Thursday, August 29, 2013

You Are Blessed!

Morning sunshine breaking through the trees

Good Morning!!
This morning as I took my moment’s breathe of reprieve ( ) and quiet time, my eyes settled on a verse that seemed to resonate in my heart and mind.  I thought about how on some days my schedule is so hectic I forget to remember to see the positive in the negative.  (Did you get that?) How sometimes I let my “issues” cloud my gratitude for the (many) good things I have in life (oh yes, I can find many good things I should be thankful for) and how I even allow myself to wallow in a pity party at times (yikes!).  Yes, I do that sometimes – do you?

Well, as I read these words, I begin to think of some people in my life whom I feel would benefit from reading them.  And, being a writer, lots of words start jumping up and down in my mind, yelling out and vying for a chance to be chosen for today’s helpful wordwithmindy blog entry.  However, as I read the verses again, I begin to get this warm feeling spreading through my stomach and chest, and into my heart.  And then I realize I need to stop a moment; I need to look again at these words.  Yes, maybe, just maybe I need to apply these words to my own life this morning. 

These are the words:
You’re Blessed
1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.  Matthew 5 The Message (MSG)
Wow - these wonderful words tell me that when I’m exhausted and have nothing left to give, that is when I am most open and accepting of God’s care of me and His guidance.  Yes, in reflection, I see that this is true.
That when I have lost my heart’s desire or a most dear loved one, then that is when I am able to accept God’s embracing and enveloping love of me. When I am too wrapped up and focused on the one(s) I love, I am too full and distracted to receive God’s love (God – who loves me more than anyone else ever would or could.)
That when I am ready to accept who I am, with humility, with all my little quirks, flaws and all, that is when I receive peace in having all the important things in life that cannot be bought with a price.
That when I deeply desire to know more about God and things of God, then I will be more fulfilled and satisfied than with anything else.
That when I am mindful and caring and merciful to others, that is when I will find caring and mercy given to me.
That when I set my sights and heart on the right things, good and caring things, pure things, things that truly matter, not just to me, but to others around me, then my eyes will be open to all the good, right, pure and wonderful things in my life and in the world.  And it is then that I will see God!
That when I work to create peace and harmony in those around me, instead of gossip, rumor spreading, or conflict, then I will find my place in God’s plan and kingdom.  Meaning I will find peace and joy and contentment in my own heart. And make God’s heart happy as I embrace being one of HIS.
And that when I take a stand for God, when I take part in worship of God, when I share His Word and love with others, and as a result am made fun of, ridiculed, or even lose out on something I wanted - that’s ok.  I can surround myself with Christian people, keep seeking God, sharing things of God, and become more deeply centered in God’s kingdom and His care of me.  Some others may not like it, but God does – and He will reward me for it!!! 
After all – all the great prophets and teachers of the Word have all gone through some persecution. And they held fast.
We all go through persecution of some kind or another. 
We just need to choose if it’s for a bad or non-productive cause, or a good and life-changing one.
So, this morning, in contemplation of these verses and words – I feel a little silly and misguided in ever having a pity party.  Yes, I get that there will be times when I feel overwhelmed and wonder “why me?” But that’s ok.  Because it is those times that I will turn to God and ask Him why? I will have conversation with God.  And He likes that – that is when we have relationship – a 2-way relationship instead of me by myself or God by Himself. 
Yes, I see that it takes conversation between us – me and God.  And my heart being open and willing to hear His leading, and not my own stubborn will.  Sometimes that means being empty, broken, harassed, lost, or torn.  And if that’s when I find God most intimately and allow myself to feel His presence and love the most – then that’s ok. 
Because therein lies my peace, my purpose, my life.
May you each find peace, purpose and an overflowing fountain of life as you are blessed.


My Babies

Monday, August 26, 2013

Free to be ME!

Good Monday Morning to you!!  Have you had your breakfast yet?  Very important meal – very important start to your day, so eat up!

I’m so very excited this morning because I get to see my Mom today.  I haven’t seen her for many months, so please forgive me for my over-bubbliness – yay! Yay! Yay!  I get to see Mom today!!!!!!!! 

(Side note here – have you told those in your life today how much you love them or how very special they are to you, or how lost you would feel without them? Today is a good day to do so J)

This morning as I read verse of the day, I thought how very appropriate these verses are for each of us today:
First - It’s Monday – the start of a brand new work week and a brand new chance to show our right stuff – that beautiful, unique, individual stuff that makes us – each one – who we are,

And second – for much of the country, today is the first day back to school!  A new year, a new chance to bring it; to make new friends, get reacquainted with old friends, to be and live out who we are - with all those wonderful, beautiful, individual characteristics and qualities and aptitudes  that work together to make us who we are as a person, and who we were meant to be.

Today is a new day to begin making decisions based on who we are individually as a person, and not on what or who our friends or peers think we should be.  Yes?

Until the last few years or so, I have spent my entire life trying to be like everyone else, trying to fit in, to be stylish, to be pretty, and to be popular.  This has always been extremely important to me.  When I was in jr and sr high, this need led me to do and be some things I am not proud of.  Harmful things, not only to me, but also to my family.  And as an adult it has caused me to waste a lot of time trying to be things I am not.  And trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” – or Kardashian’s - in the world of fashion and beauty is ridiculous!!

So, in reading this Scripture this morning, I am reminded again that yes, it is true that we all have something – a hobby, a career choice, a ministry, etc., that interests us more, or that we take to more easily.  Something that makes us sing inside, you know, feel really good.  Whether it be working with our hands, crunching numbers, cooking, sewing, writing, teaching, coaching, leading, singing, painting, problem solving, counseling, doctoring, hair design, interior design, fashion design, computer design, hardware design, etc – there is something that interests each one of us more than anything else, that comes much more easily to us, and just feels right doing it or being a part of it.  Would you agree?

Think about it - what is that “something” that you really like doing, that “something” which seems to come more easily to you or that you feel more comfortable doing?  That “something” which makes you feel happy or right when you are involved in doing it?**

That “something” is the aptitude created within you, while you were yet unborn, empowering you with the personality and skills to be whomever and whatever you were designed to be. 

Check out this Scripture, it explains it perfectly;
In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. Romans 12:4-5 MSG

Hmmm… this says that we were made to be something specific, with a special meaning and function or purpose all of its own.  That we each are an excellently formed, marvelously functioning part within the whole big picture.  Each one of us!

Wow – that’s pretty cool!
(haha – I can’t bring myself to say, “rad” “sweet” “nice” etc.  “Cool” does it for me!)

This verse says: let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

Yes!! These are marvelous words to begin our day, our week, our new school year – words that give us permission to be who we were created to be, using our own personalities, without feeling awkward, left out, or weird!  Awesome!!  Don’t you think?

So let’s all go out and do our part – let’s be ourselves – the “ourselves” that God created us to be, putting into good use the excellently formed, marvelously functioning part of life and living that we are supposed to be.  We will feel better being this excellently formed person instead of enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. Or trying to be something the world tells us we should be. 

This is a good reminder for me today as I get ready for the day.  Just be me, don’t try to be like someone else – wear what feels good to me, fix my hair and makeup how I like, smile at everyone I see because that’s who I am! Do the things I enjoy doing, being productive and helping others along the way. 

And write my blog – because that’s one of those “somethings” that makes me feel good!

What makes you feel good?

Love and blessings to you as you enjoying sharing YOU with your world today,

**Ummm…do I need to clarify that I’m not talking bad or illegal things here? I hate to bring that up, but today I need to.

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside.

1 Corinthians 13:11 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Walked This Road Before Us

Hello to all of you - YAY it’s Friday here!! 
What’s on your agenda for this weekend – anything fun? May I suggest that whatever you do, take along some great, inspiring music to lift the mood and lighten the load!  Here’s an artist I would recommend:

Not exactly sure why, but the last few days or so I have had a singer I met some years ago on my mind. I saw a tweet from her the other day and because I felt a connection with her years ago when I met her, I looked her up. 

I did know that a few years ago she lost her husband, Tony Greene, after a lengthy illness. She and Tony were part of the gospel singing group, The Greenes.  Before meeting them, I was not really a gospel music fan, but TaRanda put a fun and powerful new flavor to the music and I fell in love with her music as well as TaRanda herself. 

This morning, however, I felt a tug in my heart and I decided to play a song or two of The Greenes.  My, how could I ever have forgotten the pure, beautiful and powerful voice of TaRanda Greene!  I went to her website and watched a video performance and then came across a short video put together in memory of her husband, Tony. 
You know – it got me to thinking.

At one time or another, in each of our lives, we will encounter a time of crisis, deep emotional pain, or heartbreaking loss of some kind.  As hard as it seems, this is a fact of life. And no matter who we are, or what our status – whether we are a nice person or not, whether a Christian or not – most of us will not be exempt from this fact.  But take heart…

In listening to TaRanda’s beautiful and deeply emotional voice singing this morning, I experienced a quickening in my heart; a hopefulness, an understanding deep within me.  A knowing that this is why we are all allowed to go through – to experience these hard things in our lives.  Yes, some tragic, some devastating, some quite unimaginable – I know - there are some truly awful things going on in our world today - and none of us are purposely exempt.  But I believe this is why:

Because there can be such sweet testimony and beautiful healing for others in watching the journey and healing of one who has walked this road of pain before us.

I know personally the difficulty of enduring hugely painful situations, of surviving the darkness and sorrow of deep grief.  I know how hard it is to even want to survive through the pain sometimes.  But I also know that I did.  I survived!  With the loving care of those who had walked my road before me, I was carried through the worst days and nurtured along until I broke through to healing and anew joy-filled life once more.

I am frequently asked why does a “loving God” allow “such bad things to happen to good people?”  After watching and listening to TaRanda’s sweet voice, and seeing how she is pulling through the loss of her beloved husband, partner and dear friend, and raising 2 young daughters now as a single parent, I am touched and I see a clear answer to this question.    

I see healing in TaRanda.  I see beauty and grace.  
I see a testimony that life can go on after sorrow, and with a powerful purpose.

And with this, I realize the great importance, the need for those of us who have walked this road already to open our hearts and share our experience with those who are just beginning their own journey.

Is this journey easy? No, it’s definitely not.
Once we have emerged from the deepest or darkest part, does it get easier?  Yes it does, however, there are still struggles, there are setbacks, and there is still pain.  But if we reach out to someone who has walked this road before us, someone who can cry with us, grieve with us, but also laugh with us; someone who can share our experience with us and lead us through, then we can make it through!

But notice - that means there has to be some good people 
who have gone through some bad suffering and pain.

When good people are allowed to suffer and they come through stronger and even better afterwards, they can be a powerful tool, 
a life-giving inspiration for those who are still struggling.

And, please let me be clear - I don’t mean to exclude those who our minds classify as “bad” people or those we might feel are somehow more deserving of suffering.  They can be, and are powerful tools as well; especially when their lives are changed for the better and we can see their beautiful healing. 

We all have good in us, and we all have bad in us.
When the good helps the bad, then we triumph!

So my thought for today is this: if you have walked a dark road of suffering, pain, abuse, loss, grief, etc. and have emerged to a healing sunlight, won’t you please consider sharing your experience with others who are on that dark road now and need the example of your healing?  Would you even consider being more public with your experience – write a book, a song, an article? Would you consider reaching out to someone who is hurting today - you could be the difference they need.

And if you are one on that dark road right now, won’t you please consider reaching out to someone who has journeyed that road before you and has emerged with hope and healing?  It is possible to find the daylight again.  It is possible to pick up your life and find meaning and purpose again.  Will you allow someone to show you how?

In our dysfunctional and crisis torn world today, so many of us wonder how we can make a difference.  Some of us vow to make a difference – somewhere, somehow.  
I believe each of us can. 

And I believe the greatest difference each of us can make
is in helping to heal and enrich the lives of those around us.

It is in reaching out to others, in helping one another that we find we have actually helped ourselves – we have fulfilled an instinctive need within us to love, to nurture, to make that difference.  

And when we allow ourselves to reach out to others in our own time of need, we not only find a way to make it through the storm, we also learn caring, compassionate skills to pass along to another in the future.  Now this is a way to make a difference and begin changing our world!

Won't you join me???

Blessings and healing to you,

11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.  
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NKJV)
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Seizing the Moment - Revisited

Good Sunday Morning to you!!

Or good day, evening, or night to you, and may you have a peaceful and pleasant day, evening or night, wherever you may be!

This morning I find myself very thankful for my family, my friends, and all those who fill my life with love, friendship, smiles, laughter, and yes, even anxiety, confrontation and conflict. How about you?

What would I do without the love I am lavishly and freely given from my family?  How bored and lonely would I be without the invaluable encouragement and acceptance from my wonderful friends?  How simple minded and dull would I and my brain be without the anxiety, confrontation and conflict I am rewarded with from my daughter (sorry Tiffany) husband (sorry again Honey) and family and friends who 
sometimes heatedly sport different religious, social, and political views? 

Yet, for me, it takes each of these crazy emotions and unique people to make my life interesting, rewarding, and livable.  A huge, from-the-bottom-of-my-heart, hug-wrapped thank you to each of you for so beautifully enriching my life! I am grateful and thankful for each of you!

Now, what brought me to these thoughts? This is what’s heavy on my heart this morning;
Our country has, and continues to suffer devastating and unthinkable tragedies and losses, provoking many emotions and reactions from all of us.  Yet one fact I can’t help seeing through it all is that
life is fragile.
I just don't think we can, nor should we take anything or anyone in our lives 
for granted.
What do you think?
Instead, I believe we must take and run with every moment given, 
with every loved one in our lives,
as well as those we simply meet by chance.

I would invite and encourage each of you to think about the relationships in your lives;
family, friends, loved ones, or casual acquaintances.
How do they enrich your life?
What would you miss if they were no longer in your life?
Are your quarrels with them really that important?
How long has it been since you told them that you loved them
Or that they are important to you?
Have you ever told them?
My friends – don’t wait any longer.

Seize the moment ! 
for you don’t know when you might have another.

One of my greatest regrets in life is that I did not take the opportunity to tell my son one last time that Momma loves him, on the morning of the day he was tragically taken from me in a terrible school bus accident when he was just 9 years old.  It was a normal day, like any other day.  The last thing I ever expected was that a semi-truck would hit my son’s school bus, or that I would never get to hug or hold my baby boy again.  

Many of you have similar stories and share a similar engulfing grief.
This I know.
And I grieve with you as I lift you up and pray for you.

This I also know – The loss of a loved one, especially a child, is a lifetime loss, one that no one “gets over.”  It is an empty feeling, an empty spot that is always there – no, it never goes away.  Rather it is a feeling that, over time, you simply get used to feeling.

However, over time, this feeling does lessen; you can learn to live with it.

(For those of you who have not experienced this type of deep grief and loss – that is what it is like.  It takes great compassion from those around one to care for them in deep grief.  Please see my post Grief to learn more about grief feelings and how to respond to one grieving.

There is a Scripture – Psalm 30:5, which says;
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

And very true it is.  We weep for a time – yes, it may be a dark and mournful time where we pour out all our anguish and desperation. And after we are spent and empty, the dark begins to turn to grey, the grey to pale light, then amazingly the pale light to the sunshine of morning and a new day.  And we find a tiny spark of wanting to go on, beginning in our hearts, and the desire to see and feel the sunshine once again.

The timing of this darkness is different for all of us; for some – weeks; some – months; for some it is years.  Some of us need more help wading through the layers than others.  But one thing is certain;

We all need to know that our sorrow matters;
We all need to know that someone else out there cares that we are hurting.

And along the same lines – no matter what is going on in our lives, we all need to know that there is someone else out there who cares about us and what is going on in lives.  We all need to know that we matter to someone else. 

So my thought and prayer for today is that each of you will contemplate the relationships in your life and have the courage to reach out and 
take advantage of every single moment given to you, 
to grow and enrich those relationships,
and to enrich the lives of those around you, 
by your sincere caring of and for them.  
And to give generously, from your hearts to those who are hurting around you. 
Will you show someone that you care today?
Won’t you reach out and make a difference?

With much love, prayers and gratitude for each of you,


Grief - What Do We Say to One Who is Grieving?

This morning (with my yummy fully caffeinated coffee to bolster me) I will boldly lay down a few words in discussion of one of those emotionally charged, so-uncomfortable-to-discuss, but oh-so-needed-to-inform topics, the knowledge of which seems to carry a growing weight and value in our hearts and our Country today.  

And what in the world do we say to someone who is grieving?    

As a mother who has lost a child in a tragic school bus accident when he was just 9 years old, I have wandered around through deep, engulfing grief.  I have experienced the comfort of sincere, heart-felt words of sympathy, as well as insensitive, though well meant words that really hurt.  

These days I hear the voice of the caring friend, family member, or even the internet comment giver, deeply desiring to leave words of comfort, but stumbling awkwardly, not knowing what to say.  In my heart I know grief is a topic that will never grow old, and those of us who have personally waded through it, if able, can share their words of wisdom in guiding others more comfortably through.  Below, I have inserted an article I wrote from my experience on what to say and what not to say to someone grieving.  I hope you find it helpful.

With a full heart,

            Have you ever found yourself struggling to say the right thing to someone who has lost a loved one?  Maybe you were afraid your words might make them feel worse or make them cry?  Rest assured, you are not alone.  Expressing your sympathy to someone who is grieving can be awkward and uncomfortable.  With a few simple guidelines, however, thoughtful words of sympathy can be sincerely expressed.
            To begin, we must first realize that there is nothing we can say or do that will make a bereaved person feel better or hurt less.  Grief is not merely an emotion we feel, nor is it something we simply get over.  Rather, the loss of a loved one is an ever present emptiness we somehow learn to live with.  Consider Sigmund Freud’s insightful words: 

"We find a place for what we lose. Although we know that after such a loss the acute stage of mourning will subside, we also know that we shall remain inconsolable and will never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else." 

            In my experience, Freud’s words proved true indeed.  In grieving the loss of my little boy to a tragic school bus accident when he was only nine, there were no words or actions which could ease the gaping wound in my heart.  However, in the midst of my deepest mourning, a sincere hug and “I am so sorry for your loss”, or “I am praying for you” were very comforting.  
            Listed below is a helpful guideline focused on words frequently said to the bereaved which I found to be either comforting and helpful, or confusing and hurtful.

Things You Might Say to Someone Who is Grieving
If you are comfortable with the grieving person, then make eye contact, touch them, take his or her hand or give a sincere hug as you say:
  • “My condolences to you”, “I am so sorry for your loss”, “I am so sorry your son died.”
If you don’t know the person well, or are afraid you might break down and make their pain worse, try to be simple, open and sincere when you say,
  • “I don’t know what to say, but please know how sorry I am that your _______ died.”  “Please know I care.”  
  • “I can’t imagine what you are feeling.”  “(Name of deceased) was a wonderful person.  He/She will be deeply missed.”  It is important to validate the loved one’s life, as well as the grief felt in the loss of that loved one’s life.
Beyond What To Say: What to Do
  • Time permitting; relate a fond memory of the loved one, using the loved one’s name. 
  • Listen intently as the grieving person talks.  The grieving heart hungers for words of the loved one and rejoices in telling personal memories. 
  • Be sensitive to his or her faith.  This is not the time for theological arguments.  Do tell them you will be praying for them if you genuinely intend to. Knowing that others were praying for me and my family was great comfort to us.
  • Offer to perform specific tasks for them such as providing groceries or meals, running errands, doing household chores, returning messages, helping make arrangements, etc.   Especially during the first few weeks, simple tasks can be overwhelming to the bereaved.

Things NOT  to Say to Someone Who is Grieving
  • “Don’t cry.”  No matter how uncomfortable or sad their crying makes you feel, it is only through their thousands of tears that healing begins.  It is okay to gently cry along with them.
  • I know how you feel.”  Even if you have suffered a similar loss, it is better simply to say, “I know the pain of loosing a child, husband, wife, etc.”  If asked, then relate your story.  Hearing someone else’s story of loss helped me to not feel so alone in my suffering; but only when I was ready to hear it. 
  • “He’s in a better place now.” or “It was God’s will.” or “She’s better off now.” or “God must have needed another angel.”  These words make the bereaved feel as if there should be no reason to grieve.  I needed my grief – to me, it was all I had left of my son, and I needed to envelope myself in it until I was emotionally able to say goodbye to him.
  • “It’s ok, you can have more children.” or “You’re young, you can learn to love again,” or “It’s good that you were too young to understand.”  These are cruel words that can strip away the importance that the loved one held.   Having another child can never replace the one lost.  And no matter your age, a loss remains a loss, for the rest of your life.
  • “Get over it.” or “Get a grip.” or “It’s time to get on with your life.”  For the bereaved, life has stopped.  Those words will only make them feel guilty, fearful, and angry.

           When contemplating words of sympathy to the bereaved, please understand that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.  There is no set timetable or pattern within the stages of grief, which are: shock and numbness, denial, guilt, pain and deep sorrow, anger, depression, and acceptance.  Each of these stages is normal and essential to healing, and the order and duration of each will vary.  Any stage may be visited many times during the grieving process.   
            In reflection of losing her brother and later her father, my daughter Tiffany stated, Sometimes it wasn't so much about what they said, it was about them being there, supporting me, letting me talk.  Sometimes I just wanted someone to sit with me.”  Her words sum it up perfectly.  If you find yourself at a loss for words, remember - a human touch, soft eye contact, and just being there to listen will always be the right comfort.