Words of Affirmation

 

TUIRU743JZDeep down in our core, we all long to be accepted. G-d gave us the ability to communicate with words and actions for a reason. When someone acknowledges us, it gives us a sense of joy and approval. We all have different love languages. The key is to find what language speaks to each person.

My love language is a mix of affirmation/words/quality of time.  Forget sticks and stones that break my bones. It’s words that hurt much more! Lack of communication drives me crazy. If I put in a call or send a message and I don’t get a response, the absence of words sets this girl on fire!  However on the flip side, a message returned, a compliment, or just sharing of someone’s heart/visit, makes my heart sing!

After being so sick, (to the point where I thought my life was coming to end) I had plenty of time to reflect.  I wondered what G-d would say to me when I stood in His holy presence.  I was worried I would face Him and He would be disappointed with me.

What I was worried about was, did I leave His mark?   Would people know how much I loved Him?  Would they say that they could see the love of Christ in my actions?  Would G-d say that I had loved others more than I had loved myself?  Did my family and friends really know how much I loved them? Did I let His light shine?

These were some of the many questions I pondered.

What I found in many of my memories was a deep regret that I hadn’t given more, because what if someone didn’t want it?

Maybe I wouldn’t have enough?

Or my outbursts of anger, because I had felt insecure and jealous.

The times I hadn’t spoken the very words that were on my heart when I felt an unction, for fear of looking stupid.

Each disappointing  memory I had, led back to fear and rejection. All that wasted time, I had taken the bait.

I realized I hadn’t been living the way that G-d had called me to all those years.  I was living in my own selfish desires and hurts. Fear still tries to hold me back.  Thankfully, this is something that G-d and I work on daily together.  He has been so gracious with me, which is more than I can say about myself.

I pleaded with Him that if He let me live, I was going to live each day like it was my last. I have experienced with my own eyes how quickly life can be taken.

Senseless tragedies happen around the world daily.  Some have been battling and illness and know that their days are numbered.  While others wake up and go into their day unknowingly giving their last kisses goodbye, only to never come home.

So how can we live each day like it is our last?  This is what I am learning how to do.

  1. Speak life.

When you see someone who his down, be sure to step up to the plate and encourage them.  Whether it be in scripture or personal experiences, share with them words that have really helped you.  It may sound morbid, but we never know what the future holds and we don’t want to live life with any regrets.  We live in a world that is quick to point out your flaws, but hardly notices the good.  I am not speaking about flattery, but true sincere heartfelt encouragement.  We are told over and over in the bible to comfort others as we would want to be comforted. Words bring such hope.

People need to know what a difference they have made in our lives.  They won’t know it, if we don’t speak it.  Everyone needs to be reminded from time to time that they are important. I even compliment people that I don’t know. If I think something nice on my heart, I share it.  I have never had stranger say that I was stupid for complimenting them.  At first I felt awkward, but after seeing so many down faces turn into bright shiny smiles, it’s thrilling!

2.  Forgive. 

Yes, I know you probably want to smack me. Trust me, I have been there. I can give you every scripture on forgiveness, but I will simply state it.  Forgiveness doesn’t let the other person off the hook, it breaks our bondage. If you look at what Jesus taught us to do, it wasn’t to let the offender off easy, it was to bring freedom for us. In some scenarios I can forgive easily and be done with it.  Others, it’s daily and sometimes a moment by moment choice (not a feeling) that we have make. We may not be able to do it on our own, but with G-d, anything is possible.

3. Pray.

I also make sure to pray for every person that I promised I would.  Being a person who has lived on the prayers of peoples hearts, I know the utmost importance of this priceless gift.  Our words are so important, that all of heaven and hell are listening. There is a war for our souls and we must make sure that we do our part. How many of the prophets helped change G-d’s mind as they begged for mercy?  He answers our words!

Words are so important, that G-d spoke everything that came to be into existence.  Our words have power!

4. Give.

I am also learning the importance of giving.  There have been countless times in our lives, where G-d used people to help provide for us.  We couldn’t have gotten through those tough times, without the selflessness of others.

I am learning the gift of giving is also one of my favorites.  I used to be a tight ol’ scrooge and now G-d has transformed me by His hand (really, it is a miracle!) to love to give.  Whether it be money, time, a meal, or even resources  Share G-d’s love and truth by words and example.  It’s all bringing glory to G-d when we truly give of ourselves and expect nothing in return. It has helped heal my broken heart in being able to help someone else in their time of need.

5. Listen.

I have found  while people love encouragement, a lot of times they just need to vent. We all go through things and sometimes it’s nice not to have to pay someone to hear it!  In listening you may feel led to further be able to help the person in a tangible way.  Other times, just the act of you letting them know that they are important enough to be heard can speak louder than words. Especially I have found that the elderly, disabled, and the sick really appreciate this. Often these people do not feel valuable because they can’t contribute in the way they used to. When you have gone through a lot, there is wisdom to be shared!

6. Be trustworthy.

Knowing that we can trust someone, is priceless. While our words are extremely valuable.  We must also remember that when others share, their words are equally as important.  We must have integrity. Some of my most painful experience have been when I have confided in someone and they went and told someone else.

Unless someone is in great danger or they have given permission to speak, there is no reason betray their confidence.  Plain and simple, it’s gossip. We have all partaken of this toxic fruit and I am sure we all can agree, it isn’t worth it.  To be trustworthy and loyal leaves a invaluable example for others to follow. So zip your lips and be thankful that someone trusted you enough to share their heart, it’s quite and honor.

In a very dark world that uses words to shame, scare, and condemn.  Let’s use our words to lift up, give hope, and speak life.  Every word of affirmation that we speak to someone, squelches any flaming arrow of the evil one.  Whether or not you know it, it melts the hardened heart.  It brings joy to the broken.  It gives hope to the soul, and helps encourage to persevere for yet another day.

Let us live each day like it is our last.

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When the Unimaginable Happens… (How You Can Help)

Our son Elijah Praise.

Our son Elijah Praise.

We stood there in shock, sobbing. I can still hear the doctor’s frantically working, the machines beeping off. It was as if we were in a movie. All I could think was, this is not happening. This is a mistake. He will get better. Elijah has to get better.

Only this time, he didn’t.

I remember we held him for hours, sitting there in a daze. I just kept on talking because if I stopped, I knew it would finally all be over. The nurse told me it was time to let him go. Reality hit, he wasn’t coming home.There is zero preparation to lose your child. It all felt so surreal.

How could I leave him there all alone?

What happened?

How do I live without him?

What if he wakes up?  Maybe they made a mistake?

Was this my fault?

Please, don’t make us go home.

I remember going home and all his stuff was lying everywhere. Toys hastily dropped on the floor. His crib was empty. The house was so quiet. No more laughter, just silence.

Why, WHY?!

I looked outside to see people doing their every day humdrum moves and I felt numb. I remember crying myself to sleep, waking up and forgetting for a moment what had happened. Then I remembered, and the grief came over me like a tidal wave.

I still remember every detail. Most mamas like me do. It doesn’t matter how many years go by, they always remember. You can see it as they tell their story, they get lost in the memories as if they are time traveling to that very moment all over again.

Sadly, I am not alone in these memories. Many have walked this perilous journey before, and many have after. My hope is to bring comfort to those who have walked this path and validating each and every tear. I also want to bring awareness to the inescapable grasp of grief and how to bring comfort, to those who are in the thick of it.

I would like to offer some gentle words of advice in response to someone who knows what it is like to have one foot in the grave and one foot in heaven.

  1. Be willing to step into the world of grief and stay.  When a tragedy happens people are willing to be there for the initial trauma, but later feel it’s too depressing and they disappear. G-d has been very kind in His design to allow a beautiful thing called shock to happen.  This protects our mind from the unbelievable. This can last for the first couple of weeks. They may appear to be handling things really well. However once shock wears off, the reality sets in. I think that is where I really suffered, after everyone went away and I was alone with my thoughts. It was hell on earth.
  2. Let your words be few and just listen. I found people sweetly want to help make things better, but you can’t.  However, you can’t go wrong with listening. Some may want to recite every detail as their mind tries to process what has happened. Some may just cry, talk about the past, or just focus on something else.  Follow their leading.
  3. Help out financially. What most people don’t realize is that the financial burden that happens when a child dies, is huge. Most people don’t have life insurance on their children, so there is the cost of the hospital, burial, time lost at work, etc.
  4. Help by bringing meals/child care/groceries/laundry.  For us, it was nice not having to do the normal routine, because we didn’t feel normal. We didn’t have children at home at the time, so having someone help watch their other kids may be really helpful.  Meals, cooking, cleaning, etc.  Grief takes a lot of energy and is really hard to do even the most basic tasks.
  5. Talk about their child. You aren’t going to make us cry any more than we already have been. We want to know that they will be remembered. Whether it be a story or something that reminded you of them, we want to hear it.  If they were an infant (maybe there were too little, or no memories), maybe even talking where they would be if they had survived, can be comforting.
  6. Don’t ignore them because you are uncomfortable. I realize this isn’t an easy issue, but it’s worse for the people who have to live it 24/7. Call, write, stop by. Please don’t ask them to call you, because they won’t. The capacity is just not there. It’s not you that is being rejected, their minds just are in survival mode. This is so important especially months after. Grief does not have a time frame.  It can grab you at the most unexpected moment and throw you into a tailspin.  One minute they may be fine, the next, barely able to get through.  So check up on them!
  7. Give grace. Losing a child is something most can’t imagine. Emotions are all over the place. Expect there to be tears, anger, doubt, and an array of many emotions you never expected to see. Especially be gracious during the holidays/birthdays/death dates. It is a lifelong process trying to live without someone who once was a part of you.
  8. Don’t compare their grief to anyone else’s.  Really, I can’t stress to you how condemning this feels when people share that someone else had a similar loss and they are now doing great or they didn’t act this way. We are all different. Saying someone is doing great because they are smiling or can keep it together verses someone who openly sobs, is obsolete. Everyone will go at their own pace.
  9. Pray. This is truly a priceless gift. G-d knows what each person needs, lift them up in prayer. Where you might feel helpless and don’t know what else to do, He can help bring peace and wisdom in ways we never thought.
  10. Remember. I still get so excited when someone says my kids names. I love seeing their names written on a paper, ornaments, or when someone just says, “I thought of them today.” It doesn’t have to be a grandiose gesture. I see so many parent’s faces light up at the mention of their child’s name, especially years after.

When the unimaginable happens, know that you can be a light even in the darkness. Your compassion and empathy may just be the thing that helps your loved one get through another day. Grief is messy, there is no set checklist.  All I know is that love, patience, and kindness can go a long way. Sometimes, it’s so hard for us to understand G-d in the death of a child. However, He uses people like you and me, to be His hands and show His love and mercy.  So let’s reach out in our words and in our actions to help those who are facing the unimaginable.

Please feel free to comment on what has helped you or how you helped bring hope to others during a time of grief.

Be Unstoppable

Courtesy of Mark Nickerson

Courtesy of Mark Nickerson

Have you ever been on a walk where the fog hung in the trees like a thick blanket.  Everything started out so clear and welcoming, but with every step the path became less visible. The white mist distorts what vision lies ahead.  Doubt and fear start to fill your heart.  Am I supposed to go this way or is it time to turn back?

The answer is, keep going.

It’s easier said than done, especially when it’s yourself that is facing the great unknown.  Whether it be a leap of faith in a new job, relationship, or just the next phase of life; we have to keep moving.  For me I have struggled with my health, putting my writing out for the world to see,  the fear of rejection/failure. It isn’t pretty.  If I stay in this place to long, I easily succumb to depression and anxiety.

The big lie is that it is better not to try, for fear of failing.  I want to do things perfectly, to please G-d and to not have my life fall into shambles. Only life doesn’t work that way. G-d doesn’t work that way.

G-d doesn’t expect perfection from any us, rather he prefers us to rely on faith.  Whether you are at the starting line, in the middle of a trial, or and the end of your rope with desperation, that’s where He wants us to ask for HIS help.  When we stop getting wrapped up in our expectations of what we think we should be doing, it allows Him to show us where He want us to go.

I am writing this today because I often have felt awkward in this life. I have failed, been rejected, and it has paralyzed me with fear that left me feeling like a heavy burden.  When I have gotten lost in my expectations, dangerous emotions entangled me to the point that they acted as an anchor, dragging me down to the bottom of the ocean.  The more I wrestled the thoughts, the further I plummeted into darkness.

At that moment in the silence, hopelessness and fear enrobed me blocking out any true light/truth.  It is often then when it dawns on me to start praying (yeah, should have thought of that waaaaay before) and call out, “Father G-d!  Where are you?  Please help!”  When I throw my arms up in complete weakness, He rescues me with His might! He cut the chains that have held me in bondage for so long, and gave me freedom I never thought possible.

Whatever your circumstances, please hear me when I say, “Never give up!” You will get through this!  While today may seem overwhelming, your breakthrough could be just over the horizon.

So if you are feeling worn, broken,or just plain lost…  Know that you are on a path that is meant to go through valleys of darkness, hills of hope, and mountains of majesty!  As safe as it sounds, walking on a straight path of plains would get boring and we wouldn’t grow.

It’s easy to trust G-d when nothing has gone wrong, but then is that really faith?  It’s in our struggles and our failures where we learn to depend on G-d and see for our own eyes, His hand reach out and do the miraculous!

It’s amazing how we can believe the lies that the devil whispers in our ears.

You are a failure.

No one wants you.

You don’t deserve this.

he (purposely left lower cased for the devil) sings so sweetly and soothingly to our hearts.  We bathe in our sorrows, fears, and regret and it gets us nowhere.  Before we know it, we have been entrenched into a sticky web of self focus.

You say, “but you don’t know what I have done!  You don’t know where I have been!”  No, I don’t, but G-d does. He was with you all the while. How do I know this?  Because it’s as simple as a song my children sing:

Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so

Matthew 19:14(NIV) says: Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

While we all look at children and say, I wish I could be as trusting and carefree as a child.  G-d says we are to have faith like they do.  Are we overcomplicating our lives with worry and burden when the answer is so simple? Let go, trust, and keep moving!

Wherever you are in life, know that this is all for a greater purpose.  If we look at our fears and failure as a learning tool, instead of a punishment, we will be unstoppable.

Rejection, has taught us compassion.

Suffering, has taught us empathy.

Grief, has taught us how to love.

Joy, has taught us to rejoice!

Outbursts of anger, can humble us and teach us to learn the art of self control.

We are made in G-d’s image. Our emotions were created by Him. All our life we will face challenges that will test us. If we grasp onto His truth and remember that He redeems our messes, that in each trial of life, it’s a time to learn.  Sometimes we will knock it out of the park. Sometimes, we will fall flat on our face, and that’s okay. I teach myself and my kids, practice makes progress, not perfection.  Remember:

Never

give

up.