Sep
25

When There is Pain, Where is God?

Many times in life I’ve been faced with pain—everything from the death of a loved one, to financial woes, even reliving childhood heartache through the life of my child. It never gets easy, no matter how big or small it is—it still hurts. Each time I pray, asking God to remove the situation from my life.

blog photo - pain

Two weeks ago, as I picked up the kids from school, I watched Anastasia walk across the parking lot. She wasn’t smiling like normal and I could tell she was holding back tears.

She climbed in the car, stared out window and said, “Do you think I have a big nose? Sam kept telling me it was huge.”

Oh Lord, no!

My whole life I’ve been “nasally challenged”, meaning…I have a big nose. Growing up, the boys teased me relentlessly. I remember a time I went on trip with our church youth group—whenever I spoke the boys would sing the chorus, “The nose knows!”

I knew her pain. I felt her pain.

That evening we cuddled in bed for over an hour as she cried and cried, “I didn’t realize I was ugly! I never thought of my nose as being big until he said it.”

Her pain prevented her from hearing the truth. She’s beautiful.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I laid in bed praying, “Lord, why did you give her my nose? Please make the teasing stop!”

I finally gave up on sleep and decided to read. I was in the middle of Philip Yancey’s new book, The Question That Never Goes Away: Why? when I got to a passage that spoke directly to me.

Yancey mentioned how there were times in the Bible where God miraculously intervened to rescue men and women from their situation. However, more often He didn’t. Instead, God choose to work through “changed people to change history.”

“We cry out for God to do something for us, whereas God prefers to do work within and alongside us.”

Anastasia’s pain is part of growing up but it’s very real to her. However, I had focused my prayers on asking God to remove her circumstances, that I totally overlooked the possibility of God using it to bring about change in Anastasia, and me.

Change that would build compassion.

Change that would be positive and deep.

Change that would be used to improve the world.

This became my prayer for her.

We were in the car this weekend when Anastasia asked, “Have you ever wanted a nose job?”

Oh no! How honest should I be???

“Uh, yes, there have been times I wanted one.”

Silence…

“I don’t want one. If I do, I’d be changing part of God’s creation.”

Wow…she didn’t get this from me!

God is obviously walking beside her through this ordeal, making a change in her that can be used to improve the world!

What prayers have helped you to endure pain?

Why do you think God chooses to walk alongside us through our pain instead of removing it?

 

 

Sep
17

Is an Apology Required for Forgiveness?

Forgiveness. Ah…the act of letting go of ill thoughts and feelings towards someone who has wronged you. It’s therapeutic to forgive. You’re freed from the negative and bitter thoughts that filled your mind.  But it’s easier said than done.

What about when we are the offender?

blog photo - apologyApologies aren’t always easy for me to dish out, especially to those closest to me. I find it more comfortable to apologize with action in place of words (especially if it’s for something foolish I’ve done.)

Instead of saying to my son, “I’m sorry that I, ahem, yelled at you for screaming at your sister.” I’d rather take the easy way out and say (after I’ve had time to cool off), “Hey, you guys want to go to Jump Time instead of doing chores?!”

This gives me a quick (and fun) fix to the wrong I’ve done, and my kids know this is my way of reaching out to them, but they have not received the apology they deserve.

A while back I realized I was doing this to my family and began working harder to give them heartfelt, verbal apologies and I’ve come to realize a few things. (Now, I’m sure many of you are thinking to yourself: “I bet she’s only had to apologize only one or two times due to her being so awesome! So what does she know about apologies?” This is true but don’t let that distract you. Ok, just kidding.)

1.    Assess – A good apology requires you to look inside and self critique wrong actions instead of self criticizing or tearing yourself down (we all make mistakes).

2.    Acknowledge – A good apology requires you accept fault instead of pointing the blame on others.

3.    Act – A good apology requires you to make a change and move on instead of wallowing in negative or bitter thoughts.

I’ve found as I’ve asked my love ones for forgiveness it not only freed them of any resentment but it’s released me of guilt and has allowed us all to move on.

Is it hard for you to apologize?

Do you think our society has a hard time with verbal apologies?

If so, why is that?

Sep
11

Helping A Generation Too Young to Understand 9/11

September 11, the day in our most recent history that causes our nation to pause, reflect and analyze who and what is most important in our lives.

My kids are too young to truly comprehend the date; Noah was only a few months old at the time and Anastasia was only a flicker in her daddy’s eye. But we do our best to help them understand what it means to our country. We spoke of it briefly over breakfast but their eyes glazed over.

Will they ever recognize what that day taught us?

blogphoto 9-11I had a meeting later that morning and wanted to get in a run beforehand, so I broke our normal routine and left the house before they headed out to school. I gave them their daily hugs, kisses and “I love yous” and headed out the door.

I walked down the path next to our house and was about to begin my run when I heard, “Mom, wait!”

I looked behind me and saw Anastasia running barefoot, full speed towards me, much like she did years ago when I picked her up from preschool.

“What’s wrong baby?”

Her arms wrap tightly around me and cuddled her head into my chest, “I just wanted to tell you one more time ‘I love you!’” My heart melted. She gets it.

She may not understand all the emotions that we felt that dreadful day but she’s learning the lesson it all taught us. I pray it’s a lesson she’ll carry through the rest of her life.

We’ll never forget those we lost that day.

May we never forget to teach the lessons we learned that day. It’ll make the world a better place.

Sep
04

Labels Are for Files, Not People

I went for an early morning bike ride the other day. It was beautiful weather with little traffic – it was perfect.

I came to a section on a two-lane road where a busy side street fed into the road. A large pick-up truck hauling a trailer loaded with two ATVs was at the stop sign, waiting to turn.

I made eye contact with the driver to make sure he saw me and gave him a friendly wave, thanking him for waiting on me before he turned.

There was a divider, about 100 feet long, to prevent people from passing in this area. Unfortunately, the bike lane ended in this same spot and the shoulder in the road temporarily narrowed. So, I was forced to ride just right of the white line.

I heard someone behind me and turned to see that it is my ATV friend. I knew my presence was slowing him down so I pedaled faster in attempt to get through the remaining 50 feet of this tapered section.

He didn’t wait. He punched his engine and started to pass me. Inches separated us and I gripped my handlebars nervously. Once his tailpipe was next to me he slowed down for a few seconds and then punched his engine again as black smoke surrounded me. The noise and black cloud caught me off guard and I wobbled but was able to stabilize my bike as his trailer passed.

My heart raced as fear flooded through me, along with many “what if’s”. What if I had of lost control of my bike?! What if I had of fallen into or under the trailer?!

blog photo - label

 

Anger replaced my fear and it took every ounce of my self-discipline not to raise my left arm and give him what the Beverly Hillbillies call the “California wave”. I was able to resist cursing him with my finger but internally I was cursing him with my thoughts. *@#% ATVers! (Definition: someone who drives an ATV – not to be confused with someone who watches TV.)

Judgmental thoughts followed and I played the us and them game in my head.

I’m a mom and you’re a moron! I’m someone’s wife and daughter and you’re a loser!

God’s spirit must have been with me that day – not because He saved me from a serious accident – but because He began working on my heart. He reminded me that some of my favorite people in the world are ATVers (and that I’d probably would like to own one, too, if I had enough money.)

He also reminded me of something my husband Mark had said, “We need to quit seeing each other as a cyclist and a motorist but instead to remember that we’re both people who love and are loved by someone at home.”

The night before Jesus was crucified, he spent time praying in a garden, asking God to help us be one…to be unified. It was one of his last petitions to his Father.

When a person is near death they focus on what is most important which makes me think that Jesus knew the future would bring many things would divide his followers.

We live in a world full of dividers: political parties, religion, health care reform, skin color, court cases, zoning laws, schools, denominations, etc.

If we’re not careful we’ll see our neighbor as a political party member, a religion, race, gender and forget that they are beautiful person created by the same hands that formed us.

We are moms and daughters, fathers and sons. We think, we feel, we cry, we laugh. We may have different interests and belief systems. We may belong to different political parties or churches – but we all have worth, deserve respect and can learn from one another.

I’m embarrassed how quickly my heart went to judgment that day on my bike. Regardless of who was right or wrong – God showed me that I have a tendency to label my offenders and put myself in the right. I must first focus on my own flaws.

When I put a label on someone or something, I possibly cover the answer that God has placed in front of me.

There are a many issues in our world that don’t have an easy answer. But, when we remove labels and allow God to unify us, it will be easier for us to hear his voice and see where he is leading us.

How do you handle adversity?

Are you like me and play us and them?