Today is the day between the cross and the empty tomb. A day of grief, uncertainty, and most likely some confusion. It was a day of waiting. There must have been so many questions mixed in with crushing grief. Is this the end of the story? What do we do? What happens next?
Sometimes it is so hard when waiting in our grief and uncertainty, having no idea about what is coming next. In the midst of all that it can feel like God has fallen silent. That he has left us alone. All hope is gone.
Don’t be deceived! God promises to never leave us. Even in the silence of Saturday He is there. Whether you realize it or not, Sunday is coming.
When I was gifted my first Prayerful Journal, I was walking through difficult moments and dark days. My mom had just passed away five months prior. She was my best friend, and it has been so hard to learn to live without her. I also was (and continue) to battle depression and recover from trauma I experienced in my past. God has just seemed so far away to me. I long to sit at his feet, but it has been difficult to find my path.
My Journal arrived in the mail as a surprise gift from a dear friend. At that time, prayer and bible study seemed like such an intimidating thing. However, the simple design of the journal made it seem not so scary. The journal also ended up providing me with a special connection to my mom. My mom loved card making, and as such, there are stickers all over our house. I was inspired to take the stickers she loved and use them to decorate my journal. It has just made journaling so much more special.
As I said, writing in my prayer journal has become something very special to me. It has given me the impetus to really dwell on my relationship with God–where I am and where I want to be. Prayer is something I've really struggled with for a long time. I felt like I wasn't doing it right, or for the right amount of time or about the right things, etc. Seeing my words written in the journal gives me something concrete I can look at and know that l am sharing my heart with God.
And I'll just have to say--decorating my journal with stickers just makes it fun and makes me happy. It's been therapeutic as I've been working on finding my way through depression. I never really thought of myself as creative until I started decorating my journal. But more than decorating, having a place where I can pour out my heart out to God and I can clearly see Him answering prayers--that has been indispensable as I have endeavored to restore my relationship with Jesus.
When I first got my prayer journal, it was beautiful and pristine. I didn't want to do anything to mess it up. Now when you look at it, it is stained and dirty (it won't even close properly), but it is more beautiful to me now than I could have ever imagined. It is filled with my prayers calling out to God, and it contains His faithful answers confirming His love for me at a time when I felt so lost and alone.
There are several times in the bible when God makes a promise or moves in a mighty way, and a pile of stones are stacked up as a memorial. The purpose was to remember what God had done. I feel like my journal is my personal memorial where I can look back and remind myself of God's faithfulness. God has answered so many prayers–some big, some little, but I have realized that I would have never noticed if I hadn't been writing my prayers down.
Don’t worry about messing up your journal, or doing it wrong. Perfection is not required. First of all, it's your journal--it's impossible to do it wrong. Do what works for you. Second, don't be afraid to mess up your journal–it's not possible if you are filling it with your honest thoughts and prayers to our Heavenly Father.
If you'd like to see ideas of how to decorate your journal with stickers and washi tape, Click Here.
The last couple of days I’ve been thinking about trees. On the way to work I love to watch the sunrise through the branches of the trees. It’s absolutely beautiful! The more I thought about those trees, the more I realized that it was the twisted, gnarly branches that give them their beauty. I was particularly drawn to the trees that were made unique with extra twists and bends. In the winter you can clearly see every detail, even the parts that others might consider imperfect. There is beauty to be found in the trees of winter, as those gnarly branches withstand the cold and storms.
But there is also hope in the knowledge that the trees will bud again and bring new life. In the spring, when the trees are in full bloom, people won’t be able to see that those twisted and gnarly branches are the things that actually give the leaves and blooms their beautiful form. Those who look on those trees, robust in their foliage, won’t remember or realize what lies beneath unless they take the time to look deeply. They will just glory in the beauty before them.
I’m looking forward to the spring.
When Mom saw a need, she would drop to her knees (well, figuratively—stupid arthritis) because she had great confidence that on her knees was where she would find the answers. When I was a child, many evenings my mom could be found sitting on her bed, with her bible open before her, and her head bowed in prayer. That picture is a perfect image of my mother and her resolute belief in the power of prayer.
I first saw this in action when I was a little girl. My mom loved her dad, but he was not a believer. This grieved my mom. For thirty years she fervently prayed for his salvation. I will never forget seeing my grandfather’s transformation when he realized he needed Jesus. And I now rejoice in the knowledge that they are fellowshipping together in heaven.
Mom often struggled with insomnia, although frustrating at times, she just saw it as an opportunity to spend more time at the feet of Jesus. On oh so very many days, as we would sit and talk, and share, and laugh, she would tell me about the burdens of her heart and all the loved ones and situations she had prayed about the night before as I blissfully slumbered in the next room. I was often inspired and awed by her capacity to love and think about the needs of others.
She prayed over her family—her husband and children, and later their spouses, her grandchildren, and great-granddaughter.
She prayed over her family—her husband and children, and later their spouses, her grandchildren, and great-granddaughter. She fervently petitioned God on our behalf. She prayed for our protection, that God would provide for our needs, but I knew her greatest prayer was that we would grow in our love of Jesus and honor Him with how we lived our lives.
She also prayed for people she had never met. She was the only person I knew who scoured Facebook for prayer opportunities instead of gossip. I was humbled as I watched her pray for people like Caleb Freeman and Opal Rose Trimble—both strangers to her, but she was burdened to pray for them. It was so neat to be a witness to her rejoicing when she saw God move and answer a prayer.
There’s an old Randy Travis song called When Mama Prayed. The verses of the song tell a story that belongs to another family, but the chorus, the chorus… well, the chorus could have been written for my mama.
The chorus says:
As my heart grieves because of her absence, my greatest desire is that I can continue her legacy. Sometimes I wonder how different my life would be if no one had ever prayed for me. There are people all around me with needs. Need for a savior, need for healing, a need for hope. I pray that God would open my eyes to those He puts in my path, and that I would bow at the feet of Jesus and petition Him on their behalf. I can think of no better way to honor my mama.
A month later I’m still trying to grapple with the reality that my mom is no longer a part of my daily life. I’m still trying to accept the reality that she isn’t sitting in the next room. I’m still trying to answer the question, “How did we get here?” When I drove my mom to the emergency room on February 16, I never could have imagined that was the last time she would be in our house, the last time she would sleep in her bed, or sit in her chair. It never really occurred to me that she wouldn’t get better, that she wouldn’t be coming home.
But here I am, walking through this Mother’s Day without my mom. This last month I have tried to find my way through the deepest grief I have ever known. I cry everyday, and some days I think the tears will never end. I have told my husband several times. “I’m just sad.” Sad—it’s such a simple three letter word, but it has never felt more appropriate in my life. When I think about my mom, I have no regrets. We had a really good relationship and I loved being with her. The void her absence has created is immense.
Don’t be misled, sometimes we fought, sometimes we got on each other's nerves, but at the end of the day we loved each other with a deep, true, pure, love. My grief is just as deep, true, and pure. I feel like a piece of myself has been ripped from my heart.
So how do you move forward when a part of your heart is gone?
So how do you move forward when a part of your heart is gone? How do you take the next step when it feels like your breath has been stolen from you? These are questions to which I’m trying to find the answer. I find myself in the middle of a conundrum. My mom would hate to see me so sad. Unending grief isn’t something she would want for me. But how do you laugh, smile, and find joy again when one of the people you most loved to share those things with is gone?
As all of these questions and thoughts have drifted through my heart and mind these last weeks, I remembered the most fundamental thing my mother and father taught me. They taught me that our needs (physical, emotional, and spiritual) will always be met at the feet of Jesus. So in my grief, I found myself opening my bible and being reminded of some of God’s truths. Truths, that although I knew, I had forgotten.
I’ve been reading through a Bible reading plan called Hope in the Mourning and it has given me a lot to think about. When unexpected things have happened in my life, one thing my mom and I would often say to each other was, “This isn’t a surprise to God.” Knowing that God is never caught off guard would give us peace and hope in the midst of the uncertainty. If my mom could talk to me right now, I think one of the things she might say to me is, “Sharon this wasn’t a surprise to God.” God knew the day and time my mom would be called home to heaven. He knew that my mom’s absence here on Earth would break my heart. But I also believe that God has no intention of robbing me of my joy.
“....weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning” Psalm 30: 5 NASB
God wants to sustain me and he still has plans for me. This truth also reminds me of one of my mom’s favorite verses (she used to quote it to me all the time). Jeremiah 29:ll says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” God’s plans are not negated because I have a broken heart. He longs to draw me to himself. I think the next two verses, although not quoted as often, may be more important. They say, “Then you will call on me and come to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:l2-13)
When I call out to God, he will listen. He cares about my grief. And he cares about my tomorrows. He is compassionate and doesn’t want my sadness to overwhelm me. He longs to be my refuge, my safe place . I can find shelter underneath his wings (Psalm 91:2, 4).
My grief isn’t going to disappear tomorrow. I know tears are going to follow me for many days into the future. But I know that I am not alone. God is my refuge and shelter and he is not afraid of my big emotions. He has given me an amazing, supportive husband to walk beside me. I have also been gifted with a dear family and close friends to share both my heartache and my sweet memories. I know that a day will come when laughter and joy will outweigh the grief and sadness. This is my steadfast hope and this hope anchors my soul. (Hebrews 6:19)
We’re about six weeks into 2020. Just far enough to move on from all the reflecting I did as I rang in the new year. Just far enough to start to get bogged down in the everyday demands of life. Just far enough to forget all the promises I made to myself as the new year began.
I have always enjoyed that time between Christmas and New Years. It’s kind of a no man’s land for me. I have time off from work. There is no where I have to be. I can sit, rest, and decompress. Then January comes and life seems full of possibilities. But by the time February rolls around, I find myself back to the grind at work, and I’m buried by all the demands that come with adulting. Before I know it May will be here, school will be out, I’ll take a week or two to breath, and then I’ll start preparing for a new school year. I’ll blink and another year will have passed.
I long for deep and genuine relationships with people and with God.
I long for deep and genuine relationships with people and with God. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve said I want to go out to lunch with a girlfriend or I really should call….fill in the blank….and see how they’re doing. I think about friends I haven’t talked to in ages and wonder what they’re up to. But I’m plagued with inaction. I’m an expert at making excuses. And if I’m honest, I’m a bit lazy, hoping someone will reach out to me first.
Many people start the new year by making resolutions, or setting goals. Others choose a word to focus on for the year. I personally like the idea of choosing a word for the year. Resolutions and goals, for me, are just too easy to break, and then I beat myself up for not staying the course. I’ve spent a lot of time the last few weeks kicking around words. Words that hold special meaning for me. I’ve tried to find a word that would both inspire me and guide me. A word that would drive me to be my best self. Grace....Satisfied....Restored....are some of the words that have been marinating deep in my soul.
Grace….Satisfied….Restored….are some of the words that have been marinating deep in my soul.
Grace is such a beautiful word. I have been shown so much grace in my life by God and by others. But I have learned one of the most important things is to show grace to myself. I tend to be pretty hard on myself. Learning that I’m pretty a-ok just the way I am has been a journey.
Along the same lines is the word satisfied. I have been working and learning to accept myself just as I am. I am enough. I am satisfied with who I am. There is nothing more or less I could do to make God love me more. I don’t have to do anything extra.
Restored is the other word I’ve been thinking about. Restoration is a powerful thing. Taking something that is battered, scarred, and broken and making it like new is a miraculous thing. I’ve spent much of my adult life carrying scars from multiple traumas. I was letting those difficult and heartbreaking experiences define me. I have felt so blessed as I have worked to renew my mind and restore my heart.
These are all great words. There isn’t a bad one in the lot. But I’ve come to realize that as important as each of these words are for me, none of them are the right word as I venture into this new year.
I’m not naive. I know this coming year will still bring with it many stresses and experiences that I can’t even begin to contemplate right now. But my hope, when I come to the end of this year, is that my life will be fuller and richer because I choose to intentionally embrace this wonderful life I’ve been given.
I was asked to be a guest blogger for Living52. I was very honored to be given this privilege. They asked me to share my thoughts about what it means to be resilient. I wan't to share the post here too. Please checkout their website and like their FaceBook Page. Their initiative is impactful and moving.
I was 24. I was sitting in a doctor’s office. And I was desperately hoping that this doctor would be different. I was hoping he would finally have the answers I was seeking. You see, for the previous six months, I had been a spectator as my body carried out a mutinous attack against me. I had been to more specialist than I realized existed. I was searching for answers. I was watching before my very eyes, as my body deteriorated and betrayed me. The majority of these brilliant minds agreed that something was seriously wrong as they assessed my symptoms. But no one could put a name to the debilitating pain and fatigue I was experiencing. In late December of 1999 I found myself alone sitting in this doctor’s office hoping against hope that this doctor could finally put all the pieces together and explain why the body of a relatively healthy young woman was imploding.
All these years later, I still remember the doctor walking in and gently shaking my hand. He visited with me for about five minutes, asked me a few questions, and then he said, “You know you have Lupus, right?” As those six words washed over me, I quietly responded, “I know...I just needed a doctor to confirm it.” You see in that moment, I wasn’t upset or angry (that would come later), I was relieved. I was relieved to finally have an answer, a name. I was very much relieved to know I wasn’t crazy or losing my mind.
With those six words, my life drastically changed forever.
I won’t hesitate to tell you that my life has been hard, but I want you to hear this next thing very clearly--that doesn’t mean my life has been bad. As I thought about what I wanted to share in this post about resilience, I actually sat down and wrote out a list of all the notable traumas, difficulties, and disappointments I’ve faced in my life. The list was long. I won’t share them all--some are quite personal. However, they include major surgeries, multiple chronic illnesses, death, loss, and heartbreak. These things, these heart events, have shaped me into the person I am today. Because of them I am stronger, bolder, more tenacious. I love deeper, laugh harder, and fight more ferociously than I ever thought possible for the things I believe in. I am a survivor. I am a warrior.
I am a survivor. I am a warrior.
You can’t hide from the hard things in life. They have an innate ability to find us. But we have a choice in how we choose to handle those hard things. I absolutely refuse to let the difficulties of life overwhelm me. Trauma may shape who I am, but it does not have to define me.
This weekend I was blessed as I got to attend my church’s Ladies Retreat. It was a time for me to think, to laugh, and to grow. As I sit here on this quiet Sunday afternoon, I have been taking some time to look back over some of the notes I took over the last two days. Looking through my plethora of messy scribbles, I found one statement that stuck out: “When Jesus heals us, He sends us home to tell our story.” Jamy Fisher, our bible teacher, made this statement in reference to the many stories in the bible where after Jesus healed someone, that person went back to their families and towns and shared what had happened to them.
The last few years I have been on a journey towards healing. I began my forties hurt, wounded, and pretty angry with God. You see my thirties were dark, difficult years. That 10 year period began with a failed marriage that rocked me to my core. I was hurt, betrayed, devastated, ashamed...the list could go on. The decade ended with my youngest daughter running away from home. Once again the air was knocked out of my lungs as my heart crumbled into a million different pieces. During that time period, my heart cried out over and over “Why?!?!” “Why is this happening?!?!” My faith was shaken and I was angry with God. I knew Jesus was my hope. I knew, in Him, I would find healing. But I didn’t feel like being friends with Him, and I definitely wasn’t in the mood to talk to Him. Even though I knew I should trust Him, I wasn’t sure if I was willing to trust Him with my life, my heart, my future.
During this period I learned that God isn’t afraid of my anger. No matter where I am in life, He loves me just the same. I’ve always believed in the promise that “joy comes in the morning,” but morning doesn’t always come on a fixed schedule. Sometimes we have to thoroughly exhaust our anger and pain before we can move forward. I know God is there waiting to share the hope of a better tomorrow. However, He is also patient enough to let me process and grieve when need be, and I am so thankful for that.
Sometimes, we’re angry for so long though, we clutch tightly to it, we become friends with it.
Sometimes, we're angry for so long though, we clutch tightly to it, we become friends with it. It becomes something we are so familiar with that we don’t want or know how to let it go. This is what happened to me. I finally came to a place in my life where I wanted something different. I wanted to find that elusive joy. I wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus. But I had a problem. My anger had become my constant companion. I didn’t know how to kick it to the curb.
By my 40th birthday my church attendance had become sporadic, who knows the last time I had opened the pages of my bible, and I definitely wasn’t praying. I had set aside my foundational beliefs in favor of holding on to bitterness. Because that’s what happens to anger when you hold on to it too long—it becomes bitterness. I longed for healing. I longed for restoration. But I was so very lost.
As a side note, I want to say that even then, God loved me. Even then, God’s hand was on me, and He was protecting me. You see in the middle of that 40th year, in the middle of that anger and bitterness, God still loved me enough to send me Robert. God wanted (and still wants) the best for me. And in the middle of all that ugliness, God sent me the best husband (future husband at the time) I could have dared to hope for.
As I saw Robert’s genuine relationship with God, it encouraged me to begin seeking again. Even though I wasn’t “feeling it” I decided to find my way back to church. I made a resolute decision I was going to go. I was going to be there every Sunday no matter what. Can I tell you how hard those first weeks and months were?
Church was the last place I wanted to be.
Church was the last place I wanted to be. I’ll be honest; some Sundays I sat and played on my phone during the sermon, but I kept coming Sunday after Sunday. Slowly I began to listen to the sermons more and more. And then I began to ask, how does this sermon apply to me? Please hear me—this was a very slow process—I’m talking months and months.
When Robert and I married, we not only made a commitment to go to church, but to also get involved in Sunday School. I think connecting with small groups is so important. This small group of people have no idea how they have ministered to me. They have loved me sincerely—my rough edges and all. Through this small group I started studying the word again. I found myself reading scripture again and reminding myself of truths I learned as a child. And I began to pray again—to talk to God, and believe and know that He was hearing my heart.
Each step I took back towards the feet of Jesus, I took because I knew that was where I’d find my peace, not because I was “feeling it.” I really want to point this out because I know that many times in my life I have thought that if I didn’t have this big emotional moment with Jesus, then it wasn’t real or legit. Part of what I have learned over the last few years is that I can count on Jesus’s promises whether I’m “feeling it.” or not.
Pain really and truly sucks.
If that offends you or makes you feel uncomfortable I’m sorry. It doesn’t matter whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain. Either one can become overwhelming and drown out everything else around you. I know because I’ve had way too much of both in my life.
However, in life, we seldom get to do what we really want, and unfortunately, you don’t get a day off from Lupus. So, when faced with the potential of debilitating pain—pain that would consume me if I let it. In those moments, what I actually do is bare down, grit my teeth, and become a first class actress who is an expert at manipulating her audience into seeing only what she wants them to see.
You may not realize this unless you’ve lived with chronic pain, but pain, all to often, makes other people uncomfortable. So, I have learned that the way to handle it is to put on a plastic smile and just endure. My closest friends can usually see through my facade, but I’m pretty good at fooling the rest of the world.
I made the decision years ago I wasn’t going to let Lupus stop me from living my life. Sometimes I pay for that decision when it causes my lupus to flare, but I don’t regret the decision.
I don’t know what it is you may be facing today. Maybe it's chronic pain like me, or maybe it’s emotional pain from personal tragedy or trauma, or maybe it’s something else. I want to encourage you to keep going, keep holding on, keep taking the next step. I don’t type those words lightly. I know from personal experience, that sometimes, it might seem easier to surrender—to give in. But on my most difficult days I’ve had two things that have given me strength: the love of family and friends and the hope of a great God.
In Joshua 1:9 it says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” NASB
With love, strength, and God given courage, you and I can continue to embrace life even on the really hard days. Don’t give up my dear friend.
I often feel inadequate about so many things. Like many others, I am my own worst critic. It is so easy to be unkind and harsh with myself. Much of the time I feel like my flaws and shortcomings stick out like a green neon shirt. I definitely can’t miss them, so they must be glaringly bright to all those around me.
What is it in my life that I need to accept? The longer I’ve focused in on the word, the more I found myself looking inward. I came to realize that before I can truly accept anyone or anything else, I need to learn to accept myself. This should be my starting place. How incredibly wise to make this the first word on a list of meaningful words.
I could almost instantaneously start a list of all the things I don’t like about myself or the areas where I believe I fall short. If I’m honest with myself, I often feel inadequate or that I’m a failure. I feel so flawed and cracked.
I feel so flawed and cracked.
My life has been filled with scars and hurts for so long. It’s hard to believe that I can become anything useful and beautiful in God’s sight again. Instead of embracing who I am and choosing to accept myself, I tell myself that “I’m a failure” and “I’m not enough.”
I am coming to realize that I need to clean house and exterminate these destructive thoughts from my life. In dwelling on these negative opinions, I have come to see how detrimental these messages are. I have allowed them to dwell in my heart and mind. Because of this, I view everything in my world through the filters of failure and self-disapproval. None of these thoughts bring glory to God or reflect His truths. Neither do they honor myself or who God made me to be.
The truth is, however, I can be so quick to be overly critical and harsh with myself, when in the same instances or circumstances, I wouldn’t hesitate to extend grace to someone else. Grace is such a beautiful thing. It should be freely given when the need arises, but I am oh so quick to withhold it from myself.
But how would my life look different if I truly could learn to accept myself?
But how would my life look different if I truly could learn to accept myself? Accept all my imperfections and shortcomings. If, and it’s a big if, if I can resolutely choose to accept myself, if I can choose to show myself grace and choose to receive the Grace that God so freely gives, well, then, God can take the dried, cracked vessel of my life; he can rework and remake it into something completely new.
You see, for a long time I have prayed, “God please make me that girl I used to be. The girl who could be used by you.” But now I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I was praying the wrong thing. Maybe I should be praying for God to remake me into something new. A new, more mature woman with scars that are healed. Scars that might allow me to help someone else along the journey.
Our pastor once told us about an ancient Japanese art of fixing broken pottery called Kintsugi. It is when an artist takes broken pottery and repairs it. Instead of camouflaging the cracks, the repairs are made with gold, silver, or platinum. The artist intentionally calls attention to the cracks by filling them with precious metals. Through this process, the piece often becomes even more beautiful than it once was, while still honoring the history of the piece. What a beautiful picture I can take for my life. God can take all the flaws and difficult pieces of my life. He can put them back together and make me whole again and more beautiful than I was before.