The Journey

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God has a plan for your life. Have you heard the song, “God has a Plan for my Life?” It’s a song from Psalty who was a character from a kids Billy Graham crusade from, I want to say the 80s but the copyright on the song says the 90s. I still know this song. In fact when I wrote the sentence God has a plan for my life I began singing it in my head. I think we might have had a cassette tape with this song on it.

But no matter the impact of Psalty, the song is true, God has a plan for my life and for your life too. The second verse of this song is actually pretty brilliant, “It won’t all be easy, but God will understand. Through all the hard times he’ll be there to hold my hand. He knows just how special I’ll turn out to be, ’cause God has a plan for little ol’ me.”

This is so true for life. No matter how hard the journey is God has plans to give you hope and future. Sometimes the journey is downright awful. Right? I have friends who have been to way too many funerals in 2018 and there are still 5 months to go. But when I mentioned this they simply said, “knowing a lot of grief means you knew a lot of love.” I was absolutely speechless, because it’s true. Even though they lost a fair number of people and grieved their loss they also knew a lot of love.

They probably aren’t singing Psalty since they are younger than me, but they believe that God has a plan for their life and the pain of grief, although present is not the end goal. The end goal is hope and a future.

Does the journey ever stop you from seeing the hope and future ahead? Do you ever get stuck in your circumstances, believing there is no hope? God is your hope. You cannot see the future but guess what, God can. His plans are not for harm but for good, for hope and a future.

Do not be discouraged no matter where you are, because God loves you, he will see you through. He will hold your hand through the hard times and see you through because he knows just how special you will turn out to be.

I pray that if you are in the journey and cannot see the hope and future that you would know that God is there, waiting to take your hand and see you through because he knows that there is something special waiting for you.

journey(Photo by Tammy Waggoner)

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I’m Back

I was doing so good for a while there and then life happened….don’t you just hate it when life interrupts what you have going on?

There I was, being diligent, working out in the morning and after work writing a devotional 3-4 days per week.

And then…poof… I disappeared.

Well, not really. Like I said life happened. I have on a regular basis some dizziness. It’s annoying but not really life altering. But then every once in a while BAM it gets really bad. To the point that I can hardly function. And that’s what happened to me.

I used all my energy to get through the day and then went home and rested hoping it would get better or go away. I had millions of tests done and in the end the dizziness is just part of Fibromyalgia. Which sucks!

I was looking for real answers, not a “This is just part of your disease,” answer. So I’ve been dealing with that. This past week the dizziness has gotten a lot better. So that’s nice.  But that’s where I’ve been, basically trying to survive my dumb body. And what I do when this happens is try to deal with it.

I believe that you have to grieve. I grieve every time some new aspect of my diseases are known or when doctors give me a new disease or affliction. I grieve who I used to be. I grieve what my body used to do. When I first got the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), I grieved that a pain-free life was gone. You have to grieve, otherwise you slip into a depression that won’t go away. I may be sad for a few days, but I’m not in my grief and sadness every single day of my life.

My favorite phrase is, “it is what it is.” Seriously, that’s how I move on with my life. I grieve for a bit and then say, “it is what it is.” There is absolutely nothing I can change about my diseases but I can change how I react to them. Some days they make me lay in bed and some days they are a blip on my radar.

Most days my RA is there but it’s not screaming at me. This past week and a half my left hip has been yelling at me. I don’t know what I did, if I did anything, but it hurts like crazy. But then this afternoon it stopped hurting. Why? I have no clue. I didn’t do anything different it just stopped hurting. That’s my body. Sometimes it hurts all over, sometimes it hurts in one or two places and sometimes it doesn’t hurt at all. It is what it is.

So you have to grieve, you have to accept it and then you have to figure out how to “get on with life.” How are you going to get on with your life? I’m going to get back to writing devotionals because it’s actually fun. It takes time, for sure but it’s also fun, to think creatively and not just about deadlines.

The take away: To get through the messy parts of life you have to grieve what once was, accept it and then figure out how to go on. God can help you with it all.

Psalm 46:1-3 NIV “God is our Refuge and our Strength, an ever-present Help in times of trouble. Therefore we will not Fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though it’s waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Colorado pic (Photo by Tammy Waggoner)

Overflow with Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 NIV

 

Think about a time in your life where you felt like all hope was gone. It could a be a horrible diagnosis, a bad grade that you never thought you could get past, it could be a marriage that is over or a relationship that has ended, it could be that you lost a parent or a sibling or a husband or a child or a grandparent or a friend, it could be any number of things. It’s a time where grief has grabbed a hold of you, where you are so focused on the things that are gone that you can’t see the good things in front of you. These are the times when we have to trust God the most. I know it’s hard. When I heard I had Rheumatoid Arthritis I thought my life had ended, I knew the carefree life I was living was gone and that was hard to deal with. Did I grieve the loss? Of course I did.

But once you grieve what once was you have to move on to what is. I’m in lots of Facebook groups where people often talk about having no hope, of not knowing how they will go on. My heart hurts for these people and I wish they knew my parents, my sisters, my brother-in-laws, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, my friends and my God.

Honestly, on a day-to-day basis God is my strength to keep me going when laying in bed would be so much easier. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.” Isn’t this the first part of grief. It’s turning towards God and saying, “Ok God, this is my new reality help me get through it.” And as you trust in him, your grief lessens, notice I didn’t say it goes away, it lessens. There are still some days when I grieve what used to be but those days are few and far between the days where I laugh my head off or enjoy time with friends. When I have a hard or painful day I pray to God asking him to make the pain less that day. I trust him to take care of me and he has. I can laugh at something truly funny because God has given me peace, because I trust in him.

“So that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I have always had great faith and I have always felt the Holy Spirit. It’s a powerful force. Imagine the biggest rush of wind you can and imagine that flowing through you as the Holy Spirit. That’s the hope that lives in all of us. And on days when I meet someone at their darkest hour it helps me overflow with hope to give to them.

Do you have something you are grieving that you need to let God into, to give you hope, joy and peace? Can you think of a time when this was true in your own life, have you thanked God for your hope?

Dear Lord, we ask that you fill us with your joy and peace as we go through rough and difficult circumstances. We ask that you fill us with your hope so that we can fill others. We thank you for your joy, peace, love, comfort and hope in the times that we need it most. Lord we thank you so much for loving us. It is in your name we pray, Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

hope

 

Grief: Annoying or Necessary

Grief is one emotion that seems to never end. It’s quite annoying….or is it?

Grief gives you a chance to weep for the loss but also remember the great times.

During my time at Seminary I lost two/three Grandmothers. Grandma Vi I lost early and I’ve gotten to the place where remembering her doesn’t lead me to tears. There are moments when I cry because she’ll miss out on some important times of my life. For instance, she never knew that I got two Masters: MDIV and Recovery Ministry (which I will receive in a few weeks, I would go to graduation but its 3 hours long and my sister is getting married :)). She also won’t be at my little sister’s wedding in a few weeks.

Grandma Summers I lost late. It’s been a year now without her and my heart aches. Just thinking about her and I’m weeping. She’ll also miss Rebecca’s wedding. It will be a joyful day but also a little sad because she won’t be there. I cannot wait until I can remember her for just a moment and not be weeping.

The third grandma I sort of lost was my Grandma Shirley. She’s gone. No matter what my aunts and uncles say she’s gone. The shell of who she was is still with us and this may be the hardest grief of all. Because I still have to look at pictures of the shell. Pictures that show that’s she not really here anymore. It’s completely sad but I cannot wait for her to be with Jesus. I cannot wait until she is free from the bonds of this world. I don’t know what will happen when she gets to heaven but my hope is that her mind will come back to her and she’ll be partying with all my grandmas and grandpas in heaven. My hope is that the real her will come back and she’ll be preparing a place for me.

My cousins lost a grandfather last week, a grandfather that was ready to be with the Lord and needed to go. But a loss nonetheless. To me Grandpa Ed (he’s not really my grandpa by blood but with Ed and Dorothy blood relation means nothing and they insisted that we call them Grandpa and Grandma) was a funny guy who passed out at inopportune times. He had narcolepsy (I think) and often had attacks when he had extreme emotions. He could be anxious or excited and then he would just pass out.

The family always handled these attacks with grace, they’d catch him and then set him down and laugh it off. As a kid I was never scared when he had these attacks, of course I was never in a car while he was driving as it happened.  Around me they happened in the safety of a home and I thought they were funny. I could see how they could be scary for others but the family made it safe.

When I told Ed and Dorothy of my desire to go to Seminary they were excited for me and Dorothy encouraged me. I was not as close to Grandpa Ed as his vast family but he always made me feel a part of his family and I grieve the loss of a loving man but I am glad he is with Jesus, sitting at his feet, soaking up the words of wisdom and earning his reward.

Grief is both annoying and necessary. It’s annoying when it hits you at inopportune times like the sleeping attacks that hit Grandpa Ed. When remembering my Grandma brings tears to my eyes no matter what I’m doing, when it brings me to my knees it’s absolutely annoying. I’d like to think of my Grandma without wetness filling my eyes. No matter if I’m remembering one of my last conversations with her, calling her a dumb-ass for wanting to go grocery shopping without her oxygen tank, which I think is funny and proves how awesome our relationship was or remembering seeing her in the casket (which I’m hoping to erase from my memory banks soon). I’d like to remember my grandmother without it feeling like I just got kicked in the gut. But that’s the necessary part of grief. Grief is necessary because the process allows you to go on, to move on, and to realize that moving on is exactly what you’re supposed to do.

Let’s move out of grief for a loved one because grief is more than just the loss of a person. Grief is a process that should happen any time you lose something. Of course the grief over a lost job should last shorter than the grief over a lost Grandmother. I’ve grieved several losses in my life. One of the most important places in my life that I had to get through loss was when I was abused. I had to grieve, years later, the loss of innocence, the loss of purity, the loss of feeling safe, the loss of childhood. Even if grief happens years later it has to happen. Since going through the process of grief in this area of my life I was able to let it go. To let go of the things that were taken from me, to let go of the things that never were.

The same could be said for the loss of a loved one. It is important to get through the process of grief and to allow it to happen at whatever pace you need so that you can get beyond it, so that you can see the joy, so that you can see the lost one as they were before you lost them.

Grief can be absolutely annoying but it is also absolutely necessary.

Light
Light

Roller Coaster of Emotions

I can’t believe that I’ve only been in Denver since Wednesday. I feel like I have been here for years.

One of the most impactful moments was seeing my grandmother’s body in the casket last night. We walked into the room and there was just the shell of the person who was there and all the denial and things I was holding on to went away.

“She really is gone” I said before weeping (loudly) on my dad’s shoulder. She really isn’t here anymore. I’m sleeping in the room that was her office and typing this blog on her computer (where she bookmarked the page) and she’s not here anymore.

She won’t be laughing, drinking scotch, making dinners and cookies, and saying “Sam Hell” any more. I know she’s in a better place and that she isn’t suffering anymore but that leaves me with little comfort. I’m sad.

I want to see her face but seeing her in that coffin really made it real. I’m glad that she provided that for us and that she made it part of the deal (she had 8 pages of instructions for her funeral and viewing because that’s just the kind of person she was).

I’m glad because it made it real. I’m glad because I could see that she wasn’t in that room. I could leave her body behind because she isn’t there anymore. All that was left was the shell.

My dad and uncle kept saying that’s not her. They kept saying that the funeral home botched the job. But really when I think about Grandma and her face I see the life she brought. I see the smile on her face and the jokes and sarcasm that dripped off her tongue. I see the hugs and the love that she freely gave. She’s not her body and when her soul left all that was left was the shell.

She’s really not here anymore. I’m sad and selfish and wish that she was and there’s tons of things I wish I had said and tons of things I wish I had done but regrets are worthless. So I choose instead to focus on the fond memories I have of summers of being with her and in the last year or so the connection that we made through email and texts. She often had encouraging words and she would say that she was proud of me. Which let’s face it is all of our goals in life: to make someone proud of us. I know other people are proud of me to but the love that we shared was special and now she’s gone and it sucks.

It’s so hard for me to get close to people and trust them and it is in times like these with great pain and suffering that I wonder if it is worth it. I mean deep down I know it is but right now I’m in pain, laying down on the floor in the fetal postion, slamming my fists on the floor, crying out to God “why,” kind of pain. And all I know is the pain.

Maybe tomorrow I will remember that getting closer to people has benefits but right now all I see and feel is the pain.

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