The gift of grief

Last November, December & January our family suffered the loss of my niece and two uncles. It felt as if grief wouldn’t stop coming, waves on waves. I didn’t have time to get my mind around one loss before another came along. During this time the word that I connected with the most was heavy. I felt heavy. Life felt heavy. The air around me felt heavy. Everything took enormous effort. Then one morning during this time, God gave me the phrase “the gift of grief”.

That’s confusing right? Gifts are good things. I should know, I’m a gift girl. It’s one of my love languages. I love a nice personalized, thoughtful gift. I don’t need expensive gifts, although I’d never turn my nose up at some nice jewelry. But even my favorite jewelry is personalized. I have a bracelet with 6 discs, each disc has handwriting from my most important people – my husband, my 3 boys, my momma and daddy.

So, if my definition of a gift is good, thoughtful and personalized, grief doesn’t fit the bill. Or does it?

Is it good to grieve? I think it is. God created us with emotions. We have to feel our feelings. We don’t have to be defined by them. We can take them to God and He is faithful to walk with us through them.

Is grief personal? A hearty AMEN to this one! There is no one way to grieve, we all do it differently. There may be stages of grief but there are not steps that we all complete one by one in the same order.

How about thoughtful? Death isn’t thoughtful. It’s quite rude actually – uninvited and unwanted. But grief brings with it lots of thoughts, it causes reflection. It arrives with loads of questions. Most of them start with why and they can drive you crazy.

BUT GOD…

But we do not want you to be uniformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13

As believers, we are to grieve differently. We are to grieve keeping in mind the hope we have in Jesus. The gift of God’s love, grace, mercy and eternity with Him. We can take the questions that haunt us to God. He is attentive. He is faithful to comfort us and be near. For me, this meant bringing to mind memories, happy and sad. When the memories were sad and regrets started me spiraling, I had to be intentional about thinking about who God is, His character and what He says about me.

Perhaps grief is a gift intended to draw us closer to God. Perhaps grief is a gift to show us God the comforter. Perhaps I’ve learned to rely on God through my grief. I will never choose grief but when it comes I’ll try to use it to remember the life and impact of my loved one and the goodness of God.

Friend, if you’re grieving today, take it to God. He is faithful to comfort you. It’s not a quick process. Stay with Him, keep praying. Please don’t take this to say that you need to grieve alone with just you and God. I had people around me, listening to me, holding me up, loving me through this grief. And it’s ongoing. It does come in waves and on unexpected days. If you are feeling pulled under by your grief, please reach out to both God and people around you or to me. Grief must be witnessed because love must be witnessed.

Teachers

At this point in the 20-21 school year my tired is tired – like never been this tired before in my life.

So I can only imagine how tired our teachers are. They have truly been heroes throughout this pandemic. Last March – with the flip of a switch – they had to learn and relearn their entire career.

Pedagogy, technology, differentiation, and how to deal with students’ social-emotional ups and downs through a pandemic are just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s not forget this was a brand new situation that they had never faced before – teachers basically just wrote their own handbook on how to teach during a pandemic.

Teachers are resilient.

Teachers do whatever it takes.

It’s hard to understand exactly what teachers have gone through this past year unless you’re in education. They’ve risked their physical and mental health because they love our kids so much.

Teachers deserve a raise.

Teachers deserve praise.

Teachers deserve grace.

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. I encourage you to reach out to your students’ teacher with a kind word and maybe some coffee. Most importantly, pray for our teachers.

God, thank you for teachers. Thank you for the love and heroism they’ve shown this past year. I pray God that you will give them the endurance that they need to finish this race. Let them know they are truly doing a great work for you. I pray that this summer will bring them the rest that they mentally and physically need. God, thank you for teachers. They are truly the hands and feet of Jesus. In your name I pray. Amen.

“Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.” Psalm 62:1

Trust and Obey

Trust & Obey – For There’s No Other Way…

No, I didn’t write those words, but I’ve whispered them, sang them, prayed them, cried them…and actually this was the first hymn I learned to play on the piano!

2017 was a tough year for me. My trust was sorely tested or maybe my trust was strengthened?

On Jan. 3, my precious mother at the age of 89 stepped into the arms of Jesus.

“Not a shadow can rise”

On April 19, my 93 yr. old daddy (who was still mourning the loss of his bride of 65 years) fell and broke his leg…and would be in the hospital for 4 months.

“Not a cloud in the skies”

On June 18, one of my brothers was diagnosed with cancer.

“Not a doubt or a fear”

On August 23, that same brother slipped into a coma unrelated to the cancer and would be in that coma for 3 weeks and in ICU on life support.

“Not a sigh or a tear”

On August 29, my husband got a boat ride for his birthday. He was rescued by boat from our flooding home. We lost our home of 21 years and everything we owned, with no flood insurance (and I remember praying, Lord, take it all, but please spare my brother…for this was when he was in the coma).

“Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way

To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Psalm 112:7 tells us “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”

I would be lying if I said I didn’t hurt that year or have fear or that I didn’t cry. I cried a lot – I hurt a lot. But each time I cried I heard His voice “Trust me, my child”. I SAID He was my savior, I QUOTED scriptures, I SHARED my testimony…now was my time to step out in faith and truly trust Him. And as bad as everything seemed I KNEW God was with us…we were NOT alone. He was there with me in the hospital waiting room…He took the form of friends who prayed with me or just sat with me. He was there at the flooded house…He took the form of friends and church members who helped us get the filth out. He took the form of a friend who provided a place for us to live for 8 months when we had no place to live. We never felt alone. We never felt abandoned.

In this life we will face good times and bad times…times on the mountain and times in the valley…but in Hebrew 13:5 He reminds us that He will never “…leave you nor forsake you.” Doesn’t mean we will not face trials and tribulations, as a matter of fact the Bible tells us that we will indeed experience those but that again…He will see us through if we will but TRUST Him. Psalm 34:19, James 1:2-4, Romans 8:35

My friends I pray that as you face your “2017s” in life that you will lean into our Father, for He loves you so, and He will guide your steps…He will make a way!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3: 5-6

Our story didn’t end in 2017…

We rebuilt our home with the help of our church, friends and family; my father and brother both are well today; and my precious mother is singing with Jesus…

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!

How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!

Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Oh, for grace to trust You more!

Seek Him

Guest Post by Mrs. Faith Sanchez

As humans we tend to seek what makesus happy, those things or people we can see, to fulfill in us a void that we long to fill. We seek those people, places, or things that bring us instant gratification and seek to continuously find new people, places, or things to ensure our gratification endures in order to believe that the unfulfilled need is not there.


We seek so many things, places, or people that we don’t stop to realize that all of those “continuous gratifications” are temporary. These are all temporary solutions to an unfulfilled void that so many try so hard to deny its existence. Like most, dealing with temporary solutions, they are frustrated to a point of such aggravation that it will manifest and grow negatively in their lives. Those that love the unfulfilled person will not understand, for the most part, because in some ways they too have the same or similar struggles that they try to deny as well.


SO WHY NOT SEEK A PERMANENT SOLUTION?


God teaches us that if we seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness that all of your needs will be fulfilled. With that we have assurance that any unfulfilled void can be permanently filled!


Yes, seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness takes work! It takes us wanting a relationship with God by spending time with Him, reading His Word, praying, fasting, and a willingness to Honor Him in all that we do, say, or think. Most of all it takes us loving Him with our whole mind, body, and soul.
Don’t give in to the Devil’s lie that the permanent solution is too hard or you aren’t worthy. Jesus died on the cross to ensure it can be done and that you are worthy through Him!

Keep it simple

How do you have a conversation with God?

You talk to Him.

And the more you talk to Him, the more you’ll hear Him talking to you.

How do you talk to Him?

▪️Praying

▪️Reading His word

▪️Praise and worship

God did not intend a relationship with Him to be complex, so don’t over complicate things. It’s really quite simple – just love Him with your whole heart.

Simply talk to Him today.

He wants to hear from you.

He wants you to hear from Him.

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.” Psalm 145:18-19

It’s your choice.

Grocery shopping is my least favorite adulty thing to do. And trust me, I’m acutely aware of how ridiculous that statement is.

This last week I didn’t have my life together enough to get a grocery order in, so Sunday I had to go into the actual store. Again, I know how ridiculous I sound.

Nonetheless, I found myself staring at my steering wheel in the H‑E‑B parking lot – wheeling my self to get out of the car and go inside the store.

Pun intended.

Yes, I went in.

Yes, I whined underneath my mask about it.

Yes, I followed a janky list made in five minutes.

Since I’m already putting all of my ridiculousness out there, let me go ahead and confess that when I got to the cookie aisle and discovered that the gluten-free Oreos had been raided I just about cried.

I seriously sat there silently sulking for a good ten seconds before I looked up and saw the lady in front of me. She was wearing a shirt that had the words to “How Great Thou Art” on it.

How Great Thou Art. My God.

Talk about a much needed attitude check.

I get to work a job that I love.

I get to buy my family groceries.

I have a stove.

I have a refrigerator.

I have a family to cook for.

I get.

I have.

Y’all, there’s always going to be things that we just don’t want to do – because flesh. We just need to remember that we have a choice to waller around in that miserable mud-hole, or we can flip the script in our mind and focus on the good instead.

I don’t know what tasks you have to do today that you don’t want to do, but I would like to encourage you to find something positive within that to-do list.

It’s there. It’s your choice.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23

You are more than Enough

Guest Post by Bethany Hill

You are More than Enough

Psalms, 139:13-14

For you created my inmost being;

    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

    your works are wonderful,

    I know that full well.

Everyone has an inner voice that speaks to us in the midst of particular situations, during chaos, and in silence. It is always there – in the background. Sometimes the inner voice is louder, and sometimes we barely notice it.

The influence of the inner voice is highly dependent on the level of self awareness one has. Sometimes that voice within us is harsh and unkind. Sometimes that voice tells us that we are not strong enough, good enough, smart enough, focused enough…it makes us question our worth. When I experience moments like this, my inner voice prompts me to overthink, overanalyze, and hyper-focus on things that are often beyond my control. When I was a little girl I worried about EVERYTHING.

I was anxious and fearful of so many things. The weather, death, lack of money, becoming ill, and losing loved ones filled my thoughts on a regular basis. I was a little girl filled with many doubts and misunderstandings about my own thoughts and outlook on the world around me. As I grew into my teenage years, my heart opened to hearing God’s word and the promise of salvation. Although my faith calmed my worries and fears, my inner voice was still strong enough to creep up and cause doubt. I used to think that happened because I wasn’t strong enough, or saved enough, or maybe I didn’t pray enough, or read my Bible enough.

That word again…enough. It’s a tough word. 

God knows we are imperfect; yet, we were perfectly formed through His eyes and hands. He knows our hearts and is aware of every doubt in our minds before we even consider it. He knows we will succumb to that inner voice of fear and doubt, and He knows how strong and convincing that voice can be. What we must remember is that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, which makes us MORE than ENOUGH. 

Those tough days where the inner voice is picking a fight with me I have to remind myself that God created me, which means that I am MORE than ENOUGH. I was designed to fulfill God’s purpose for my life, and He knows there will be times when I am misaligned with His will. Thankfully, I am reminded to slow my roll, open my heart, and listen…not to that inner voice trying to infuse my mind with doubts, fears, worries, and anything else to get me off track…but to listen to HIM. 

When God has control of your inner voice your heart and mind will be aligned with His purpose. Seek Him today. Thank Him for creating you perfectly, and knowing you are and will continue to be imperfect. Allow Him to infiltrate your mind, body, and soul. You were not made to live without God’s voice within you. Take time to listen today, and seek understanding that supports your efforts in becoming the person you are meant to be.

No Offense

Offense. It was not until recently that I noticed how often I can take offense to small things people do or say throughout each day. Satan thrives on these small, fleeting opportunities to get underneath our skin. Sometimes a simple word or wrong glance from someone can cause a total spiral of emotions. It is important to remember “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.” (John 10:10) as well as “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high place.” (Ephesians 6:12)

We allow the enemy to be very good at his job when only one small action from another person is able to completely take over our thoughts. These small feelings of offense may feel harmless in the moment, but slowly these offenses can seep in and cause bitterness, doubt, and unforgiveness that drive a wedge between us and the Lord. 

We live in a very angry world. It is so easy to become upset and there is such little room for mercy. Look around…there is a lot of heartache and resentment around us every day. Bitterness and offenses have built up in people’s hearts and caused such ugliness to show. Forgiveness is not always easy or fair, but the bible DOES say that forgiveness is necessary and even ESSENTIAL in building a true relationship with the Lord. In fact, the bible even says if we are not able to forgive others, our OWN sins cannot be forgiven. “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25)

Unforgiveness can stand in the way of the precious plans God has made for us and offense can be a stumbling block in our walk along the way. Allowing ourselves to be offended steals our joy, ruins friendships, and stunts our growth with the Lord.  The only way to truly guard our hearts from offense and unforgiveness is to walk in love. The bible says not only to forgive one another, but to forgive quickly and often! One way to forgive more easily  is to believe the best in others. We cannot see inside someone’s heart the way that the Lord does. Be quick to assume the best in others. We all fall short, we all need mercy. 

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)

How much happier would life be if we were able to live each day without dwelling on what someone else thinks of us? How much time could we save worrying? Trying to control the thoughts and actions of others is useless. I think about this often because I happen to be a gigantic….people pleaser. I want to be liked, to be admired, to be praised. It is so easy to forget that I already know the ONLY opinion of myself that matters. I am chosen, loved, adored, liked, and encouraged by the son of God. Reminding myself of this seems to let all other opinions simply fall away. 

My prayer for you today is to let the small things go. Refuse to take the bait of the small offenses that the enemy places in front of you today. Remember that you do not need the opinion of others in order to be secure. You are already invaluable to the only one that matters.

The Good Shepherd

Guest Post by Mrs. Sarah Guedry

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

John 10:27-28 NIV

https://www.bible.com/111/jhn.10.27-28.niv

It is so interesting to me that Jesus compares us to sheep throughout the Bible. Sheep require care. Left to their own will- they will surely perish. They need the shepherd’s guidance, care and protection.

Occasionally a mother sheep will reject a lamb. The lamb is called a “bummer.” Truly a disappointment. But a good shepherd still sees the lamb’s value. He takes the sheep into his personal care. He holds it close to him. He personally cares for it until the lamb is strong enough to join the herd.

That little lamb never forgets the shepherd’s voice. It is a devoted follower and may even earn an important role as the “bell sheep.” The bell sheep gets to wear a bell that the other sheep will follow. The bell sheep must know the Shepherd and follow him faithfully.

Jesus is still teaching me a simple truth. He has not called me to “be the best I can be.” He never said “strive” “juggle all the plates” “do it all.”

Nope. Not in the Bible – that’s not His voice.

He did say, “Love the lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength.” (Matthew 22:37)

When I strive to be all the things I think I should be- I end up a bummer. So many times I’ve fallen to my knees heart heavy in disappointment and so weary. Overwhelmed, frustrated, hurt, lost.

My good shepherd picks me up. He comforts me. He doesn’t say “figure it out.” He says “follow me.” When I fix my eyes on Him He provides everything I need.

Father, thank you for your faithful love and great compassion. We are worse than “bummers.” We were not rejected- but rebellious. Father draw us close to your side. Teach us to love you. Let our hearts desire nothing more than you. Fix our eyes on you and teach us to confidently follow you without fear or worry. You are our good Shepherd and we can fully rely on your care. Let our lives, love, and joy be a beacon- a bell – that will lead others to you.

All of my Hope

🎶 I’m calling on the name
That changes everything, yes
God, turn it around
God, turn it around
God, turn it around
All of my hope
Is in the name
The name of Jesus
Breakthrough will come
Come in the name
The name of Jesus🎶

Whatever struggles or trials you are facing today let me remind you of this sweet, sweet promise – God can turn it around.

Call on His name.
Believe in the power that His name holds.
And whatever you do – don’t give up hope in Him.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” Romans 12.12