Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Melancholy Day

Blah.  That is what I am feeling today.  All the “little things” are going wrong; nothing monumental, just irritatingly comical.

I made my daughter a fresh fruit cup for her lunch this morning.  Diced cantaloupe, blueberries and grapes, all prepared and then placed BACK in the refrigerator for me to find mid-morning.  WHERE IS MY BRAIN?

Go to put my make up on (this is no longer an everyday occurrence around here, just sayin’) and somehow manage to squirt half of the tube all over my hand.  WHERE IS MY BRAIN?

Put a pot of water with 7 chicken breasts on to boil for tonight’s enchiladas and walk down the hall to my office to start my workday.  Fast forward a few hours to the exterminator spraying for my gazillion ants that march around the exterior of my home and me smelling something odd.  Oh that?  That’s the smell of chicken dry cooking in the bottom of a stock pot that boiled all of its water plum dry.  WHERE IS MY BRAIN?

I won’t even bore you with the other “things” on today’s list so far.  It’s only noon, people…NOON.

I want to scream “DO OVER” and crawl under one of my Tim blankets, but that’s not really an option anymore is it?

I don’t get to text my man about the hilariously frustrating antics of my morning.  

He can’t reply, “Reservations made for two at Boulevard Steakhouse for 7:00 PM, I’m your designated driver tonight, Babe.  Kids can eat cereal J.”

Instead, I still have to get my 8 hours of work in, still have to cycle the laundry, still have to clean up the mud on the floor (and my legs, and my clothes) from my parents dog (don’t ask), still have to run afternoon carpool and have dinner on the table by 6…all with not a cotton pickin’ blasted thing to look forward to at the end of my day.  No long hug from my hubby.  No shared laughter over those delectable button mushrooms I haven’t tasted in three years.  No encouragement that “we are in this together”.  It leaves me melancholy.

I am melancholy, weepy, and a tad bit angry that I can’t have the life of my dreams back. 

I decide to turn on Christian music (I am a BIG TIME music girl…love it so much.)  I read more than one devotional to bring my focus back to Christ.  Review my own upcoming article written for A Widow’s Might that will publish next Friday.  Ironically it is titled “Wholly Surrendered”.  Post a prayer request on a private page for the writers of that ministry, women who “get it” and will pray for me, text me, call me, message me with encouragement.  I cry out to God to change my heart, transform my emotions, and refocus my negative thoughts. 

This is what He whispers into the chaos of my morning:

“I love you.  Allow yourself this moment in time to just cry and grieve and be the mess that you are.  I've blessed you with a sense of humor, keep laughing.  Things could be (and have been) so much worse.  Trust Me Lori! Remember, I've got this life of yours in My capable hands.”

And with that calm voice in my soul, my perspective changes.  Oh friends, we both know things may (and most likely will) continue to be “off” today in my own little world; but that is okay.  In the words of my friend Elizabeth Dyer who wrote today’s devotional over at A Widow’s Might: 

"Is it possible to be in the Spirit while I am where I do not want to be?  Is it possible for me to be in the Spirit while my life appears to be unraveling? When my world is spinning out of my control? Is it possible?”   

Yes, it is.  Just as John was “in the Spirit” on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1), I can be in His Spirit in my silly, inconvenient (often self-imposed) messes.

Sometimes the loneliness of doing this life without a partner overwhelms me.  Grief sweeps in and swirls its ugliness all over my heart and invades my mind.  I am learning to let it come, this grief.  I keep my eyes on the One who holds me, and I teach the grief where its boundaries will be in my life.  I will not give it the power to take my focus off my God.

So that’s where you can find me today.  In His Spirit; which is right where He intends for me to be, in the fruit-in-fridge, geisha-faced, overcooked-chicken, muddy center of my life.


Monday, August 25, 2014

There is Grace Here!

She sheepishly sticks her head in my office doorway, beginning her sentence with, “I’m sorry”.  This co-worker of mine has made a mistake she knows will cause additional time for me to sort out and fix.  She isn’t the first employee to enter my office today, presenting a problem that will delay my own work’s completion, and she knows it.  She proceeds to explain what happened, asking for guidance.  I pause, smile, and reply, “It’s okay--there is grace here”.

Same exhausting day, but now at home with my 13 year old daughter.  We’re discussing some tough stuff our family is walking through.  Both of our faces sporting tear-filled eyes, I assure her that I see her through eyes of grace and ask her to extend grace to herself.  Her simple reply is enlightening.  “But Mom, you KNOW I’m not good at that.”  {sigh}  She is her mother’s daughter.

Why is it that we oftentimes hold ourselves to unrealistic standards of perfection?  What part of us clings to stubborn thoughts that we always have to do better or be better?  I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive for improvement in all areas of our lives; but maybe, just maybe, we need to live under the extension of grace we more easily offer to others than to ourselves.

Sometimes this life can be daunting.  Mistakes are bound to happen.  And that’s okay.

There is grace here!

There is enough grace to go around for everyone; including ourselves.  After all, God’s grace is what purchased our salvation.  His grace covers us.

How easily we forget this.

“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Ephesians 4:7

It is grace that brought us here, and grace will see us through!

Do you need to cut yourself a bit of slack?  Let’s examine our hearts, digging until we find what’s at the root of these unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves.

For me, it is the sin of pride.  I expect perfection from myself…always, in all ways.  Sadly, sometimes those goals of perfection are more about me feeling like I am “in control” than they are about me honoring God.  Thankfully, there is an abundance of grace for my repentant heart!

For others it may be fear.  A fear of failure or a fear of not living up to the standards others place on you.  Oh, sweet sister, there is grace!  It is okay to fail.  Get back up, dust yourself off and continue on the journey.  Don’t beat yourself up over the failures; use them as a catalyst to propel you further under the umbrella of His amazing grace.

For my daughter, she has spent her life being assured by her Daddy there will always be people better than she is and there will always be people not as good as she is.  He meant this as a life lesson in contentment; she views it as a challenge to catch up to the people who are better than she is.

I look at our girl, and I see so much of her dad and me in her competitive, driven personality.  I pray she will learn at a far earlier age than I have, that extending grace to herself unwraps a beautiful peace within.  Peace that can only be given by our heavenly Father.

Let’s find the proper balance of drive and grace in our lives.  Let’s stop being so hard on ourselves.  After all, by definition, grace is getting what we do not deserve.  When we bring our mistakes, our brokenness, and our heartaches to the foot of the cross, God says “There is grace here.”  His grace extends to us in our lowest place; it draws us up and forward.

How much more will God use our extension of grace within ourselves to transform us into His likeness?

Where are You Grace?

I am striving to be more grace-filled and some days I do a pretty good job of extending grace to both myself and those around me.

Then there are the other days.

The days when the alarm clocks fail and we are late getting out the door, kids forget things they “need” for their day, or I finish toting people to activities and arrive at my office to remember I didn’t turn the crockpot on for dinner.  The type of days where other drivers think both lanes of traffic are for their use; or ones where the grocery shopper in front of me clearly missed math class when they covered counting “ten items or less”.

And I respond with something less than grace; a loud sigh, a rolled eye, an under-the-breath exasperated comment.

You know what I’m talking about, right?  Oh, please tell me I am not alone in this!

Some weeks it seems more of these days are strung together than I would like to admit; but God is digging around in the tender soil of my heart, and He is growing grace there.  Slowly but surely, I am seeing my knee-jerk reactions soften into expressions of kindness and pliancy.

It is really something to marvel at.  How God takes our sin-filled, selfish responses and transforms us more into His likeness as we surrender ourselves to Him.  When we ask for help in changing the ugly parts of us into something that honors Him, He delights in making us new.

He extended saving grace to us.  We were not worthy of His gift.  We could do nothing to earn it; and still, He offered GRACE.  Oh sweet, amazing grace!

Just the thought of what Christ did for me, makes my attempts at justifying my ugly behavior with

“but they…”

absolutely futile.

Grace doesn’t care if we are frazzled or running late.  Grace extends love and compassion, regardless of the circumstances that surround us.  Grace is kind.  Grace shows the love of Christ to others.

God is everywhere…even at our wit's end.  He will enable us to extend grace, when we allow Him to.

Honestly, it’s kind of fun to watch people’s reactions when we give them grace instead of what the world standards say they deserve for their actions.

We are instructed in Ephesians 4:32,

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

So on those hard days, when grace isn’t the first thought that pops into my mind…I want God to quickly remind me to be generous with kindness.  If I’m going to err, let me err on the side of grace!

Father God, you are so generous to us.  Thank you for your saving grace.  You call us to be kind and compassionate.  I want to be a grace-filled woman who honors You with my words and actions.  Lord, please create in me a clean heart.  Use Your Holy Spirit to make me aware of my responses and convict me of my poor choices.  Thank you that you are everywhere, even at my wit’s end!  Amen.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My To Do List

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”
Isaiah 55:8

Being a widow was not on my list of things to do in this life. 

Raising our children together into respectful, responsible adults who make an impact for Christ…yep, that was on my list.

Growing old with my husband by my side, experiencing retirement, traveling more, and loving on grandchildren…uh huh, check, that was on my list.

Being the cute elderly couple at the restaurant on a Saturday morning, holding hands and helping each other walk…was totally on my list!

Parenting two young teenagers’ solo, being 42 without a husband, experiencing this life alone…all not on the list.

Guess what?  These are all items God knew would impact my life; every single one of them were on His list.  Want to know what else He knew that had never entered my mind?  He knew I would need other women who have walked this road to come along side of me as encouragement, educators, and prayer warriors.  He knew I would need to become a part of a ministry that would be used by Him to heal my broken heart and the brokenness of so many other women caught in the grief cycle by the loss of their husbands.

If you can’t tell, I like lists.  More than that, I really like to know what is on MY list.  God doesn't always work that way.  He doesn't necessarily let me know exactly what is coming up next in my life.  I am learning that this is okay.  My trust is deepening because of Who He has proven Himself to be to me.  He is faithful, even when we face uncertainty.  Oh how He has ingrained this truth in my soul.  His ways are better even when I doubt or fail to understand them.  I can trust in His Word which tells me that His thoughts will not be my thoughts and my ways will not be His ways.  That is where faith comes in to play.

I believe that He has THIS

this raising of children who honor Him in my home.

this ability to do life without my husband’s physical presence.

this stretching me more into His likeness.

It’s all on His list and under His control.  I believe He intends to give me a glimpse of what some of these lists entail at our conference in November.  I hope you will join us.  I’d love to hug your neck, sit beside you in the sessions and make our new “God” lists together! 

There is nothing better than having others on this road who truly know the depth of our pain; who grasp the daily struggle of sorting out our various new roles in this life without our husbands.  That is exactly what this conference will do for each of us.  It will allow us to fellowship together.  It will saturate our souls with refreshment and guidance to do this life well; and it will point us to the One who knows every single empty check-boxed item on our to-do lists and holds our future.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

small Decisions

We can't wait for the grief to stop in order to live again.  Grief is never going away, it will never cease and that has to be okay.  The world wants us to "get over" losing someone.  We won't; but we can choose to keep living and to not stall out in a victim mentality.  God will make a beautiful life out of our willing obedience. 
It takes small decisions along the way to make big changes.

Little decisions like choosing to focus on God and what He is actively doing in our lives to bring healing rather than being self-absorbed with our loss.

Little decisions like looking at the “now” we are in, instead of reliving or longing for the past over and over in our minds.

Little decisions like selecting a Scripture to meditate on for the day or week.  (We use note cards and a key ring binder to keep verses we are memorizing easily accessible.)

Little decisions like serving others.  Taking our constant focus off of ourselves and opening our eyes, ears and hearts to others around us.

Each of these examples (and there are so very many more), will propel us in the right direction of living again.

There was a line in the children's movie The Crood's that went something like this,

"That's not living, that's just trying not to die."

Hmmm....There is a difference.

I want my life to be more than just an existence or merely an effort to not die.
 I want to LIVE; to experience LIFE; to thrive in this journey God has laid out before me.  I never want to lose my laughter.

More importantly, I never want my kids to lose theirs.
 I long for them to one day look back on how we are navigating life with our grief and be able to say "God led us and we followed well".  I want them to be proud of the fact that we chose to keep living and did not lock ourselves away in the chains of sorrow.  That through God’s strength we allowed ourselves to experience the sorrow without allowing it to permanently overtake us.

Let’s face it the sorrow will always be with us.
 This loss isn't something we will ever “get over”.  Sorrow is unavoidable; but we do not have to give it the power to rule over us.  Only God holds that position of power and in Him there is joy!

So today, I am remembering to make the small decision to choose Him; to choose His joy.  I am confident that as I create the habit of continually choosing God, His joy will make big changes in the direction of my family's destination.