Hope And Praise-How I Live With My Grief

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I took this picture of the sunset the night my father passed away.  I saw heaven open up and rejoice in receiving a good and faithful servant.  9/27/2014

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18*

September is a bittersweet month for me.  My two sons and granddaughter were born in this month and it is also the month I lost my father four years ago.  Not a day goes by where I see or hear something which makes me think about him.

Because we are given the capacity to love, we are also burdened by grieve when we lose a loved one.  It doesn’t matter who it is when death robs us of our daily comforts, it is brutal and sometimes debilitating.

But, I have hope.

Because of my faith, I know I will be reunited one day with my loved ones who have gone before me.  I have hope in what God has promised me as a Christ follower and know what waits for me.  And because of this hope, I give Him praises in all my circumstances.

Praise God in the great times, the bad times, and the unbearable times.   Where grief can hold me under indefinitely, He is the buoy of hope which will keep me afloat for one more hour and one more day.

This is why I give God the glory in all my life events.  He covers me in peace, comfort, and gives me rest when I am so weary and worn out from grieving.  He also reminds me there is a much bigger plan than my little world and I need to recognize I am not in control.

He is, forever.

I wrote this about my dad’s death a few years ago.  It reminds me of how fragile life is and how thankful I should be in experiencing love, bearing the scars of loss, and comforting others in their grief.

My family had gathered at my parents’ house while my dad was slowly leaving this earth for his permanent home with Jesus.  As the minutes ticked away, I sat there watching his labored breathing and thinking Lord please take him now, he has suffered enough.  As I prayed, a voice whispered in my head, “Give thanks in all circumstances”.  I immediately changed my prayer from take him home, to thank you for allowing me these last quiet moments with my father.  I was in awe at how I could change my prayer, my desire, and feel the love of Jesus fill my heart.

It is way too easy to plug along in life and when something terrific happens, we throw up our hands and PTL (praise the Lord!), and then when tragedy falls on us, we pray fervently for a better outcome.  God wants us to praise Him and give thanks in ALL circumstances.

We have to practice this on the good, the bad, and the extremely ugly.

It is easier to send up praise when I did not get the promotion at work because I know God would open another door.  It is another concern when my father was terminally ill and giving God the glory to have loved and known him as my dad.

Not simple, not easy, but necessary.  I remind myself this world is temporary, along with the relationships, material items, money, entertainment, and food, to be enjoyed in the now but not forever.  I have to set my eyes on my future, where I will eternally dwell in the house of the Lord with my loved ones and forever live in peace.  All experiences here on earth mold and shape me for my future endeavors, and it is my faith and hope in God’s word which reminds me there will be something more beautiful waiting for me.

Someday.

* The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Do I Actually Need To Change My Worship Time?

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“Worship the Lord in the splendor of His Holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth.”-Psalm 96:9*

The month of August I want to focus on worship and what it means to me.  Worship is defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as “to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power.”*   I like to say I set aside dedicated time every day to do this, but I would not be totally honest.  There are a lot of distractions in my life which jeopardize my worship time with God.   The easy part is identifying what I am choosing to do instead of having certain focus time with Him.  The hard part is making it happen.

I have to choose to make the change.

Making time for God should be natural and from what I hear from others, first thing in the morning.  It seems reasonable to me to wake up, grab a cup of coffee, and open up my bible.  Problem is, it rarely happens in the morning and here’s why.

I am a grump and a mess when I wake up.  It doesn’t matter what time I set the alarm and rise early or sleep in.  I don’t even like myself when I first wake up, why would God?  It takes a miracle for me to motivate, clean up, dress, and get out the door to make my contribution to the world.  My usual time is to find a few minutes around lunch to read the bible, but I generally feel like I a failure since half my day is gone.

What’s a girl to do?

I ask God for forgiveness and extend myself a little grace.

I spend daily time with God, but it is more fluid than structured.  I pray daily, and multiple times throughout the day so I am confident in talking to Him.  I also sing along to the Christian radio station daily and know this type of music is uplifting and a form of worship.  I belong to a church and am involved in activities which allow me to be the hands and feet of Jesus.    So, why can’t I be like all the others who start their day off in God’s word?

Well, perhaps I need to understand I am unique and because I am such a slug in the morning, I would not absorb the knowledge which He intends for me.  Perhaps I need to stop comparing my study ways with others and focus on reading the bible.  And inevitably I need to accept this works for me and God is okay with the choice.

The reason I share this is not when and how I worship, but why.  I find peace and comfort in all the ways I worship and my why is Him.  My life is so full of blessings and gifts and it is because I have a personal relationship with God.  He is there through the good, the bad, and the ugly me in the morning.  I honor Him no matter what time of the day I choose to spend praying, singing, or reading.  My worship is carving out my time to be with Him.

My hope is God understands me and is willing to meet with me no matter what time I open up His word.  And perhaps He is a little thankful I am not pursuing the early morning meetings with Him.

* The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

**https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/worship

I Want To Be Faithful In Forgiving Others

 

I Want To Be Faithful In Forgiving Others

The Bickham Family 1978

 

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”-Colossians 3:13*

I am the oldest of four children who grew up in the seventies and eighties.  My sister and I were two and half years apart.  There was a seven-year void and then my two brothers were born roughly two and half years apart.  I followed the code of the oldest sibling and picked on my sister with all my ability.  My two baby brothers were cute and fun, so I cuddled, coddled, and took care of them.  I loved the era when I grew up; a time of innocence, dreams, and looking forward to the future.

Out of the four siblings, three of us still go home to our mom’s house, visit one another, make memories together, and watch our children grow up.  My sister has chosen not to participate in our lives.  You see, thirty-some years ago, my sister and dad had an argument over something near and dear to them (the rest of us can’t remember the details) and she chose to graduate from medical school and move up north to not be seen or heard from again.  Not totally true.  When my first husband, Scott, died she came back to Texas and made it clear to my parents, she was there to support me only during this difficult time.  This was the last time I saw my sister.  I have talked to her in the last few years on the phone and in e-mails.  While our grandparents died one by one and dad was sick and passed away, I kept her up to date.  Each time I reached out to her and asked, “Will you be at the funeral?” Her response was no, with an explanation.

The rest of my family is outraged by her lack of disregard for our family and rejecting involvement in our lives or us in hers.  I understand why the family is hurt and angered by her rejection, yet I am not angry with her.  Why?  Believe me, I have other people in my life who have pushed me over the edge and I have spent years trying to forgive them.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines forgive as “to cease to feel resentment against”.  I know when someone wrongs me there is resentment and sometimes it is deep, dark, and ugly.  So how do I dig out of the pain and absolve it?  I want to share three truths I have discovered in why I should forgive others.

  • GOD EXPECTS ME TO FORGIVE. My role model of authority expects me to live by the same standards He demonstrates.  God has forgiven us for our sin by the blood of Jesus.  When I accept this truth I need to be as forgiving as my Father.  Every time.  I can’t pick and choose who I want to forgive.
  • I AM NOT THE JUDGE. It is not my place to decide if someone is worthy of my forgiveness.  They are PERIOD.  This is where I have to ask God to change my heart towards a person and the situation and assist me in unburdening the hurt and accepting the healing of forgiving.
  • FORGIVING RELEASES ME FROM BONDAGE. When I am angry at someone, I feel like a casualty of hurt feelings and vengeful thoughts.   I don’t like the feeling of being a victim.  When I can forgive another person, it lightens my load and allows me not to participate in the angry, poor me, pity party.

I don’t have a magic answer and I know my family thinks I am crazier than a tornado chaser (which I would love to do), but I have reflected and prayed over this situation.  Grant it, I have not picked up the phone and tried to have an average conversation with my sister since our dad died over three years ago.  If she called me tomorrow and asked for bone marrow or a kidney, I would be there to give and assist her in a heartbeat.  I believe if I can forgive as God has forgiven me, the relationships which have been stunted due to my stubbornness of holding on to the resentment, can be changed.  Forgiving others can open new doors to relational opportunities and transform the makeup of our own inner circles.  I have a lot of forgiving left to do and hope my family, including my sister, can move towards peace and forgiveness in their own hearts.

* The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

The Value of Connecting

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“This is my command:  Love each other.”-John 15:17*

This is a hard week for my family.  It has been seventeen years since my first husband and the father of my three precious children, Scott, passed away suddenly.  I find myself in a vulnerable and emotional state as I reflect back on our lives and pinpoint a common theme.

Scott was passionate about relationships.

FRIENDS-Scott grew up in a small suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, graduating from the local high school and pursued college, where I met him.  We dated, became engaged, and closed the deal in marriage.  We moved back to the suburb (which had grown considerably!) and I witnessed his people skills at work.  Everywhere we visited he knew someone.  There was always a handshake, hug, or pat on the back from Scott to his friend.  He would remember family members (and their names) and ask how they were doing.  Scott was genuinely engaged with the other person, a smile on his face, locking on their eyes, nodding his head in agreement, and being present for their story.

This kind of meets and greet were not limited to our community.  On a couple of occasions, we were on road trips, hours from where we lived, and Scott would run into someone he knew! It happened in a grocery store, airport, sporting events and gas stations.  Again, the rapport was demonstrated at his funeral when there were over four hundred people who came to pay their respects.  It was a visual reminder of how important friendships were to Scott and how he and his friends had a special bond.

FAMILY– Scott’s love for his parents was a marvel to witness.  He would always kiss his father and mother every time he left them.  We only lived a few miles away from his parents but he would talk to them every day.  We lost his father, Arnie, in 1988 and Scott made sure his mother was engaged daily.  He would visit her and help with items around the house.  I guess you could say he was a momma’s boy, but he was proud of the title and I respected their strong connection.

Scott also had an older brother and they were typical siblings, goofing around, arguing, and turning every event into a competition.  I know Scott was proud of his brother and would protect and support him in his choices.  Then there was the extended family of uncles, aunts, cousins, niece, in-laws, too many to count but Scott was always up to visiting and catching up.  We would go to family reunions in West Texas and he was so excited to see everyone and to introduce me to the family.  Scott’s mom was the youngest of eleven living children so they were many older uncles and aunts.  To hear their stories and recollections of Scott as a youngster was hysterical!  I remember those reunions fondly and realize how many of the family has since passed on.

GOD-The most important relationship to Scott was with God.  When I met this twenty-something year old, he told me he had accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  God was important to us but I have to admit, the early years we were not focused.  As a couple, we would sporadically go to church, sometimes tithed, and most of the time prayed before eating.  This all changed about a year before he died.  We were invited to a non-denominational megachurch in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and after a few visits, the experience transformed Scott.  I now know God was preparing Scott for his eternal homecoming.  Scott insisted we faithfully attend church every weekend and tithed on a regular basis.  Scott also insisted we prayed with the children each night before bed and we would pray together, the two of us, giving thanks for this life and lifting others in need.

In the last year of his life, Scott had a long-standing disagreement with his older brother.  On his last Christmas Eve, Scott asked if he could speak with me privately.   Scott confessed God was asking him to forgive his brother and make amends.  I told him if God is directing him to do this, he best submit.  He called up his brother who agreed to come over and the two of them spent the next three hours talking about their issues.  By Christmas Eve night we were all able to gather, as a family, and celebrate the meaning of Christmas.   I witnessed such a burden being lifted from both brothers’ hearts.

After Scott’s death, I too was able to find peace in knowing Scott was in heaven.  Early on a Sunday morning, I called a friend who I knew would be awake to let her know Scott had passed away.  She was shocked it was me on the phone because she had awakened from a dream about us moments before the call.  We were all at church and she asked me, “where is Scott?”  I told her to turn around and she would see him standing in the doorway.  When she looked, he was waving at her surrounded by a bright, beaming, golden light.   I was thankful for God to give me the confirmation Scott was with Him in His Kingdom.

God wants a relationship with each one of us.  He also wants us to develop kinships to lift up and support one another, not tear each other apart.  I believe God brings certain individuals in and out of our lives for a reason.  For my long lost friends and family, I will continue to find joy in the times we used to share together.  No regrets and no shame if we have drifted apart.  I would love to catch up, re-connect, and value my relationship with you.

Just like Scott.

 

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Goals For 2018-NONE!

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“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law, he meditates day and night.”-Psalms 1:1-2**

No disappointment.  No unfulfilled promises.  No guilt.  I have decided to tackle setting goals for 2018 in a different way.  Not going to do it.   BUT, I want to start a new habit.

If you Google search ‘how long does it take to start a new habit?’ there are hundreds of responses anywhere from one to eight months to build a new habit.  This is based on many variables including the person, behavior tendencies, and surrounding circumstances.  The key to building a new or “good” habit is to repeat the habit daily and be accountable (journal, partner, small group, etc.).  So what is my 2018 habit?

Devotion

I was challenged to pick a word for my focus in 2018.  I prayed and wrote down several words which I thought “needed” me to dedicate my time and effort.  No one particular word was screaming at me, until a few weeks later when I picked up my bible.  It is titled “Women’s Devotional Bible-New International Version” but the word “Devotion” is what was glaring in gold color to me.  Lightbulb moment and yesssss, my word was chosen.

I have decided to use this word as my theme for the year; in my quiet time, writing, relationships, and in my health and wellness.  I’m excited to see where this assignment will lead me.

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary* describes devotion in three different ways:

  • 1a: religious fervor: piety
  • b: an act of prayer or private worship —usually used in plural during his morning devotions
  • c: a religious exercise or practice other than the regular corporate (see corporate 2) worship of a congregation
  • 2a: the act of dedicating something to a cause, enterprise, or activity: the act of devoting
  • the devotion of a great deal of time and energy
  • b: the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal her devotion to the cause
  • 3obsolete: the object of one’s devotion

Most are familiar with devotion pertaining to religion such as reading devotionals, praying, and bible study.  I am intrigued by the second definition-the act of dedicating something to a cause, enterprise, or activity.  That’s what I am talking about, living out devotion daily in all my circumstances.

  • Devotion to my God
  • Devotion to my family and friends
  • Devotion to my job
  • Devotion to my volunteer efforts
  • Devotion to my writing
  • Devotion to my health
  • Devotion to my hobbies

How am I going to tackle this endeavor?  I will ask myself three questions before I invest any time in a particular activity:

  • Does this activity fall into one of my categories (listed above)
  • Would God approve?
  • Is this a beneficial choice for someone?

The first two questions are obvious but I want to make sure if I am investing my time, talent, and energy into an exercise, I want it to benefit someone, including myself.

I know the reality; this will be a challenge, and I will make mistakes and neglect it some days.  What excites me is I have a game plan and if I implement it every day, hopefully, I will make it part of my natural routine.  Bring on 2018!

So what will you do for the New Year? Sets some goals?  I challenge you to go a little deeper and pick some action, which if you commit to accomplishing, then perhaps, we can all make a contribution to improve ourselves and bring joy to our communities.   Merry Christmas ya’ll!

*https://www.merriam-webster.com/

**The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

 

Why Can’t Grief Take A Holiday?

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“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”-Psalm 34:18 NIV*

For me, it is so easy to get caught up in the festivities of the season.  I love to watch cheesy Christmas movies, go shopping and buy presents, and curl up on the couch under a blanket with some hot cocoa.  Okay, living in southern Louisiana maybe it is curl up with some iced tea and running the air conditioner on high.  But, as I move through the holidays, there is a corner of my heart which is melancholy and raw.  I can’t help but think of my loved ones who are not here to celebrate Christmas with me and the family.  Why can’t my grief take a holiday during this wonderful time of year?

Unfortunately, grief doesn’t take a break.  For me, I can experience happiness and sorrow at the same time.  I know what an oxymoron, but it is the best way to describe it.  I want to remember and honor those who have died and enjoy the family and friends I do have here physically with me.  It is indeed a balancing act which I don’t always handle gracefully.

I have experienced feelings of emptiness and solitude during my journey, especially around the holidays.  In a previous blog, Grief Completes Me, I shared some of my thoughts about my grief journey and what I accept as true in my life:

  • I will not “complete” grief – It has been almost seventeen years since my husband died and three years since my father passed. When I lose someone or comfort someone who lost a loved one, I feel the same intense deep, raw, pain and sadness.   It will forever be a part of me, and I have become more compassionate with others because of my losses.  I know what to expect in my feelings, and guess what?  I know I will not feel this way each day and the intensity will subside, until the next time.

 

  • I am not alone – There is a huge difference between being alone and feeling lonely. I am not alone in my grief, but in the middle of grief, I can feel lonely.  I know the loneliness is only temporary and I talk with others who feel the same way, so it validates for me, I am not alone.  God is with me, every step of my life.  He knows my pain and works through it with me. Surrounding me with others such as a grief group was the support I needed to connect with others with similar circumstances.  It is a reminder all people embark on a grief journey at some point in their lives.

 

  • It is okay to grieve anytime – I know some individuals are uncomfortable around people who are experiencing a loss. I have come to the conclusion if I need to cry, it is okay to cry in private or public and release my emotions.  I actually feel better after a cry fest and it allows me to refresh and renew.  When I need to grieve, I do it.  No apologies.  No holding back.  I let it out and know God is also grieving with me.  God knows grief.  As humans, we have grieved Him many times with our actions.  In addition, He watched His Son sacrifice and die for our sins.  I know He is an expert in this field and can totally relate to my circumstances.

 

Perhaps you are sad and burdened with grief during this holiday season.  My hope is for you to realize you are not alone.  God is always with you and you can turn your pain and sorrow over to Him to handle.  If you invite Him into your heart, He can give you peace and comfort during this difficult time.

I have been there; brokenhearted and crushed in spirit.  God has placed it on my heart to reach out to those hurting from the loss of a loved one.  This is why I write about grief and have a prayer request on my blog.  If you need some support, please feel free to send me a request so I can pray for you.    Blessings to you, and praying for a peaceful new year.

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Hope In My Grief

Hope In My Grief

“ So with you:  Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” John 16:22*

It has been seventeen years since my husband, Scott died.   Since 2001, I have lost other family and friends.  The holiday season stirs up many emotions for me.

For those of you who are on a grief journey, I get it.  It is extremely difficult to celebrate the joyous season while feeling so empty and raw on the inside.

Grief is exhausting, debilitating, messy, and draining.    It stinks.

I am here to say you will get through this in your own time.  It is not quick and it is not easy.  But there is hope.

I discovered early on in my grief walk I needed to take care of myself.  I was of no use to my three little ones if I couldn’t function in day to day life.  My first and most important step was to lean on my faith.  There were days when I could not pray, much less think about God, but I called on Him abundantly.  Even if I could not muster a complete thought or sentence, I could cry out and He listened.  I was reminded often God understood my heart because He too had suffered loss and grief.

God surrounded me with the right people during my grief walk.  I plugged into my church’s grief group and it was comforting to be around others who were in similar circumstances.  I eventually let my guard down and shared my thoughts with others without fear of judgment or regret.   The church became a safe space for me and my family and I was fortunate to meet and forge some wonderful friendships with other Christians.  I felt God’s protection over me at this most vulnerable point in my life.

My second step was to take care of my physical being.  For months, I had neglected my appetite and developed a horrible sleep pattern (meaning very little).  I visited the doctor one day and she was concerned about my declining weight and elevated blood pressure.  She started asking some deep questions and came to the conclusion I was depressed.  I argued with her because I was functioning; getting out of bed, going to work, taking care of my children, paying bills, and maintaining the house. There was no way I was depressed.  She disagreed and pointed out my vitals reflected a different story.  She convinced me to try some medication, and see if I developed a better sleep pattern and healthier choices around food and exercise.  You know what?  It worked.  I am so thankful for my doctor who took the time to help me get back to the right physical balance in order to be a better mom, daughter, friend, and co-worker.

This leads me to my third step in nurturing my emotional and mental health.  Depression can be a real component of grief and there is no shame in seeking counsel or guidance from a licensed professional.  My doctor helped me with medication to right my sleep pattern which in turn enabled me the stamina to increase my physical activity.  It also gave me clarity of mind and I made the decision to seek individual therapy.  My church grief group was a wonderful support, but I needed more self-evaluation.  In seeing a therapist I was able to uncover roadblocks encountered in my life.   Grief led me to seek a therapist but I discovered there were other benefits in confiding with a professional.   I learned and developed coping skills to make informed decisions on navigating through the hazards encountered in my life.

Those early days of grief were a bungled up hot mess which quickly consumed me.  When I made conscious efforts to focus on me, it helped to maintain my sanity so I could get through the everyday mundane and SLOWLY gain back my life.

It was a new normal for me.

I still experience the pain of grief.  It does not consume me all day or night, but it is as deep and real as it was the night Scott died.  The intense sorrow I feel keeps me grounded so when someone suffers the loss of a loved one, I can relate.  Because I focused on my spiritual, physical, and emotional components, it has created a firm foundation of who I am and hope for my future.  God has brought me through the fire to a point where I am able to comfort others, empathize with their situation, and support them on their grief journey.  If you are in the midst of a grief journey, I would love to pray for you.   Please go to the prayer request tab on my blog and let me know how I can pray specifically for your needs.  Blessings.

*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society