All posts in Encouragement

Grieving the loss of someone you love is painful.  Understatement, I know. The word grief conjures up images of heartbreak, crying and sadness.  It can be a dark place where memories haunt and regrets taunt.  But then mixed in is bittersweet joy as you recall sweet and happy times and you can feel their presence with you as if they were sitting right next to you.  Grieving brings on a roller coaster of emotions without a lot of advance notice of the next dip or turn.

I found myself experiencing all of that this past weekend as we celebrated the life of my mom who died almost 2 weeks ago.  My mom had a car accident in 1991 and was severely brain injured. She has been incapacitated for the past 21 years unable to eat, speak, or move her body with the exception of one arm.  It has been an extended grieving process for those of us who love her.  We have been preparing to let go for a very long time but when the final goodbye came, we realized that no matter how long you have to prepare you are never really ready.

my beautiful mom

What helped tremendously was having a ceremony.  We organized a memorial – a celebration of her life. Our family gathered together and cried and laughed and went though pictures and told stories. Some precious friends that didn’t know my mom came out of love for us and said they left feeling like they knew her which warmed our hearts. Her grandchildren, most of whom weren’t born before her accident, got to hear and learn things about her that they didn’t know. We celebrated her legacy which I will write about soon. And it was good. Really good.

Woven through the sadness was joy.  I realized how important it is to allow yourself to just be with the pain when you are feeling it, and allow yourself to grieve.  At first I kept trying to rise above it but it wasn’t working.  Once I really allowed myself to feel it, I was able to release it and move forward.

Right after my mom’s accident Psalm 27:13 brought me such comfort and I am now relying on it’s truth once again.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.

I will see her again. In the land of the living.  And although there is grief, there is also great joy in knowing that she is finally free and whole! It is comforting to know that I will carry her love and spirit with me until we meet again.

 

I saw this on a poster a while back ~

You’ve only got three choices in life:  Give up, give in or give it all you’ve got. 

I choose #3.  The others won’t get you anywhere.

For the past few days this verse in Galatians keeps surfacing in my mind.

Do not become weary in well doing, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up

So there it is.  It’s about determining to give it all we’ve got because we are promised that at the PROPER time ( not our time, uugh) we will reap a harvest!!

I keep seeing hints of fall everywhere even though it’s still really hot here in Florida. But the pumpkins are out, fall decorations are on the shelves…the signs are all there.

The harvest is coming!!

Don’t give up. Give it all you’ve got!

 

When I was a teenager I would drive my father crazy when I would call him to tell him that my car “broke down” when in fact I had run out of gas. When he would discover that I had been driving on empty he would lecture me about the dangers to the engine when you run it that low. I would love to tell you that I have grown into a more responsible adult, but even as I type this my gas gauge is on empty. (Don’t tell my husband- this drives him crazy now!)

There is an obvious parallel here to my emotional “tank.”  There are activities that fill me up with energy and passion and others that drain me. I can tell when my tolerance is low, my patience is thin and my energy is waning that I am running on empty. If I don’t realize it and do something about it breakdown (or meltdown) is inevitable. And that ain’t pretty!

 I have only just recently started to pay attention to this and here are some interesting things I’ve discovered.

  • Just because something drains me emotionally it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do it or that it’s not good for me. Some of the most emotionally taxing things I do are the most rewarding. However, if I know that going into them, then I can plan something emotionally filling around it in order to avoid running on empty. For example, if I engage in an Extreme Makeover with FTGI in the morning, where we serve women in a shelter, I need to be careful about what else I take on that day. From experience I know that I will be in a better place emotionally the next day if I pair that activity with a quiet evening connecting with my husband or maybe going to a movie both of which are emotional fillers for me.
  • Just because something is physically exhausting it doesn’t mean that it is emotionally draining. For example, some people (not me) find running emotionally filling. For me, I am emotionally charged after a FTGI Girls Night Out even though I’m usually physically exhausted.
  • When I am emotionally balanced I can endure more physically. I guess that’s a no-brainer but I have had to learn the hard way that if I am not striking emotional balance in my life I feel myself dragging physically.
  • If I am running low and don’t have time to fill up ~ a little bit will go a long way and will prevent running out completely. I remember times when I was low on cash and would only be able to put $5 in my tank but it would at least get me to my next stop.  Sometimes just a few hours of solitude, time to read a little, pray a little and take a few deep breaths does wonders for my state of mind and keeps me going until I can really fill up.

Take a minute to think about the things that drain you and the things that fill you up and make sure that you are finding a balance between the two this week.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:13

One of the most important factors that played into my successful completion of the 5K was the fact that I was training with a group of women. If I had been training on my own I am 1000% sure I would have given up before the day of the event. Training with others offered these key things:

1. Accountability – If I didn’t show up in the morning I knew I would get a phone call later that day.
2. Camaraderie – Plain and simply it is was just way more enjoyable and fun to be running together.
3. Challenge  – When I didn’t want to push myself out of my comfort zone there were voices to challenge me to do the hard work.

One and two are obvious but the third one is probably the most important in our real life “run.”

What I wanted more than anything on those chilly mornings when every muscle ached, was someone to tell me that I had worked hard enough and was pushing myself too hard and understand that I wanted to stay warmly tucked under my covers. What I needed was someone to help me to visualize the end result and help me realize that the pain and discomfort would be worth it when I crossed the finish line.

When you are choosing people whom you allow to speak into your life make sure that they are more concerned with your progress than your comfort and then be open to receiving their advice.

Our human nature will cause us to gravitate towards those who will make us feel good but if we want to run to win we must seek out those willing to tell us the truth even if it will require us facing something or doing something difficult. As we all know, sometimes the truth hurts but it almost always helps us to grow.

Proverbs 27:6 says…Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

Early morning running group

A few years back I trained for a 5K.  If you know me at all you know how very unusual that was for me.  I am pretty much allergic to exercise!

For the first few weeks of our morning runs I ran without any music playing.  It was rough.  All I could hear in my head was my own labored breathing.  The more I focused on myself gasping for breath the harder it was to keep going.

So, I dug out an old iPod that was buried in my kitchen junk drawer and loaded up some music to drown out my panting!

What was playing in my head made all the difference in the world!

When all I could hear was my huffing and puffing I was discouraged and I felt every stride. When I played music with a great beat and encouraging lyrics I ran faster and harder and was AMAZED at how much progress I made!

What is playing in your head?  Are you listening to the negative thoughts that try to make their way into our heads?  Are you focusing on how hard it is to keep running? Or are you filling your mind with encouraging words (the word of God is a great place to start), good books to encourage you on your journey, podcasts that you can listen to in your car or when you exercise ~ even your own words that you say to yourself?!?

That’s me in the middle checking and double checking my iPod before we began :)

When I finally made it to the day of the race I had my playlist ready to go timed perfectly so that I would not run out of motivating music.  I’d love to tell you that it was spiritual worship music but I’d be lying… It was mostly 70s dance music but that’s what worked for me! As I rounded the last corner and ran the last leg of my race, Mariah Carey was blaring in my head “Make it Happen.”

What’s playing in your head?  Maybe you need to download some new tunes to help you pick up your pace!

I’d love to hear from you what you do to help encourage yourself in your race. Feel free to leave a comment!

My brother-in-law is running for public office.  During his campaign many hours have been logged onto the books for speaking to groups, developing mail pieces and getting his name out. His weekends have been spent canvasing neighborhoods meeting potential, future constituents in hopes of winning their votes.

He did not enter this race halfheartedly.  He has not wasted any time aimlessly wandering around because he knew that in order to win he needed to be very intentional and strategic. He had his eye on the prize.

God has set out a race for each of us to run. (If you’re not sure what that is start asking Him – because He has a purpose just for you!)  In order to be effective and win the prize we have to be intentional and strategic as well.

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step…  1 Cor 9:24-26

One huge advantage that we have is that our race has been completely mapped out for us by the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus, and if we fix our eyes on Him we will find the strength and endurance to run to win!

My brother-in-law has worked hard. We are confident he will win but we must wait for the final votes to be tallied. The party has been planned, the food and balloons have been ordered. Tonight, a crowd will gather with great anticipation of a celebration.

Hebrews 12:1 tells us that we, also, are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses to this race we are running, this life of faith.  They are cheering us on from heavenly stands.  The food and balloons have been ordered ~ and they are ready for our victory party!! So what are we waiting for?  Let’s get moving.

Let’s run to win!!!

Since 1935 Alcoholics Anonymous has been helping people recover from the bondage of alcoholism with a 12 steps program that they work through together. The principles they follow are ones that anyone would benefit from but I particularly like Step #2:

2.  (We) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Have you ever felt like you have gone around the same mountain in your life over and over and just can’t seem to get over it?  Maybe it’s an unhealthy behavior that you keep returning to.  Maybe fear has a grip on you that prevents you from moving forward with your life, or you just can’t seem to shake self-doubt and insecurity that has plagued you. Your adversary may be flesh and blood, a difficult relationship that you have a hard time navigating. You may be at a point where you just feel like you cannot seem to overcome that monster you face no matter how hard you try.

The bad news is you are probably right.  On your own you probably cannot.

The good news is that inside of you dwells a great treasure.  A power that can overcome anything! We need to stop trying so hard to fight our battles with the little strength that we have on our own.  We have access to the most powerful force in the universe, let Him fight on your behalf!

2 Corinthians 4:7-10
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.

Pick up your sword this morning, stand with your shoulders squared and believe that you can overcome anything by the power of the Holy Spirit of God that dwells within you!

Romans 8:37 …in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Go get ’em!!

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord  Psalm 27:13-14

My mom was in a coma and I was scrambling to learn everything I could about traumatic brain injury and coming to terms with the fact that, barring a miracle, my mom would never recover completely from her car accident.

Well not never.

In between reading medical journals and all the information provided to families of head injured patients I picked up my Bible begging God for something to hold onto.  I randomly read Psalm 27. That’s when I read that verse.

That was the distinct moment when I began to intentionally live my life with an eternal perspective holding onto the hope that there will come a day when my mom will be whole and healed. I WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Of course I will see his goodness here as well but sometimes when times are tough it’s eternal perspective that I need.

Eternal perspective gives us something to hold onto when despair is threatening to overtake us.  It also helps us to prioritize the things we allow to take up our time and our emotions.  We can eliminate stressing out over things that have no eternal value.  We can determine to live everyday purposeful to invest our energy and time in showing love and furthering the kingdom of heaven.

So, everyday before breakfast, I try to make it a practice to believe that there is a place called heaven and it sets the tone for my day.

After my mom’s car accident I felt extremely vulnerable.  Up until that point in my 26 year old life I had never experienced personal tragedy. Once tragedy struck, it seemed as if a huge dam that had been protectively holding back a reservoir of potential danger had broken, flooding my heart with fear.

Fear began to haunt me.  If this could happen to my mom…what else could happen?

Suddenly I felt like a moving target. Potential danger surrounded me. It was as if I was a huge nerve ending sensing it everywhere I went. Frightening scenarios involving other members of my family, or myself, would make their way into my head and prevent me from falling asleep.  When I allowed fear to grip me, I would feel it physically, identifying with the phrase “paralyzing fear.”

One snowy night I was getting my young boys in the car to drive to a church service. I was strapping my little guy into his car seat and without warning fear struck.  In my mind’s eye I could see the article in the paper of the tragic accident involving a young family.  The temptation to take my boys back in the house and tell my husband that we needed to stay home was nagging at me.  But I knew that if I did, I would be surrendering to the fear.

Once we arrived and got settled into our seats the visiting speaker began to share and his topic was “Overcoming Fear” of all things! He called for those people who were  struggling with paralyzing fear to come forward to the front of the room so he could pray for them. In retrospect it is easy to see the attempt to keep me from being in a service that would bring me one step closer to the peace that would replace my fear.

I still have moments of fear, however, I have never become a slave to it again because of this revelation that I had that night.

Fear is the absence of trust.

I have clung to this truth ever since. If I trust God with my life, I have nothing to fear.  Not because bad things will never happen to me again but because I know that He will be with me and sustain me through whatever life brings.

I made the mistake of believing that if I held onto fear I would somehow be protecting myself against it.  What I needed to believe and still need to believe everyday (preferably before breakfast!) is that when trouble comes my way He will hide me in the shelter of His love and He will sustain me.

Most of the times the things we fear are things we can’t control. What we can control is where we put our trust and what we allow our minds to dwell on. When we put our trust in the one who is our light and our salvation fear can and will disappear.

Praying for you today, friends, that you will take the step to replace fear with trust and walk in peace!

Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid?

When we began For the Girls International it was all very intimidating.  I knew that God had prompted the idea but I had no idea where to begin!

I remember one afternoon being so frustrated with trying to figure it out on my own. My head was swimming with ideas that weren’t really coming together.  In my frustration I decided to do what I usually do when I am overwhelmed or stressed out…

I went shopping!

As I was wandering around Pier 1 Imports I was praying in my head. Sort of thinking/praying. My thoughts were, “God if you want me to do this, I am going to need you to show me what I need to do.”

And then, in a split second, I had one of those moments where the rest of the world stands still and you can hear the angels singing the Halleluiah Chorus. There, in front of me was a display with four individual mugs with writing on them.  When I saw them they read like marching orders to me: DIG DEEP, GET REAL, THINK BIG, and DON’T PANIC!

Those four phrases became the building blocks of the journey that God was taking me on.  I had to DIG DEEP to really get to the core of who I am in Him.  He has called me to be more transparent about my life than ever before because real ministry happens when people GET REAL and share their life experiences with their real God.  He has challenged me to THINK BIG and I have to remind myself, “DON’T PANIC!” when I feel like I am in over my head (which is quite often!)

My point is that God will speak to you in your language and in your style right where you live.  He doesn’t speak to everyone in the same way. God knows me and he knows where to find me ~ even if it is in the mall! And He knows where to find you!

Sometimes His voice is still and small ~ sometimes His message is loud and clear but He promises to direct our path.

Ask him today to speak to you ~ you may be pleasantly surprised where and when He chooses to get your attention.

Isaiah 30:31
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

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