When Life Hits Hard, Get It Together!

God Guides the Crossroads of Life
Photo by Zane Lee on Unsplash

Coming Apart At The Seams

There are times in life where we can hear God telling us to ‘Get it Together’!  Much like the perpetual slap on each cheek or being picked up by the scruff of the neck when we get overly anxious, God must, at times, step in to stop us in our tracks – before we head over the figurative cliff just ahead. 

The momentary detour may protect us from that path we are most familiar with that seems to lead to the same old outcome.  There can also be detours to make us reflect on a path that we are terrified to take because it is unfamiliar or unknown to us.  Whatever it is, if you are a believer, God is constantly trying to get your attention to remind you of your purpose and His plan in your life; to help you ‘get it together’. God manages everything and will help you manage the issues of life.

God Holds Everything Together

In the Bible, there is a reminder in Colossians 1:17 that says –

“He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.

The verses preceding this verse provide a more detailed context but verse 17 is something we should keep in the forefront of our minds – the fact that Jesus is our Sovereign Lord and knows everything we are going through.  When we feel our lives are spiraling out of control, He is aware and knows how to get it back together.  How?  Because “in Him, all things hold together.”

On Safe Ground

So, when you feel the pressure to conform, give in, fight or get frustrated remember your faith.  Your faith, along with the voice of the Holy Spirit, will guide you to peace and understanding.  You never walk alone, and you never walk without a guide or directions to ‘get it together’ – if you have Jesus Christ as your Savior. There’s also peace in knowing that God works in ways that don’t make sense to others anyway. Again, God holds everything together and will help you manage the issues of life.

#LivingTheRedeemedLife

The Shadow of Trauma

The Shadow of Trauma

We all live in the shadow of trauma.  This is the residue of trauma that is related to our own or other people’s traumatic experiences.   Recently, I was browsing on Instagram and saw a quote by the recording artist Rashaan Patterson that made me think about the impact of generational experiences, specifically traumatic ones, and how they affect our lives.  The post said, “Stop mistaking shared trauma as compatibility.”   This statement stopped me for a moment.  It made me wish someone told me this advice when I was younger, especially when I was dating. 

This quote made me realize the pain of traumatic experiences such as loss, grief, disappointment, abuse and how we are impacted by ours and other peoples traumas.  Trauma is everywhere. The term ‘trauma’ itself is, at times, overlooked because we tend to associate it with only tragic and devastating events.  While this can be true, and I definitely don’t want to take away from anyone’s experience – I feel that we many times don’t address our own ‘traumas’ because they aren’t as dramatic as we envision trauma to be. 

Please note:  The following is not meant to discourage you from seeking professional help.  One of the most important lessons I learned as I began my healing journey came via a wonderful counselor (who was also Christian) that helped me gain perspective on why I did some of the things I did – repeatedly.  I learned my responses were my coping mechanism but they also, many times, made the situation worse.

Trauma By Proximity

For example, I grew up with a father who was an alcoholic.  I speak about this in my book “What Just Happened?  Living the Redeemed Life When All Hell Breaks Loose” (found at www.amazon.com). My father’s alcoholism left a mark on me that I probably didn’t recognize until I was older.  He was mean some days, loving on other days and disconnected the rest of the time.  His disconnection made me work extra hard to ‘prove’ my loyalty or love in the various relationships I had along the path to adulthood – even when they did not necessarily deserve that kind of commitment. 

It was only after my own various failed relationships and many prayers (and counseling) that I gained a deeper understanding that his drinking was related to his very tragic upbringing and this was how he coped. He experienced loss, through death and separation, at a very young age.  He grew up in abject conditions from being in a ‘coal miner family’.  My father had to become an adult when many kids were experiencing the joys of teenage exploration and he found himself on his own by eighteen years old.  That was when he joined the military.  Drinking was my fathers only escape and he continued to drink for most of the rest of his life.  I only knew the ‘trauma of his trauma’ and he probably only knew the trauma of his parent’s trauma.  It has been an ongoing cycle for this branch of the family tree.

What I have learned about this ‘trauma by association experience’ is – sometimes the impacts are passed on generationally, and sometimes we are unwilling victims due to proximity.   We adjust so easily to each other’s trauma that when we find traumas in common, we feel we’ve found our bestie, soul mate and friend.  We’ve even come up with names for how we respond to trauma, e.g. triggers, but that often sounds like a deflection because we recognize it exists, but we don’t really address it in a way to heal the pain.  That was the case for me.  I recognized I had triggers but it took a long time before I finally asked God for the wisdom to truly heal.  It was that realization that began my journey for peace within.

God’s Healing Power

What does God say about all of this? His number one goal for us is a ‘peace that surpasses all understanding’ and to not carry our traumas around like a big piece of luggage on wheels.  God does not want us to lose sight that He is the one who can ultimately lighten the impact of our traumas to the point they are just faint memories in the rear-view mirror of life.  I believe that is why Paul said in 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your cares upon the Lord because He cares for you.”

God knew we would go through stuff in life.  And some of it is so hard that it leaves the indelible stain of trauma.  Satans number one goal is to use these experiences to stop us and keep us from our purpose.

John 12:40 is a scripture that reminds us of the healing God offers.  It says-

“The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts— so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.”

Trauma has such a powerful effect that it can ‘blind us’ and ‘harden our hearts’ such that we can’t even turn outside of ourselves to get healing. Stop right now and seek God.  Cry out to Him if you need to because He is a loving Father that is always listening. God says to take His yoke, to give Him your hurts and pains, and to let Him deal with and heal the traumas of life.  God can transform your traumas into a brick in the foundation that catapults you into healing, purpose, and greatness.  Let go and let God take that burden.  Remember, Jesus came to not only give you life but life more abundantly.

Let The Healing Begin

Let the healing begin, now.  Let God know you are hurting and want to give it all to Him.  You can pray to God right now to lead you and guide you.  He can make the rest of your life the best it can be, in Jesus Name! 

A good resource to consult is New Life Ministries (www.newlife.com) which offers various resources and a network of counselors to assist you in beginning the journey.  You can also leave a prayer request with me on the Contact page and I will pray with and for you.  Don’t hesitate…healing begins today.

God in the ‘Tenderizing’ Seasons

Oops, I Did It Again

Sometimes, when I look back over my life, I realize how many times God has had to save me.  As much as I hate to admit it, many times He has had to save me from myself!  My Savior has had to save me, too many times, from doing things I know I shouldn’t be doing.  That’s when God’s Holy Hand, reaching in to intervene, reminds me of the process used to get meat to a state where it is chewable and tasty.   In the normal process of meat preparation, a good marinade should be all that is needed to make it palatable.  But sometimes, when the meat is a little tough, you need a meat tenderizer to soften it up.  God can be like a tenderizer at certain points in our lives when we need some ‘softening’. 

Now, I believe God prefers to marinate us with His Word and Spirit.  That is what I call the ‘spice route’, where He uses the salt of His Word and the fragrance of His Spirit to get our attention.   However, there are those times God needs to be that tool, you know, the one that looks much like a hammer.  That tool is a pretty harsh tool and it is used to ‘pound out’ the resistant areas of our lives to bring in the taste and tenderness.  

Time to Tenderize

There are times in life where we are like the reference in Acts 7:51 where God looks at us like a “stiff-necked people.”  That is when we resist the direction of the Holy Spirit to ‘do right’ and follow our own feelings and desires.  That begins what I call the ‘tenderization season’ in our living where God steps in and creates a level of interference to get us back on track.  It can be momentary, where the correction is only for an instant (like the marinade) or it can last longer if the actions warrant it.  The hardest response is when the tenderization comes by way of the ‘hammer’ – think Jonah, when he disobeyed God’s direction because he wasn’t ‘feeling it’ (Jonah 1:1-3). Or the Israelites so many times throughout the Bible when they refused to follow God’s way. 

Remember, when God’s refining fire comes into your life, it is much easier to BEAR if it comes via the light touch of God’s ‘marinade’ vs. the blunt force (and prickly points) of a tenderizing hammer.  God loves us enough to give us the free will to choose His Will.  He also loves us enough to use discipline to help us recognize that His course is the best course.  Tenderization is discipline. I believe this allows us to understand the ramifications of our choices and not blame Him when our decisions are not aligned with His.

Tenderization is Discipline

His Word reminds us that He is always available to save us from ourselves. The door is never closed to make a ‘hard turn’ to get out of the trouble we have created and make to choice to choose Him.  Think about the prodigal son, whose choices led him to a place where even pigs lived better than he did (Luke 15:13-16).  Once he ‘got it’ he ran back home to the loving arms of a waiting father.  That is how God is with us.  However, one thing I have learned in my own faith walk, God will not continue to give you rope after life-saving rope without some ‘tenderization’.  This is part of the loving discipline of a loving God who wants us to experience the best things in life.

So…Our humanity will sometimes create tenderizing seasons in life.

It is better to avoid the hammer by marinating in God’s Word, spending time in prayer to listen to His voice and following His directions.  If you find yourself on the wrong end of God’s discipline, don’t ignore Him (like Jonah), follow Him.  And always remember, God loves you and only wants the best for you.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

#LivingTheRedeemedLife

God Kept Me

The meaning of the Cross is always protecting me

God Kept Me

That is my testimony. God kept me.  Just like the song lyrics say, God kept me.  Through the valleys and uncertainties, God has kept me. The experiences of my life’s journey remind me of how God’s cover stays with us always.  God kept me, and He keeps you too.

Looking in the Rearview

It has been one year since I published my book, “What Just Happened?  Living the Redeemed Life, When All Hell Breaks Loose.”  An eventful year filled with testimonies from others who were touched by my story and the busyness that comes from taking that initial step of going from personal privacy to transparency on a more public level. It has been a year where I have had to face my fears as well as my strengths and weakness.  I’ve had to break down personal barriers to my esteem and identity because it is not easy putting your story ‘out there’.  I realize that my life has been crazy and wondrous all at the same time.  I also got more connected to the gifts God has poured into me as I put that ‘social butterfly’ tendency I’ve always had (that sometimes annoys my husband) to work. Who knew that my chattiness was really a gift to be used?  I didn’t know but God did.  It was also a time where I saw God open doors that could only have been opened because of the experiences I had gone through.  This year only added to the ‘awe’ I already knew about our awesome God!

Finding My Way

This new season didn’t just begin in the last year, it really started three years ago with the transition of a career I had always known and my mother’s illness and ultimate death. As I mentioned in my book, when these events happened, I lost my foundation.  I not only lost my income but my identity as I knew it (at least in my mind).  Things changed so drastically for me that the coping skills I have used my entire life didn’t work for me.  I prayed and cried so much that they became my daily norm.  That is where the lyrics to the song “I Almost Let Go” by Kurt Carr & the Kurt Carr Singers came into play:

I almost let go
I felt like I couldn’t take life anymore
My problems had me bound
Depression weighed me down

But God held me close
So I wouldn’t let go
God’s mercy kept me
So I wouldn’t let go

Way – Found

The Lord’s presence in my life sustained me and pulled me up in my grief.  His mercy allowed me to recognize I still had breath and could take a small step each day.  The book was the culmination of the journaling I did to heal through the process. Only God could take that season of my life and turn it into something that I could speak about as a blessing! As I look back on how God loved me through my loss I realize – it had to happen the way it happened.  God needed to give me the understanding I now have for the new places He is taking me in my career, ministry, and life.  Just like salvation, life comes from death.  Gain comes from loss.  Lessons come from pain and healing eventually comes from hurt.   God kept me, and He keeps you too.

That is Living the RedeemedLife. You are not alone, and God really has a plan and purpose for your life, through all of the ups and the downs. 

You are Redeemed, Restored and Rejoiced! 

#LivingtheRedeemedLife

The Ups and Downs of Thanksgiving

Heart picture for grief

Thanksgiving Day signals the beginning of the frenzy of the holiday season.  For some,  it is a reminder of the wonderful birth of our risen Savior, Jesus Christ.  And for others, it is the beginning of the shopping season (and discounts) leading up to Christmas.   For many, it is both! It is during this time, I am reminded of the many things I have to be thankful for.  There are the obvious things like my family and my health.  As I age though, these things are taking on new meanings and shapes but I am still thankful.  Most days, just to be able to wake up and embrace the newness of the day is something I cherish.

The Value of My Alabaster Box

I actually started writing this blog before Thanksgiving but the emotion of the week took over. This year, I have to admit, I am struggling.  I wasn’t struggling to be thankful, no, God has blessed and kept me.   For some reason this year I am reminded of that delicate balance of how blessings can also have that distinction of being fulfilling and painstaking at the same time.   See, for me (and many others) the Thanksgiving season is a stark reminder of those things that have passed on in life.  It is a reminder of the now empty chair that used to be occupied by a loved one.

Tough Times…At Times

This is now the third Thanksgiving where all of the family’s parents (mine and my in-laws) are absent.  Though we have grown accustomed to this new existence it is still a void that we busily ignore while cooking and hustling through the festivities.  The week of Thanksgiving is especially hard for me because it is also the week my mother’s health took a turn for the worse and she never recovered.  My mother loved the fellowship of Thanksgiving; the grocery shopping, the cooking, the crowded kitchen, she loved it!  It was her lack of wanting to participate in the planning three years ago that signaled something was very wrong.  She went into hospice care right after that holiday and went on to Glory shortly afterward.

I recognize this holiday season can be tough for so many of us.  Though gratitude is at the core of our hearts, some of our memories have a tinge of pain connected due to loss, grief, and change.  I think about the song by CeCe Winans where she sings about people not knowing the pain behind the oil in her alabaster box.  I cry when I hear that song because I truly can empathize.

Hope Still Lies Ahead

It is also during these times when I also realize there is nothing in this world that God is not aware of or understands.  It is during these times I cry out to Him because I trust He knows what is in my heart.  When I feel the void of my mothers presence, like when I am looking for her oyster dressing recipe, He says “I know My child, I hear your tears.”  It is during this time He also reminds me that she is fine with Him and it is alright to feel sad because He knows the love we had for each other.  God knew what He was doing when He allowed her to have me and the feelings of grief when she passed away.  He knows about the bond of mother and daughter.  He knows about the grief and the emptiness we feel when family, friends, and sometimes even things, are no longer with us.  God created everything and He understands.  We are not alone.

Turn to God’s Word

It is during times like this I believe we have to turn to His voice in the Bible to get the strength to get through.  If the holiday season is a bit tough for you – the following are points to remember to help you along:

  • Rejoice in all things, pray continually and be forever grateful.   (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  • For everything, there is a season so trouble doesn’t last forever. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
  • God promised He will give us the strength to get through the things we face. God didn’t say life would be easy but He did say He would never leave us.  (Isaiah 41:10, 1 Peter 5:10)
  • God can take the most heartwrenching situations and use them for good. (Romans 8:28)
  • God says our sacrifice of Thanksgiving is what He desires and when we call on Him, He is the one who will deliver us. (Psalm 50:13-15)

My friends, for those memories, your grief, that unwanted life change and that need that seems to be continually unfilled – God says to bring it all to Him.  He understands and can carry you through.  Give it to Him, with Thanksgiving.

#LivingTheRedeemedLife