Maybe because you've already faced that one over there and defeated it soundly. 
Maybe because one of the others never frightened you in the first place. 
Maybe because you didn't have to face any of those challenges alone. 

But they were fear-filled for me. In ways I cannot or do not have to explain to anyone else. 

I was very afraid. 
I am still somewhat uncertain. 
I'm not sure I know myself all of the reasons why. 

But here is what I DO know. 
  • I survived. 
  • My kids are okay. 
  • My fear might have taken control for a time, but it didn't win. 
  • I think my prayer for wisdom was granted. 
  • I hate facing these things alone. 
  • Fear makes me feel more alone than I am. 
  • Fear makes me feel inadequate and stupid. 
  • Fear makes me want to hide. 
  • The Bible says, "Perfect love casteth out fear." 

Maybe something is wrong with me. 
Because fear still happens. 
This week, I prayed, and still the fear encircled me...rumbling...stalking...

By God's grace, I was able to push through it and do what I needed to do.
I do believe God was with me the whole time and 
          paved the way for me even though I might not see it yet. 

I don't like adulting alone. Not. One. Bit. 
But. Life has to be...lived. 
And somehow, in spite of all the fear, guilt, weakness, and loneliness that sometimes     
         haunts me, life...still moves forward. 
Sometimes it just shoves me out of the way, trampling me into the dust. 
Sometimes it lures me to its adventurous side. 
Sometimes it goes on hand in hand with everyone else - leaving me behind, 
         unsure of how to join them. 

Sometimes I can feel God close by...whispering in my ear, leading me along life's path. 
Sometimes He feels so far away...but...He says He doesn't move...

Sometimes I long for something different...
Sometimes I don't want a single thing to change. 

Sometimes the challenges present me with opportunities for growth and I welcome them. 
Sometimes the challenges beat me down with reasons I am incapable of fulfilling this role     
         and I resent them.
Sometimes the challenges bully me with fear and I do all I can to avoid them. 

And often - oh, so very often - I miss the one with whom I was meant to share 
        all of these highs and lows; the one who - in another "life" - pulled me through and   
        cheered me on to victory.

When will the hurt ever end? 
Should it ever end? 
Maybe that's a question for another day.

Maybe for this day, I will endeavor to train my thoughts 
         toward being grateful. 
Grateful for the blessing of God's grace and His faithfulness to bring us through even the worst of moments to find joy on the other side. 

And maybe the fear will finally go away.