Category: Life Lessons Learned

Ever Thought of Giving Up?

I’ll never forget the day a colleague came into my office and slammed a newspaper article on my desk. She was distraught. Her voice quivered, and she stuttered as she tried to tell me what had made the news. I picked up the newspaper page and as I listened to her recap of the story, I skimmed the article.

Suddenly she stopped. “Are you ok?” she asked.

I couldn’t speak. She asked again, “Are you ok?”

“You look ghostly pale,” she added.

I had to sit down. The news article was on the death of a single mother and her three small children. The young mother had killed each of her children, before she took her own life. (I’ll spare you the details, they’re too horrific.) I stared at the newsprint. It was impossible to comprehend how a mother could do that to her own children.

My colleague grabbed my left shoulder and shook me, trying to get me to speak. I looked up at her and started to cry. I couldn’t control the emotions. I couldn’t stop the tears.

Those three children were the same ages as my children. The mother was only a few years older than I.

How? How could this have happened? Had the people in her circle of influence not seen it coming? Had she been so clever to cover up what was going on inside her? – These were all questions my colleague asked that day. I’m sure there were many more people that had the same questions on their mind.

I know it’s possible to hide the truth from even the closest people in your life. Our lives are totally falling apart, but we can still act and put on a great show.

What a difference Jesus can make in our lives! When we choose him to take over our darkest places in our mind and in our heart, he gives us peace, his strength to overcome, and we gain perspective. He says to his disciples, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)

We are not alone in our trials and sorrows. Jesus is right there, he is with us. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: 

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” (The Message)

Do you ever think of giving up? Are you stuck and think there’s no way out of your circumstances? There is a way. The way is Jesus himself. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NLT)

No matter how hard it is, don’t give up. Don’t hide it. Talk to a friend or a family member and ask for help. There is always a way out. There really is. No matter what your mind keeps telling you, you are not alone.

By the grace of God I did make it this far. But I never forgot the woman who didn’t. Her story kept me clinging to Jesus more than ever. There were times I barely hung on by the skin of my teeth. God has been faithful, always! He provided all I needed all these years. He redeemed and restored beyond my wildest dreams.

God can do it for you as well. Will you let him into your darkest places of your life? He promises his peace and a light in your darkness. Don’t ever give up!

 

God comforts us so we can comfort others

It happened suddenly. Bam! Bam! Bam! Within a matter of days each of my children experienced one, and in some cases a few, devastating losses. By association, all six of us entered a season of suffering. It’s one thing when I am personally affected, but it’s a whole other suffering when you see your adult children go through tragedies, and there’s nothing I can do to manipulate, nothing I can do to take it away or even ease their pain.

I’m about 6 months away from those tragic events. It’s still raw.  Read more

“How Can We Live as Easter People?”

It was the early evening of Maundy Thursday. I had come home from the office, picked up my kids from their caregivers and stopped at the grocery store for the ingredients to bake a batch of paska. I parked the car, and we got out to sort the grocery bags in the trunk. Each child received a bag to carry to our apartment on the fourth floor.

I rushed to make the yeast dough. While it rose, I put away the groceries and made simple sandwiches for the girls to eat. I took out the biggest pot I had to boil 3 dozen of eggs for coloring later on. 30 minutes later I looked at my dough, it had barely risen.  I decided to give it a few more minutes. The eggs started to boil, I put the timer on for hard boiled eggs.

The water boiled in the kettle for egg coloring. The kids were chatting at the dining table, I was rushing back and forth, answering their questions, listening to their chatter. Then I remembered my paska dough. Still not much progress. I decided it needed the heat of the oven to rise properly. I said a little prayer and divided the dough among the baking forms. They went into the oven; I set the timer.

The eggs were hard boiled, the kettle had boiled water. I took out the jars, put the “color sheets” in each, a few table spoons of vinegar, and topped it off with boiling water. The kids watched , they were ready, eager with anticipation.  Read more

What if I Lost Everything?

She stood in the middle of the living room. Firefighter #1 was running from the living room to the balcony, arms full of household items and throwing them over the railing of the balcony to the ground five stories below.

Firefighter #2 was checking off a list tucked to a clipboard. The woman craned her head to catch a glimpse of that list. She was shocked to see it was a detailed list of all her earthly possessions. As soon as he had an item checked off, the item magically flipped into the arms of firefighter #1, and off he went to throw the item off the balcony again.

She inched toward the floor-to-ceiling windows and caught a glimpse of the action down below. A number of fire trucks were blocking the entrance to her building, their strobe lights warning everyone danger was close by.

She called her daughter’s name. She heard her slowly shuffle through the hallway.

“What is it, mom?” she asked
“Why wasn’t there a fire alarm?”
“How should I know? Is there a fire? There’s no fire in our place.”
“Then why are these firefighters in here, throwing our stuff over the balcony?” she was frustrated.

She could feel the heat spreading under her feet and the floor buckling right where she stood. What was happening here? The woman stopped firefighter #2 and pressed him for info, “Where is this fire? Why are you both here?”
He looked in disbelief at her, “Didn’t anyone tell you? The fire’s in the apartment below yours?”
“Then why are you going through my things? Why is that even necessary? Why would I lose everything because of a fire a floor below?” She questioned irritated.
“What if your apartment were on fire, right here? What would happen if you did lose everything?” firefighter #2 asked.

She looked around the living room. Most of her things weren’t there anymore. “I have insurance,” she mumbled. “They will pay for replacing what I’ve lost today.”

Photo by Bewakoof.com Official on Unsplash

I sat up in bed. It had been a dream, vivid and full of details. There was no fire alarm and no firefighters in my apartment. I took a deep breath and tried to calm down.

What triggered this dream? Is it my parents’ and grandparents’ life stories I’m working on these days? Or is it my insurance bill waiting to be paid in a few days?

What would happen if I did lose everything? – This question hung in the air. What would I do? Would I even want to replace everything? Would I want to fill up my apartment with things that were presently there?

I’m in the process of collecting the fifth load for another trip to the thrift store. With each load I get more radical. Especially since I read a statement by Joshua Becker, author of “Clutterfree with Kids,”

“Owning less is better than organizing more.”

I so wish I had started living according to these words much earlier. Cleaning out my house, decluttering and downsizing have forced me to re-evaluate what matters to me most. I do not want to spend more time organizing “stuff.” I’d rather make memories with my children and my precious grandson, or drive out to visit my parents, or spend time with friends.

This radical approach to eliminate nonessential “stuff” is spilling over to other areas of my life. I’ve scaled down my wardrobe to three main colors, and I love it! This decision has saved me countless hours of choosing what to wear. Even shopping has become a breeze since I go only to the racks and shelves that contain my chosen colors. Laundry is incredibly simple, not many colors to sort. Will I always stick to these three colors? I don’t know. But for the time being it has freed up some valuable time and energy to focus on things that need my attention at this stage of my life.

Jesus taught: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:19-21 (New Living Translation)

I confess, I’m guilty of not following this command. Jesus, remind me daily to evaluate how I use resources you have entrusted to me! I want my life to be more about loving and caring for people around me. I want my thoughts and energy spent on people, not “stuff.”

Eyes blinded by the fog of things
cannot see truth.
Ears deafened by the din of things
cannot hear truth.
Brains bewildered by the whirl of things
cannot think truth.
Hearts deadened by the weight of things
cannot feel truth.
Throats choked by the dust of things
cannot speak truth.
― Harold Bell Wright, The Uncrowned King

 

The Break is Over

I took a long break from blogging. Not because I stopped writing. I filled several journal with thoughts and prayers in 2017. Plus, my diary is bursting at the seams with all my thoughts about last year’s events.

No, I stopped publishing because of pain I was experiencing. Looking back at 2017, I call it the year of loss. And if I’m honest, it was a year of too much loss. Of course, that’s my personal opinion. It’s still too raw to talk about it and I have to respect the privacy of my family.

However, I learned the beauty of a sacrifice. To be precise: the sacrifice of thanksgiving.

I find it easier to complain, to throw myself a pity-party. It takes effort and energy to say, “Stop it,” and then actually do it.

You see, there is a cost associated with a sacrifice. I’m giving something up. I’m offering something to someone. And in my case, I had to decide over and over to offer my sacrifice of thanksgiving to God.

I know, He does not make mistakes. I know, one day we will see how it was all for the best.

But when you’re in the pain, when there doesn’t seem to be relief in sight, that’s when God leans in and accepts my two words, whispered in the dark: “Thank you!”

The choice is mine: I can either drawn in my pain or I can be lifted out of my dark pit by saying these two words over and over, “Thank you!” God listens, He hears, and He does come to the rescue.

“Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow.

Lead me by your truth and teach me.

For you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”

Psalm 25:4-5 (New Living Translation)

 

 

“I Give You Hope”

All week long I have been thinking about hope. There’s a story I have been reluctant to share. It’s my story of hope, and how hope changed my life.

It was close to 10 pm on that Tuesday night. A night in late autumn, darkness had come early. The streets were wet, reflecting the streetlights and the colors of the changing traffic lights. I was exhausted and discouraged. My body slumped in the front seat of the car underlined my feelings. Tears streamed down my cheeks, at times blurring my vision.

I was on my way to pick up my daughter from work. A daughter who made it so hard to love her, who had chosen to rebel no matter what, who showed less and less respect to her mother.

The pain was excruciating, the rejection cut deep.

“How long will I be able to carry on under this weight of sorrow?” I thought.

In my despair I started praying, out loud, words swallowed by my sobs. I was desperate for some relief, even the smallest would do. A little light in the dark tunnel.

My sobs subsided, quiet filled the car. And then I heard God speak to my heart: “I give you hope!”

“Hope? What hope? Don’t you see my situation here?” I asked.

“I give you hope!” God said again.

“Please, God, I would like something tangible, something like no more fights, no more disrespect, a visible change in my kid. Please, God.”

Then I felt God saying again: “I give you hope. Hope for today, hope for tomorrow, hope for the rest of your life. Meggie, I give you hope.”

I sat still digesting what I just heard.

I wanted change in my daughter and her behavior. God wanted to change me. For two years I had endured the stress and pain of this relationship. Now God decided to step in and give me hope.

As I sat in the car waiting for my daughter to finish her work shift, I was stunned at God’s answer to my prayer. I had not realized how I had – little by little – slipped into despair. God saw my most immediate need, and it wasn’t my daughter’s behavior. It was me. I needed hope.

A pivotal moment. It changed the outlook for my life. It gave me strength and courage to go on, not because I pulled myself up on my own. No, only because there is a source to my hope, and it’s God himself.

Today I pray the words of Apostle Paul: “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:14

May you find your hope in God. May He fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.

Trust in the Storm

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap and
protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Psalm 91:1-4 (New Living Translation)

 

Storm Front on Eve of Good Friday 5 Jim Crotty via Compfight

I never expected to face so many storms and difficult circumstances during the year of Sabbath that I am certain God asked me to take.

These words from Psalm 91 have been my companion for the past few months. I had to remind myself again and again: God is in control. His timing is best, no matter what my world in me and around me looks like.

I wrote in my journal more than ever, and I kept repeating one phrase more than anything else: God, I trust You!

I trust You when doctor’s and specialist appointments are moved and then moved again. I trust You in this time of waiting.

I trust You when a job situation disappoints and there is patience and diplomacy required.

I trust You when I make mistakes and a trusting relationship has to be rebuilt.

I trust You when what I thought was the right decision does not turn out the way I thought it would. I trust You to be in this situation with me because of your promise.

I trust You when I have so many questions and no or little answers.

I trust You when the storm slows down just enough for you to create a beautiful rainbow. You remind me of your promise, God, and I’m encouraged to stay the course.

I trust You, God, because I find rest in the your shadow. When the heat of the day seems unbearable your shadow provides much needed reprieve.

I trust You with my ‘not enough’ and watch you transform it into just right portion of what I need every day.

I trust You alone to be my refuge, my place of safety where I can be honest and vulnerable knowing I am loved and accepted.

Your faithful promises are my armor and protection. You can be trusted to keep your promises.

You are my God, and I trust you.

 

Today I am joining Suzie Eller in #livefreeThursday

 

 

When You’re Desperate for a Sign #livefreeThursday

As a single parent decision making has been one of my biggest struggles. Especially when I know a decision will have consequences for years to come.

My father and one of my brothers had chosen a car for me when we returned to Canada. It was a small car, perfect for the 4 of us. My brother had negotiated the price, I only had to bring my cheque book, pay for it and drive it home.

Six years later my car met up not with one, but with two deer on the highway. I was devastated when the insurance appraiser called with the news that the car had to be written off, they would only pay out a few thousand for it. How was I supposed to buy a reliable car with this small amount of money?

I had about two weeks to make a decision. Should I risk it and buy an old car? What if it needed repairs or broke down, how would I pay for it? Or should I risk it and buy a new car? A car loan would mean payments for the next five years. It would I be very tight financially for these five years.

I prayed for a sign. I wanted a sign. I was desperate for a sign.

But there was no sign. I took the first step and researched and read many reviews on cars. I took another step and visited a car dealership. I prayed like mad those days and nights. I wanted someone else to make this decision for me. But there was no one to do it for me. This time I had to make the decision. I signed the purchase papers and the car loan documents. A few days later I came to pick up my car. I was shaking and nauseous when I received the car keys.

It started to rain as I drove off the dealership’s parking lot. I stopped for gas before heading home. I paid for the gas and returned to the car. All of a sudden the sky broke open, the rain stopped and the biggest double rainbow appeared!

God answered my prayers! He gave me a sign. A sign of His promise.

12 “And I seal this promise with this sign: 13 I have placed my rainbow in the clouds as a sign of my promise until the end of time, to you and to all the earth. 14 When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will be seen in the clouds, 15 and I will remember my promise to you and to every being, that never again will the floods come and destroy all life. 16-17 For I will see the rainbow in the cloud and remember my eternal promise to every living being on the earth.” Genesis 9:12-17 The Living Bible

I couldn’t start the car. I sat and wept. I knew without a shadow of a doubt God was with me. We would be ok financially. He would provide all we needed. And He really did.

God sealed His promise to Noah with the sign of a rainbow. Every time I see a rainbow I am reminded of God’s faithfulness.

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” Hebrews 10:23 New Living Translation

 

 

Sweet or salty? Maybe both? #livefreeThursday

Stainless steel salt & pepperPhoto credit: Creative Commons License Bill Smith via Compfight

 

The topic for this week’s #livefreeThursday is “salty.” When I looked up the word “salt” on biblegateway.com I came across an interesting passage:

Season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God’s eternal covenant. Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings. Leviticus 2:13 NLT

This passage reminded me of what I learned about ten years ago. I sat in the office of an Ear-Nose-Throat specialist. After extensive testing he presented me with the diagnosis: Ménière’s. My presciption? No caffeine and no salt. I had less of a problem with “no caffeine,” but wasn’t quite sure what to do about the “no salt” part. After a few days spent on Google I concluded this would be the hardest diet change I had ever done.

My research showed that salt and sugar are basically everywhere. Did you know that during processing of table salt aluminum is used to whiten the salt which makes the salt bitter? To counter the bitterness sugar is added!

I was devastated by what I learned when reading food labels. I ordered a few books on salt-free cooking and baking. From reading those books I learned that it’s a lot more efficient to add salt at the table than during cooking. When you cook without salt and add salt at the table, you use a lot less salt and lower your sodium intake.

I grew up saying grace before each meal. Most times I still say grace before a meal. And then I add a little salt to my meal. Sounds a lot like an Old Testament offering to me.

God required his people to add salt to all their offerings, not just the grain offering (Leviticus 2:12-16). Why? Salt was supposed to remind the people of “God’s eternal covenant.” That’s a whole new picture for me. When I thank God for the meal I am about to eat, and when I season my meal with salt, I should remember “God’s eternal covenant.” I never thought about it this way when I sprinkled some salt on my food. I like this idea, this symbol.

Next time you and I grab the salt shaker, how about we pause and offer a prayer of thankfulness and remember God’s eternal covenant!

 

 

 

 

God is in the Business of Impossible

I find myself in the hallway these days. I’m on the move. Between places. I got here kicking and screaming. Why? A few words come to mind: stuck, comfortable, complacent. I drifted to a place I had no intention to end up. Who wants to break up with comfortable just for the fun of it? There might be a few people out there who would like that, but most of us like the comfortable zone, the known.

I said, I would never sell my house before I retire. Now I’m selling it. Over the last two years it has become increasingly obvious that my house, the yard and all the stuff we’ve accumulated has weighed me down. It has felt like a boulder tied to my feet, impossible to move. And when you can’t move, you make yourself comfortable and make the best of the situation. But not God…

God wants me to move, and he is rearranging my life. While it’s not fun to be stretched and squeezed I know there is a something better ahead of me.

I remembered a blog post I wrote in 2014. The words I wrote then are even more pertinent to my hallway situation today. Here is the post (abbreviated):

impossible

 

I woke up with this phrase in my head: Glorious Impossible. I couldn’t quite understand why these words were playing in my mind. Then it hit me: Glorious Impossible! Just the combination of these two words seems conflicting. What’s so glorious about impossible?

As I kept repeating these two words over and over during my morning routine I was reminded of the circumstances I’m facing, problems I’m dealing with, dreams I have. It occurred to me that most of them (if not all) have the word “impossible” attached to it.

Beth Moore writes in The Patriarchs, “Many times when God told me through His Word and prayer to believe Him for something very specific, over time the outlook on the matter dwindled from good to slim to utterly impossible before He brought it to pass. Keith and I are facing such a matter right now. In fact, this morning the situation seemed to hit the ‘impossible’ category. While my stomach churned with concern, a smirk crossed my face as I thought, it might be prime time for the God show. He wants to make absolutely sure that we know He’s the one who fulfills divine promises.”

Coming back to my circumstances and all the impossibles I’m facing, I know only God can turn them around. If I learned anything from God over the last eight years it’s this: His timing is perfect and His way of solving my Impossibles is the best way. On one hand I struggle with impatience, with wanting to solve it myself, with rushing and manipulating the impossibles in my life. On the other hand I am excited to see how God will turn it around. I’m looking forward to seeing Him perform the miracle of GLORIOUS IMPOSSIBLE in my life.

Today I choose to believe my God for the GLORIOUS IMPOSSIBLE!

“We will rarely be able to conclude that any God-given destiny simply followed a natural course of events.” Beth Moore

What about you? Are you facing any impossibles right now? Why not trust God with it and believe the words the angel spoke to Mary: “For nothing is impossible with God.”