Every year around this time when the leaves start to fall, I start reflecting on the years that have gone by. I am in awe of the journey that I am on. I thank God that I found him when I did. I wonder how I ever made it through without him for almost 26 years!
My journey has had many rocks, valleys, and mountains to climb. Hey, I am still here, I have had amazing moments however, it has not been all sunshine either. There is a saying that I love it says, you can’t have a rainbow without both rain and sunshine.
As I reflect every year, I go through memories that sometimes I would rather not have. Specific details that I will not share here as they are packed in a suitcase and are being handled by God. We can just say I have been broken, abused, chewed up and spit out. Why? Well because I needed to go through all of that so I could hear and listen to God calling me to him and so that Jesus could fill me with the Holy Spirit. I needed to be empty before I could be filled.
Am I not 100% of who I want to be, or even who God wants me to be? NOPE! However, God loves me no matter what. He loved me when I was broken, abused, chewed up and spit out. And he loves me now, forever determined to be transparent and obedient.
Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. 2 Corinthians 1:12 NIV
Some reading this might know that I live in chronic pain, and battle depression and anxiety. I have done so since I was 15 years old. God loves me no matter what. Does God want me to have chronic pain, depression, or anxiety and been battling for over 20 plus years? No! Can he heal me? YES and praise Jesus he has. Am I 100 % healed? Not yet!
From the moment I said YES to him, he started healing me. I felt it. I know that he could heal 100% at any time. However, God gives us valleys and rain. Like flowers need rain to grow. I have so many God stories of healing. Every day I am being healed because I said YES to his knock, and call.
Some people in this world feel that when you accept Jesus that everything becomes perfect. I found that it really is the same for a while. I accepted Christ on 10-24-2001 and on 10-25-01, I pretty much felt the same but different. My friend and Mentor Anita told me to share my story with anyone and everyone. Well that was weird, but I did it and the more I did it got easier. I also was more passionate. It’s been 15 years now and I love sharing my stories. Is it easy? Not always. Sometimes I feel like it pushes people away because they think oh she just wants attention. But I know God is using my life, my stories of his work. Because by sharing my God stories of healing and even the ones of extreme pain, I can look back and see where he has put the puzzle pieces of life together. Some of the pain, I still do not understand but I trust and have faith that he is constantly working.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all of your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
Overcoming Pain both mental and physical is and will be a life long journey for me. But now I have hope. Before I knew of Jesus Christ, I was lost, I had really no hope. I couldn’t even imagine a life full of hope. Even through years of counseling, using street and prescription drugs to mask the symptoms. I never was happy or had Joy. Now with just knowing God, I have peace and hope.
Why me? Why pain? Why Physical and emotional abuse? Why? Well, because I can testify. I can share my stories so that others will know that they are not alone. Is it easy? NOPE! However did God have it easy? He sent is only son to die a painful death on the cross for me and you. For us. WOW, I am not worthy.
Life truly sucks sometimes. I often feeling alone, like no one truly loves you or that I am loved from a distance because I feel people don’t really understand. I am afraid to get close to anyone or schedule things because I might have to cancel. Ever felt this way. Well these are lies! I, and you are loved, we are not alone, and with God all things are possible.
For with God nothing shall be impossible. Luke 1:37
Some techniques, I use when I am feeling Satan’s lies.
Finding the positive in every situation.
The feelings of being loved from a distance. Positive- I am loved.
My health it’s not the greatest. Positive- I am still walking, serving, and living.
Searching the bible- Often when I am feeling a certain way, I will do a google search. What does the bible say about...? This returns many verses that give me hope
My most favorite technique is prayer. Prayer gives me purpose. I pray a lot. There is no wrong way to pray. I pray for others by writing there name down and then anything and everything about them.
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. “Isiah 12:2 NIV
This verse changed my journey and walk with Christ. After moving from the only home I knew in Vancouver, Washington to come to Kansas to be with family and start over. God placed me to serve with the Youth. I asked God are you sure? I can’t handle my own teen how am I going to minister and disciple other people teens. My friend, Pastor Mallori Seamon, brought this verse to me, while I was going through a trial with my oldest son. This verse consistently reminds me to trust God, to be still, and that I am not God, I are not perfect and God is my strength. God has used my trials to help me disciple not only youth but everyone I meet. God uses the good and bad in life to share his amazing news.
My Pastor, Sam Barber preached a while back on taking the next right step reminds me of taking one day at a time. We often hear from fellow Christians and the bible remind us.
Therefore, not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
I feel that as long as I continue to lean not on my own understanding but God’s will, that I will continue to grow in him. I feel God calling me to be like him, to be transparent, obedient, and to be who he created me to be in his image “to be myself”, and to not give up and to keep making those next right steps and giving Him the glory for all things. With that I will remain forever determined to overcome any trial that comes my way.
We spent the weekend doing all things Christmas. We decorated the tree. Okay. Really we decorated two trees. We listened to hours of Christmas songs. The girls had hot chocolate and watched a Christmas movie. We wrapped presents and practiced our piano recital duet. We made Christmas crafts. We went to church and then to our eldest's school choir performance. Goodness. We packed an entire month's activities into two Christmas filled days. Honestly, I spent most of the weekend with a joy filled heart and a lump in my throat. Memories of last year's painful Christmas and the loss of my beloved mother-in-law kept threatening to spill over into the fun.
Ever notice that Christmas is like an amplifier? Everyone works hard to have a perfect time, but sometimes in the midst of joy, sorrow can feel sharper.
The first Christmas was no different. I can’t imagine that spending the night in a barn watching his fiance’ give birth was exactly what Joseph had in mind for the start to his family. Mary was clearly in physical pain due to childbirth but I imagine she was also relieving some difficult conversations with friends and family about her baby. And Jesus? The Baby? I'm sure was feeling His first moments away from the glory of heaven in a fragile and helpless position. Painful. Lonely.
There were angels and choirs and visitors and gifts and promises and hope.
Jesus, fully God and fully man, also knew even at that time what the end of the story was about. Redemption, peace, great joy.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7
Our society doesn’t know how to deal with sadness very well. Sometimes I think the best thing to do is accept it, have a good cry and get back to the party. John Piper, in his book Taste and See talks about how to deal with times of commingle joy and sadness in a section called “The simultaneous sound of laughter and weeping”.
I loved this line;
My prayer for myself and all of you is that our weeping might be deep but not prolonged. And while it lasts let us weep with those who weep. And when joy comes in the morning let us rejoice with those who rejoice.
That first Christmas had to be overwhelming. I think Mary had the right approach to the balance of grief and amazement.
The Bible says in Luke 2:19 that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”.
The amazing truth is the Joy of Christmas is all about good news in the midst of sorrow. If there was no sorrow or sin or death there would have been no need for a saviour. No baby.
So this Christmas let me invite you regardless of your situation to ponder. Slow down. Take a moment. Sit in awe at the baby who came so we would not be alone in our sorrow and loss and consequences. He came so we all may have abundunt and joy-filled life.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:10-11
Most of the year I stay out of the kitchen. Thanksgiving I move in. The resident chef braved the grocery stores for me this year. I told him to buy a lot of butter. I think we're gonna be okay.
I love the pre Thanksgiving rituals. The cranberries are beautiful. Combined with nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon on the stove creates my all time favorite scent. My kids chattered away as we chopped and cleaned and sorted.
It makes me grateful. For food and shelter and family and friends. For the faithfulness of God.
Tomorrow we will have a house filled with laughs and treats and boisterous hugs. Football and pie. Turkey and ham. Lots of butter.
My husband read a story tonight to the girls and I about Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving proclamation.
Right in the middle of the civil war the president called the people to thanks. Read his words. Seems like a timely reminder to us all this year.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
It is November, one of my favorite times of the year. There are lots of family birthdays, including my grandson's 1st birthday and my husband's 60th.
It is also approaching the first anniversary of when I received my first cochlear implant.
I am truly thankful for this amazing technology.
There have been some funny incidents with the thing. For one, I have discovered that the magnet that attaches the cochlear to my head is very powerful. As I was getting into someone's car one day the magnet jumped off my head and attached to the door jam of the car. Thankfully it is easily removed and placed back where it belongs. I also had the magnet attached itself to a rod of clothing at Once Upon A Child where I work. I told the staff that if they ever walked down an aisle and found me attached to a rod, just to pull me off.
There were lots of sounds that I was missing and did not realize it.
Within the first week or two of getting the implant I could hear birds singing.
Then I noticed Mark's whistling, frogs croaking, and precious words from the grandkids.
I was sitting at Mark's desk yesterday. The window was open as we were trying to dry out carpets that had just been shampooed. I could hear the rain falling on the roof and water running in the gutters.
There was also the day that I noticed a swishing sound as I walked. I finally figured out it was the noise that my jeans make when my thighs rub together. Sigh - that was one sound I could do without.
Count your many blessings - name them one by one - and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
This is the view from 103 floors up from the SkyDeck in the Willis Tower in Chicago. 1353 feet above the concrete, hot dogs, mob history, music glory, murder capital and art haven that is Chicago. You get up this high and you can see it all. It puts the details in perspective.
The book of Job is the 1353 feet up Biblical view of suffering.
The book starts with a description of the good man Job. Blameless and upright. Blessed in family and wealth. Next the book describes a scene in Heaven. God points out to everyone around the good of his servant Job. Satan is among those listening and he begins to taunt and accuse and state that the only reason that Job loves God is because Job's life is perfect. (Please note, when you hear whispers of accusation and hate in your soul, it's not Jesus talking). So God allows Satan to test Job to prove if his faithfulness is true in the midst of suffering. And so the questions begin.
It's easy to hurt and ask and sulk when you read this section. Why? God let Satan hurt Job? Why? Deep, painful, honest questions. In perhaps one of the most beautiful sacrifices of praise in the entire Bible Job sidesteps the why question and simply worships God.
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:20
Backing up away from the moment of great grief and choosing to trust and sit in the heavenly perspective that God simply IS can help. In my moments of greatest pain the only way forward was to trust.
Most of the book of Job consists of conversations that Job has with his wife and then with four different friends who come to console and comment and frankly blame Job for his suffering.
The conversations Job has with his friends remind me that the best thing I can do for hurting friends is to sit quietly. Or bring food. Words can't even touch deep grief but sometimes quiet sitting can.
It does clearly cross out some of the common answers.
Your suffering is because of your sin. NOPE
Your suffering is because God's not powerful. NOPE
Your suffering is because God is not just, does not care. NOPE
So if the answer is not justice or punishment or apathy then what is the answer? Job gets sick of listening to his friends and goes straight to God. Which by the way is an excellent plan. When in doubt quit listening to people around you. Turn off this blog. Unplug your phone. Ask God.
God doesn't answer Job's question of Why. He turns the questions to Job. And asks, were you there when I started the earth? Were you there when I laid out wisdom? Do you keep things in check? 1300 feet up in the air isn't even close. Do you have an eternal view? Do you know the end story?
God's big answer for Job's suffering is simply I AM. That's it. God is the end answer. Someday when we are in heaven my guess is we'll see more clearly.
"We shouldn't act surprised when we don't understand what a
God who says He surpasses all understanding is doing".
God's big answer for Job's suffering is simply I AM. That's it. God is the end answer. Someday when we are in heaven my guess is we'll see more clearly. In the mean time, gratitude and trust and forgiveness and love are the tools we are given to fight suffering and to heal wounds and to move forward. The more we get stuck in the WHY conversation the deeper the chains will tie.
If you have deep water questions about pain and suffering, don't give up. Read CS Lewis. No easy answers in this book but you will see truth.
The Bible Project's Read Scripture series is a wonderful tool. Take the time to watch and learn.
Just like Job we all have a choice. Do we choose despair or do we choose Joy? Kay Warren's book Choose Joy is a gorgeous invitation to move beyond your circumstances into all that God has for you in Joy.
Tree63's version of Blessed be Your Name comes straight from the book of Job.
Mary Beth Chapman's story of finding hope after the tragic death of her daughter is inspirational. If you need a light to follow through grief you can dig through this one.
I struggle with writing. Not because I don't like it. Precisely because I love to write. Anything that we love can become demanding. Writing has a voracious appetite for time. I have a husband, two kids, a job, lots of volunteer projects, a precious list of friends and extended family and a cat. They all have priority over my writing. Hence the struggle. Writing tucks into stolen moments on the edges of my life.
Right now I'm listening to Annie Dillard's book "The Writing Life". It's beautiful and calls part of me to find a quiet island and spend long days with a pen and pad of paper.
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
Hmm. A review. Today: I checked off tasks from my list. Hugged a grieving friend. Practiced a piano duet with my eldest. Colored a picture with my baby. We used Sharpies. Chatted with my parents. Ate pizza. Paid some bills. Prayed. Went to lunch with someone who has always told me the truth. Finished a project with my sister. Ironed out a misunderstanding. Got cussed at in a parking lot. Took a bath. Read a book.
The dedicated life is the life worth living.
You must give with your whole heart.
Oh. But to give your whole heart can hurt.
Last year was hard. Too many days spent in hospitals and doctors and court rooms. A heartbreaking loss. One difficult yet miraculous recovery. Grief and numbness and relief and gratitude all mushed together. Writing is helping to sort it out.
Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.
Stephen King, On Writing.
As I write tonight it occurs to me that there are a lot of ways to write. Every time I color with my daughter I'm writing a message on her heart. I'm telling her she matters and her space in my life is sacred. When I practice with my eldest I'm writing out a memory which she'll remember when she's a mom. When I talk through a problem with my spouse or when our eyes meet in laughter over the heads of our children I'm writing a love letter.
Jesus spent most of his time on Earth in normal activity. He fished. He made breakfast for friends. He cleaned up messes. He told stories. The miracles and healings and sacrifice were certainly divine. But so were the ordinary moments of love. It's a life worth copying. It's worth writing and living.
But her story isn't finished, and for once she's picked up a pen.
-Kelsey Sutton Some Quiet Place
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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