Peace, peace wonderful peace

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You know how some moments just stay with you, all of your days?  You couldn’t erase them from your memory, even if you tried?  I remember one of those days.  It started as a visit from a friend, who I’m sure was concerned about my well being after the recent loss of my mom.  I don’t remember all of the details but I know God had His hand in it.

On the outside, I was a wife and mother doing my best to serve my little family well.  On the inside, I was a wreck.  I hadn’t seen or even smelled anything that resembled peace in a very long time.  As much as I loved my little family, I felt as if a part of me had died with my mom, who left us at the tender age of 49 due to infection after a liver transplant.  She left me, her eldest, 8 months pregnant and struggling to make sense of a life without her.  Honestly, the thought of continuing to live without her, didn’t seem possible.

For the most part, I could hide my grief.  My husband saw the really ugly days and held me as I was falling apart.  He understood better than many, as he’d experienced great loss himself.  Friends and family were supportive and said and did all the things they truly thought would help.  But, like I said, on the inside the battle was raging and few knew how bad it could get on some days.

Mom was my best friend, the person I spoke to every single day, the person I shared everything with.  She had been an excellent mother from day one, but you don’t learn to have the deep appreciation until you are older and you don’t really understand some of what motherhood means until you have your own children.  She advised on any and every problem without judgment, she was my biggest fan and Nana to my daughter.  She had felt the movement of the grandchild she would never hold as she moved her hands across my swollen belly and spoke words of tenderness as she lay in the hospital bed.

Once she was gone, I threw myself into the role of “the strong one”, but I didn’t realize that I could only do that for so long, that sooner or later I had to deal with it.  I waited until after the baby was born, agonizing through labor without her by my side; I waited until I stopped nursing so the stress wouldn’t affect my little princess.  Then, I shoved the pain inside and watched helplessly as it reared it’s ugly head touching my family through my lack of patience, my loss of desire for living and a dark depression which had settled over me.

But on that day I mentioned, sitting on my old green couch, I uttered words that began a chain of events that would change everything.  As I was talking to my friend, I merely said, “I think I need to go see someone.  I can’t do this anymore.”

I don’t remember when I saw her again or if it was by telephone but not too much time passed before we spoke again.  She uttered the words that spoke to me somewhere down deep and my soul raised a frail and weary hand to identify with them.

She said, “I was telling mom what you said the other day about needing to talk to someone.  Mom said that you already know Who you need to talk to.”   Now, it goes without saying that my friend and I knew she meant I needed to take my troubles to the Lord.  There was no explanation needed for 2 girls who had grown up on the little white church on the island.   I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but those words started a fire somewhere deep inside of me.

They were simple words, brief and to the point, but I am so glad they were spoken and then shared with me.  (Sometimes you will never know the effect your words can have on someone or how God will use you in mysterious ways to bring about change)  Those few words weighed heavily on my heart and mind for days.  I couldn’t shake them, couldn’t forget them and couldn’t ignore them.

In retrospect, I realize that people were praying for me.  At the time, even though they would say, “I’m so sorry, honey, I’m praying for you”, it didn’t resonate with me, didn’t even bring me comfort.  It didn’t register in my spirit or maybe I was too angry at God for taking her to listen with my heart.  I’m not 100% sure, but I know now that God had a plan and that in the depths of my grief and despair, at a time when I was far away from Him, He loved me.  He saw me, He saw my pain and He reached out to me.

A few days later, I found myself on my knees beside my bed pouring out my heart along with what seemed like buckets of tears.  On that day, I finally surrendered.  I gave everything to Him and I made a decision to turn away from all of the wrong, negative thoughts and turn to His Word and His council.  I decided to to choose Him first and foremost.  My heart was filled with a peace that I still do not understand.  When I got up from that floor, my life was changed.

To this day when people ask me to name something I gained from my relationship with Jesus, the first word that comes to mind is peace.  I hadn’t had any peace for so long; it was such a welcome balm.  There are so many who long for peace and look for it in all the wrong places.

Do I still miss my Mother?  Of course.  But, I can honestly tell you that my grief doesn’t control me anymore.  My earthly flesh will always miss her and feel a pang of hurt when holidays come or events occur that I would love to share with her.  But, Mom is with Jesus and it brings me comfort to think that maybe she had something to do with my outcome, even if it was just her prayers.  She always wanted her children to serve God and voiced that again near the end.

There is a Way to peace and He waits with open arms.  Run to those arms and find yours.

John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

The Everyday Things

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This morning the routine I followed was the normal one.  I was logged into my computer and plugging away by 6:00am.  Knowing that I am the most productive in the morning, I try to make the most of my “prime” hours.  Phones, emails and IMs are usually pretty quiet until around 7:00am so I was surprised when at 6:26, I saw an IM blinking at the bottom of my screen.

Quickly, I opened it to scan the contents and smiled to see it was a nice guy from up north and the question he posed was relatively easy, so it shouldn’t take much time.  I hurriedly typed out my response, scanned for typos and hit “send”.  I was done and could now move on to another task.

He thanked me, and then he said something that would change my morning.  He said, “by the way, Lisa, how are you?  Sometimes I ask a lot of questions and forget to ask the really important one, of how one is doing.”

Suddenly it occurred to me that I’ve known this man for many years and had no idea how he was doing either.  As usual, I hadn’t taken the time to stop and ask.  Why are we often too busy to be polite?

This man had (probably unknowingly) just preached an entire message that went straight to my heart and exposed, once again, the selfishness and “much too busy” attitudes lodged there. 

So, I replied, “I understand what you are saying; we all get too busy to slow down and really care, don’t we?  How have YOU been?

He began to tell me that 2013 had been a tough year for him and he was glad to see it go.  He had lost his mother in law to cancer, and while he and his wife were cleaning up her estate, his wife of 37 years fell ill and was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer.   He lost her in August.

Wow!  I hadn’t known and my heart ached for the grief and pain that must still resonate within him.  With the tears that now filled my eyes making the screen almost too blurry to see, I did my best to convey my heartfelt sympathy and congratulated him on such a long-lasting marriage.  He advised me to cherish every moment of mine and I told him I would heed his advice and take it to heart and we said our goodbyes.

Only a few moments had passed, but I looked at the day ahead with a fresh perspective.  I wonder if he even had a clue how his words affected me today or how grateful to him I am.

Everyone is going through things and I want to know, I want to care and I want to bring comfort when I can. 

Look someone in the eyes and ask them how they are today or tomorrow, and then give them time to respond.  If and when someone asks you the same, give them the benefit of an honest answer.  You might give them the opportunity to comfort you.  We all are blessed when we give or receive.

And, always look for the lesson or the reminder in the everyday things.

Vultures of the human variety

White-backed vultures (Gyps africanus) feed on...

White-backed vultures (Gyps africanus) feed on a carcass of a wildebeest in Masai Mara National Park, Kenya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several times a week I walk, at least a 2 mile stretch, sometimes more.  Today was my “lunch walk” so I only had 30 minutes and was determined to make it count.

I was clipping along at a rapid pace, my body already on melt down alert from the blistering FL sun, when I smelled it.

It was a rotten, dead animal smell that caused me to pick up my pace even more.   This was partly because of the horrid smell and partly because of the large assemblage of hideous vultures beside the road gawking at me as if I were after their dinner.

As I continued around the bend, happy to be rid of the stench and the stares, I began to think about buzzards.  We all know that they are scavengers.  What I didn’t know that I read today and found interesting is that a group of vultures is sometimes called a wake.  Very fitting!  Another note is that although they rarely attach healthy animals, they may kill the wounded or the sick, which brings me to my point and what I was pondering during the remainder of my walk.

Have you ever noticed that some people are like vultures, looming over a mess, waiting for their opportunity to run and congregate to observe catastrophe close up, feasting on bad news and then regurgitating it (like the vultures do to feed young or when scared) wherever they go.  It smells even worse by then, I imagine.

Sometimes these people take a weak or injured individual and try to finish them off just to satisfy their appetite.  They thrive on rottenness and death, walk all through it, supping until they are full and there is nothing left.

When someone is weak or downtrodden, they need encouragement and when every situation around them reeks, they don’t need more gossip and exposure.

They need understanding, love and a true friend; someone to defend them when they can barely stand beneath the weight of despair.

I am so blessed to have friends like that and a God who watches over His children.  One of my prayers today is that I will never feast on someone else’s pain, but instead that I will come alongside and share the burden.

Missing you

Wishing you were here

Knowing you can’t be and you’re in a much better place

Thinking of all the things you missed

Wondering if you’d be proud

Smiling when I realize I know you would be

Missing your advice and guidance

Grateful you taught me so well

Feeling that knot in my throat and knowing tears will follow

Thankful for the wonderful years I had with you

Memories that still grip my heart like it was yesterday

Someday I will see you again in heaven

Wishing you were here

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