To the Empty Arms On Mother’s Day

I know that you see Mother’s Day on the calendar and it stings. Whether it’s the loss of a child or of your own mother, this day can be very difficult for many reasons. While children are scouring the stores or the backyard for their latest Mother’s Day finds, your heart is aching.

Maybe you long to be pregnant and you have been praying for two lines to appear on the magic eight ball of pregnancy test sticks. But time after time, only one line appears.

Maybe you have children and your heart longs for another baby to snuggle, but each month that goes by, your hope sinks. You are grateful for your children, but you long for more.

Maybe you were pregnant, but only for a brief time leaving you shell-shocked. Your mind was dreaming of nurseries, maternity wear, and so many unknowns of excitement, just to learn your baby’s heartbeat had stopped. And so did yours.

Maybe you are pregnant and you found out that something isn’t right with your baby. You are coming to grips with a grim diagnosis and you don’t know what the future holds. All you know is that you love your baby and you are begging G-d for his/her life. You are scared but so filled with love. You are praying and hoping that all will be well and you treasure each movement of your child all the more.

Maybe you had a wonderful pregnancy. Your nursery is complete, baby showers were had, and clothing had been washed and ready to go. You were as big as a house, and you were counting down the days to delivery when suddenly there was no movement. Your baby was born asleep.

Maybe you had your baby and your nights had been sleepless. Pictures were taken, diapers had been filled, and clothes were soiled. You were enjoying every moment with snuggles and admiring eyes when one day, your baby didn’t wake up.

Maybe your baby has turned into a toddler, goofball, giggle machine, a tween, or teenager, and something happened. The doctor came into the room as you held your breath in the hopes for good news. He shakes his head and you drop to the floor is guttural sobs. Your world has stopped and the tears can’t stop falling.

Maybe your baby had grown up and has babies of their own. You had been looking forward to watching them grow old. Only you got a phone call that you needed to get to the hospital and watched them helplessly fade before your very eyes.

Maybe your child has strayed away and your relationship is heavily strained. You feel incomplete without them and your heart aches to have the things back the way they were.

Maybe it’s your own mother that you are missing. No matter how old we are, our mothers hold a deep bond in our hearts. We are always our mother’s child and you miss hugging her and listening to her voice. You miss her words of encouragement, the smell of her perfume, and her everlasting love. Maybe she wasn’t perfect, but you were her’s and you miss her sweet embrace.

I know you feel an emptiness that no one else can fill and you ache to have your arms filled once more with those who had brought so much joy and meaning into your life.

I remember after the death of my first daughter we were in church. I had dreaded Mother’s Day as I knew there would be no cards, kisses, or snuggles from the one who had brought wholeness to my heart. I felt lost. Everyone else seemed to have their families bundled around them.  My daughter Aurora was gone and my arms were empty.

They had asked all of the mothers to stand. I was so so confused. Did I stand or was I not a mother anymore? How would I explain my baby’s ashes were in the locket around my neck and not in the nursery.

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My locket necklace with our daughter Aurora’s ashes. Photographed by Mark Nickerson.

My knees were weak and my sweet husband nudged me forward. I found myself half standing and felt like my legs were going to buckle. If I sat, that meant I was denying she had ever existed. If I stood how would I explain…

There are so many of us. They come to me and share their stories in whispers and sobs and they let me know, “I had a child once too….” And they open up stories that have been vaulted up for years.

Or those who lost their mother who say to me, “She has missed out on so much.  I wish she could have seen….”

So on this Mother’s Day, whether you don’t have any children, you have children, but some are missing, or you just miss your own mother, know that you are not alone.

Know that we are wrapping our arms around you as you shed your tears of longing. You are still their mother no matter what.

She will always be your mom, and that will never change.

This is your day. Go ahead and pull out the photo albums and share stories. Maybe do something in honor of that little one that is meaningful to you. Start a tradition that allows the missing to turn from heartache to heart warming.

For us, we go to the cemetery. I like to bring flowers and then rip off the petals and scatter them around as we sing songs to them.

That heartbreak that you feel shows that you are filled with so much love.

I like to think that our loved ones see us and are whispering,

I never went away.

I am with you always,

and we will hold each other again.

As a mother who has lost, my greatest fear is they will be forgotten.

But they won’t.

They are not only in the arms of our loving Father, but they are in our memories and our hearts. No one can take their place. All that love you have for them will be spilled over into so many who may never have known your kind of love.

Your tears are an example that love knows no boundaries and is eternal. That my sweet one is priceless.

To all the ones that we dream about, may we remember them because they forever changed our lives for the better. And we miss them…

Mother’s Day is a time of reflection for all mothers in every walk of life.

Do you know one of these mothers or daughters? It doesn’t matter if this happened years ago or recently, please let her know that her child/mother is remembered.

Say their names.

Ask them how they are doing.

Take a moment to stroll down memory lane with them.

If you can’t think of anything to say, just squeeze their hand and look into their eyes, they’ll know what you mean.

I guarantee you, you will make her day.

Please feel free to share this with anyone that you know who might find some comfort from these words.

Could You Be the Most Beautiful Girl?

 

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I used to love to watch my mom get all dolled up.  I would intently watch as she put on her mascara, lipstick, and the  amazing dangle earrings!  Every now and then, she would stroke my face with a makeup brush and I would gaze into the mirror hoping one day to be as pretty as her.

I now have my daughter sitting by my side begging me to add some sparkle to her day. It’s amazing what a sprinkle of powder can do for her confidence. We’ll find a flower for her hair and flowy gown to twirl in.  She will run to the mirror and dance with joy!

When I buy an outfit now, I could care less what any man thinks, (except my hubby!) it’s my women friends that I want to notice.  There is nothing like a compliment from a woman/girl. They truly appreciate all the trouble we go through just to get just the right outfit, shoes, or hair done perfectly.

A bit silly, I know.  But so much fun, to fuss over someone finding something that makes that person just sparkle!

Sadly many women today are expected to look perfect.  Even models are airbrushed. We are being told to be beautiful is to be flawless and that just isn’t true.

I have met a lot of beautiful people in my lifetime.  Not one do I remember that way because of what they looked like on the outside.  Rather it was their character that left them unforgettable.

I have met some people that by the world’s standard should be a model but were not pretty on the inside.  I have also met others who were considered wallflowers that were gorgeous!

What I love about G-d, is that each person is made in His image.  Really, there are no ugly people.  Every person has something stunning about them, that someone else longs to have.

It’s not their nose, bustline, waistline, or skin…  Rather it’s that twinkle in their personality that illuminates their shell and allows me to see who they really are.  When you look into their eyes you can see the kindness and love shimmer through their eyes or smile, and you just feel loved.

After a long bout of being really sick, it took it’s toll on my skin. I have always been insecure about the way I looked.  Since I have been recovering, I have a hard time looking at myself in the mirror. At thirty-seven, it just feels so shameful to be dealing with the scars of serious acne.

One day as I poured on the makeup to hide my imperfections, I felt this feeling of a deeper voice inside saying, “I am a survivor. These marks are scars of battle, and they are beautiful.”

As I felt myself pull back a bit stunned, I was reminded of so many who daily deal with much more pressing issues than their self-esteem.

Self-focus is taught in our society, and it’s destroying everything it touches.

The media has lied to us. Marketing is teaching us that we are not enough unless we look a certain way.  We constantly are bombarded by body shame, fad diets, makeup,  youth serums, surgery, anything to make the ugly go away! But in reality, those things aren’t what enhance our beauty.  Instead, it is who we really are on the inside that makes us stand out.

I remember as I got ready for my own son’s funeral, I was thankful to have a friend to help dress me. I was lost in my grief and could barely figure out how to buckle my shoe, let alone prepare myself to be in public. It was a sobering experience. Looks didn’t matter.

I didn’t remember what anyone was wearing or if they looked good.

Instead, I remembered all the beautiful souls.

You know, the ones whose mascara was running down their faces as they wept with me.

The people who came over to feed me and sat quietly as I worked through the shock.

Or the loved ones who stood by the coffin of my son and spoke kind words, when I felt I couldn’t make it one more hour.

Or those who float in my life with just the right words of encouragement to keep me focused on what really matters.

The beautiful people aren’t the ones with the perfect body.  Rather it is those who choose to bless others with kind acts that don’t get much attention but may have saved you or I from the depths of despair.

So the next time that you find yourself looking in the mirror feeling like you are not enough, I want to remind you of this truth.  Your face does not define your beauty, rather it’s who you are.  G-d created your very heart for a specific reason, and that is not to be taken lightly.

At the end of the day, if you have embodied kindness and love, you can be assured that you are the most beautiful girl, and you are priceless.

Seven Ways to let Your Words be Few…

cojq6xju0vAs I sit listening to my friend/family member pour their heart out, I am tempted.  My fleshly thoughts rile up as I burn at the sound of injustice in their life and I want to spout out words of solidarity, that add fuel to the fire.

My thoughts try to overthrow the peaceful voice in my heart that says, “Let your words be few and listen to me.”

You know it’s the spirit of the living G-d when you go from passionately filled anger to a peaceful resolve, that I could never think of on my own.

I have seen a lot of heartache in my short time here on earth. Nothing has gotten me into more trouble than my mouth. Sometimes we use them to comfort, while others it becomes our weapon of choice.

The more I study the Bible or listen to speakers, it is spoken time and time again to be careful with your words.  James 3:4-5 (NLT) says:

” And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.

But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.”

Sure, we all love it when someone wants to come to us for our advice, but the truth is, we are mere mortals who make mistakes too.  What works for me, may not work for another.  What may have been my saving grace, may be another’s poison.

I love to communicate. Sometimes I realize I have been talking nonstop for ten or fifteen minutes (or let’s be honest, maybe longer..) to realize that I have not only made my point, but probably created a crater.

The very words I meant to help bring relief, may accidentally bring disaster.

Prayer and scripture really should be our first line of offense and defense.  G-d tends to show up in unique ways for us all. Many are answered by prayer with patience.

However, I too fall for the temptation of an instantaneous answer. I have searched for help from others hoping to get an answer that will make my problem go away.

I do believe G-d, at times sends us to search for someone that can help us. We can find wisdom from those who have experienced the very  crisis that we find ourselves in or a trained counselor.

Some of the wisest people I have ever met were great listeners and slow responders.  They are humble enough to admit when they don’t have the answers. They speak with great care. They speak truth with love, and often get straight to the point.

Most people aren’t coming for advice, but rather just to be heard. Sometimes there is no fixing that can be done by the power of our suggestion.

I am learning with each conversation that G-d allows me to be a part of, is the reminder to let my words be few (still learning..).  Let the Lord lead the conversation and just because you have a thought in your head doesn’t mean G-d put it there. We have to very careful to be slow to speak.

I think this world has become a place of over-communicating.  Be it our politicians, media, or just plain everyday interactions, everyone wants to spout out their opinions. After all, it’s only words, right?

How many people are ending their relationships because of those words? How many have been permanently scarred by the words of others?  Or worse, end their life because of them…

What if we all just listened more, and spoke less?

Some of the wisest people I have met, tend to be the ones that speak only when necessary.

Here’s what I have learned  from studying and my own personal experiences:

  1. Pray for wisdom.
  2. Listen to what they have to say without trying to solve their issues.
  3. When speaking, let your words be few.  If it is G-d led, it will be straight to the point.
  4. Don’t focus on trying to fix the person or their problems.
  5. Be a friend and be honest.  Don’t give advice that you know nothing about. Tell them if you haven’t had a similar situation and be honest if you don’t know the true answer.
  6. Pray together. When we don’t have the answers (which is a good chunk of the time), we know that we send up our petitions to the one who knows it all.
  7. Be a safe place.  Be honorable and don’t share information unless it is a true emergency.

When someone approaches me now to share their heart, I know what they share is sacred and that they trust me. We need to be careful not to let our feelings lead the conversation.

As James 1:19 (ESV) says,

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to be angry.”

As much as I want to help, I have learned casually handing out advice can be damaging if it isn’t the right time. We must never think of ourselves as wise. We must ask ourselves, is the scripture based? Prayer led? Or just my own opinion?

Proverbs 17:28 (NLT) says:

“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

Our words have power.

Let our words speak life.

Let our words be few…

 

 

 

Dear Perfection, it’s time to break up.

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Photographed by Mark Nickerson

I wanted to write a fancy post on how to overcome that feeling of utter defeat.  I had it all wrapped up with a beautiful bow. It was straight from my heart and I meant every word that I said.

Then, life happened…

I can’t post it today or I would be a fraud.

Yep, today stinks. It has been one of those, I want to go back to bed and pretend this never happened kind of day.

It wasn’t anything specific; in fact it’s probably the tail end of the winter blahs and mounting pressure from not leaving the house enough thus rousing a case of cabin fever.

And if you could peek in my house right now, here is what would see:

I’ve just changed from one pair of leisure pants/leggings to another, because let’s face it, we aren’t going anywhere fancy!  The homeschool hair that had been so beautifully tamed by my outstanding friend/beautician, now has taken its rightful place in the”I haven’t slept in days,” look.

The kids are looking at me and I see their mouths moving a mile a minute but my brain is just too tired to care.

I don’t care that she didn’t eat her meat.

I don’t care that he stole your pencil.

I don’t care that you can’t find the cat.

Scratch that.

Back peddle.

What?

What happened to the cat?

Oh. Okay. You didn’t shut the back door tight enough, and he could wander out.

Of course.

Have you ever seen a firecracker? (Stay with me here. This should hopefully all make sense by the end)  You know, it’s small and not really all that interesting to look at.  But then you casually light the fuse thinking some pretty sparkles might come out of the deal and… KABOOM!!!

Well yes there were flames and sparkles. But everything near the firecracker is torched!

It was my late grandfather’s nickname for me.

“Firecracker.”

(Yep, I earned it too!)

When I was little our friends joked, I was so small that when I rode a Chihuahua, my feet didn’t drag.

We little ones have to be scrappy.  We look like easy bait, but just like a pepper, the smaller the size, the more potent the heat.

“You just picked the wrong pepper mister!”

Who am I yelling at?

Well, when I get down to it, I am mad at myself.

I think women are under more pressure than ever.  We are expected to do it all and look good while we are at it.

However we weren’t meant to do it all.  One hundred years ago, women were just concerned about trying to survive.  They were fighting for the right for equality and just being able to support their families.

Now we have to look spectacular while doing it.

Can we do that with just one or two tasks?  Sure!

Three or four? Probably.

Five or six? Okay, now but you are pushing it.

Seven or eight? No. NO!

On top of that we are supposed to be in shape like Wonder Woman and have our make-up  perfectly applied.

It is not going to happen.

I realized a couple of days ago, I am a perfectionist-aholic wannabe (If I was healthier and richer maybe I could pull it off?)

I realized I am in bondage. Bondage that only I have created.

My husband supports me, I have a beautiful family, and great friends. There is a difference between wanting to do stuff and being able to do stuff. My body has been through a lot these past five years and I need to give it the grace, I so willingly give to others that I refuse to give myself.

So I can’t multi-task like I used to.  So my mind wants to be at every function, but then my body abruptly stops and says, “No way Jose’!”

It’s not a reflection of my character, it’s just a flaw in body.

I can only do so much, and that’s okay.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. My house gets messy. My kids fight. I sometimes blow up. I sometimes don’t get done half of what I thought I should.

And that’s okay!

We are all doing the best that we can, and that should be enough. I am not a machine like the media-tells me I should be. Talk about double messages.  Food commercial followed by a weight lost commercial.  Food commercial, followed by a weight loss commercial….

Really??  So I am encouraged to eat, then I’m shamed for it!?

Plus the make-up commercials spouting, “Do you want to look years younger?”

I have earned every line on my face. These lines show I care!! Not only that, they show I care about others and not just myself.

I have heard of women not smiling just to prevent laugh lines. But I need a good gut-busting laugh and I love to smile!  Life is too short not to smile!

So I am throwing away my dreams of perfection.  I am tired of trying in vain to do something that just isn’t necessary.

It’s okay to say no.

It’s okay to not be put together.

It’s okay to let things slide in order to enjoy life a little more.

It’s okay that we are marching to the beat of our own drum.

There is no how-to, because we are just going to throw our lists out the window!

So who is with me? Let’s chuck our “perfection” into the fire and just enjoy life again.

Who cares what others think. I am running my own race. I am here to help in anyway that I can, but I can’t be perfect.

Ahh, I feel better.

Messy.

But better.

So goodbye perfection.

You look nice, but you aren’t worth it.

Broken Together

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“How I wish we could go back to simpler times

Before all our scars and all our secrets were in the light

Now on this hallowed ground, we’ve drawn the battle lines

Will we make it through the night?

It’s going to take more much more than promises this time

Only G-d can change our minds

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete,

Could we just be broken together

If you can bring your shattered dreams and I’ll bring mine

Could healing still be spoken and save us.

The only way we’ll last forever is broken together..”

When I hear Casting Crowns sing this song, I feel as though some one pulled this song out of my soul. Between the lyrics and with my favorite stringed instruments, and the saddest of all, the cello.

My husband and I have been married over fifteen years. Sometimes it stings to look back on our wedding photos. We have this utter look of innocence in our eyes. We had no idea the storms that we would encounter through the years, and yet I know we have only just begun.

I remember sitting in the geneticist’s office after our daughter had died. We were awaiting her autopsy results. (I still get sick to my stomach thinking about it.) The doctor shared with us the results and then said, “You know most couples that lose a child, the divorce rate is about seventy percent.”

We sat there stunned, it took me a few minutes to start to cry. We had just lost our daughter, and now I may lose my best friend?

She got up and gave us a moment. As soon as the door slammed shut we grabbed each others hands and promised each other that no matter what, we would stay together.

Little did we know that the storm we thought we were in the middle of, was only just the beginning.

After our daughter passed away in our arms, I slipped into a deep depression. My husband stood by my side and allowed me to deeply grieve. We tried to get pregnant again, and two times we miscarried, and the grief ensued.

We finally got pregnant with our son, and he too was diagnosed with the same thing our daughter had. We poured into prayer and begged G-d to spare our son. The good Lord allowed for the doctor to do experimental treatments and inject saline into my belly every three days. It was dangerous to both me and my son, but we chose to trust G-d.

My husband took care of me while I was on thirty-two weeks of bed rest. We welcomed our son Elijah Praise alive and he was whisked off the NICU. That night they asked us if we wanted to prolong his life by doing dialysis, or allow him to die peacefully in our arms. The doctor had stated if it was his child he would never take the proactive measures that we were about to embark upon.

I laid in my bed, post op, and sobbed. Do we keep him for us? Or let him go for him? We wanted him so much. I knew his every movement. We had to let Aurora go and we had always wondered if we had tried harder. . .

We prayed and went forward. We lived and breathed for that sweet boy. G-d smiled on us and allowed us as much continuous time with him as possible. We prayed together. We rejoiced together. We wept together.

Our son Elijah was our Hezekiah baby. We got more time that we were supposed to have.

The doctor would prepare us that he was going to die with each hurdle. But G-d…

Pretty soon the skeptic doctor saw the love we had for him and the hand of G-d that was upon him. He brought in other doctors and proudly would say, “You have got to check this kid out! He is a miracle!”

My husband and I had placed bible verses all over his room, as we pretty much lived in the hospital. It was hard and taxing on our bodies, but it seemed to draw us closer together, to G-d and to each other.

But then…. Eli passed away unexpectedly after six and a half months.

As I heard my husband weep over our son, “No buddy, don’t go! Please don’t go..” Our hearts seemed to shatter as one, all over the floor.

We went home broken, and grieved together. We thanked G-d each day for our children and we realized that even though we hurt for their presence, that they showed us what eternity was all about.

No more sadness.

No more sorrow.

No more pain.

Their lives showed us that G-d was real. With each grim diagnosis, G-d trumped them with more time and more daily miracles. What the enemy had meant for harm, G-d turned into good.

G-d allowed for us to be broken together. While there were times where I wondered how we would make through one more day, we fought together and chose to believe His promises.

G-d blessed us with another boy and a girl. They have not taken the place of their brother and sister. They know all about them and know that they are in Heaven. My kids have zero fear of death.

My husband and I in all our suffering found that G-d was the only way to keep us together . He has been faithful to His promises, and we have been faithful to ours.

If you are married and times are hard. Whatever the reasons that make you want to quit, I encourage you to stay true to your vows to G-d. Hold on to each other, and know that the only way you can last forever, is to be broken together.

Storyteller

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“There are some nights that felt like they would last forever

But you kept me breathing

You were with me right then

And all that you have done for me

I could never hold it in

So here’s to me telling this

story over and over again..”

This song sung by Morgan Harper Nichols has been drumming through my mind for months. Music has a way of soothing my soul and renewing my faith. Through my valleys and mountains, G-d has spoken to me so deeply through music and confirmed some of my greatest desires and healed my greatest fears.

I have wanted to be a writer since I was in second grade. We got to publish our own story and it was thrilling to have my words in laminate, unable to be erased or forgotten. My Grandma Esther read my pathetic ten page story and put the book down. She looked up at me and clutched her chest as if she had just read a New York Times bestseller. She squatted down and said, “You my dear are a writer.” My mind went wild.

You see, I have always been shy and a bit of a wallflower. I was small for my age and we moved a lot. The years faded away and so did my dream.

The older I grew, I recognized that I was easily spooked. I am not talking about being afraid of the dark or heights or deeper fears. I was terrified of death, rejection, and being abandoned. No one ever told me these things. In fact I was a preacher’s kid, so if anyone should have felt confident, you would think it would have been me…

My dad and I would have long talks together and he would always reassure me that there was nothing to worry about. Still I couldn’t let go of the fear.

Since we moved around a lot, I never felt like I belonged. Everyone seemed to have a place. I felt like a nomad, constantly searching for a place to settle and put down my roots.

My love for G-d has been unwavering, however my trust in Him hasn’t been ironclad. I have weathered many storms in my life.  With each earth shaking event, it shook and yet strengthen me at the same time.

However, the fear ensued.

I didn’t feel I had any worth and I lost myself to the worries of this world.

But G-d…

I ended up meeting my husband after yet another major move. We fell in love and got married. The pieces were starting to come together, and I was thrilled.

Life didn’t waste anytime, we ended up having children and shockingly they passed away. My nightmares were coming true and it took me to a dreadful place.

No parent should ever have to bury their child, let alone twice…

I felt abandoned by G-d, like I was not worthy of grace and honestly that He was letting me go.

The hardest part is that my valleys were so common, they left me prone to anxiety and depression. It got so bad that I began to have severe health issues to the point I almost lost my life.

Looking back, with each major blow, while I cried and begged for G-d to release the pain or call me home, He was there with me. I see his fingerprints now. I see them in the people He sent to love on me. I see Him in that He changed my selfish perspective in life to becoming more selfless.

While the fear and sorrow has been great, I do have good news. My story isn’t over. I can now see that although I have been through the darkest sorrows, he pulled me through. I have reached some of the heights of joy that I never could have dreamed possible.

Many watched helplessly as they saw me spiral down like a airplane in flames. They keep on asking me how on earth I am still here and more joyful than ever? I can’t take any credit.

All I can say is it is G-d.

In my weakness, He has made me strong.

Through the fear, He makes me brave.

When I don’t feel like I am enough, He reminds me that I was made in His image.

When I want to lay down, He helps me get up and keep moving forward.

My scars are ever present. They are reminders of my battles of survival and victory, because I am still here.  Only because He was with me.

For the first time in my life, I have a dream. I realized I want to be a Story Teller. When I share stories, I feel as though my spirit is dancing.  With every word I sway back and forth and I dance with the words that have brought my heart alive.  What’s even better, is watching others eyes light aglow at the endless possibilities of hope.

I have found where I belong and am loved well by many. I long to encourage others that they too can make it through the storms of life by one simple choice, G-d. If he can redeem my broken mess, He can help anybody. I long to share of His goodness and faithfulness. I long to help others know that they haven’t been forgotten and that their story isn’t over…

He has rekindled my loved for writing and reminded me that it’s okay to tell my story over and over again. He made me to be what I never knew I wanted to be, a Storyteller.

As the song continues:

“The mountain where I climbed

The valley where I fell

You were there all along

That’s the story I’ll tell

You brought the pieces together

made me this storyteller

Now I know it is well

That’s the story I’ll tell…”

What are you dreams?  What have you struggled with that G-d has brought you through?  Have you found that it was in your time of crisis that you found your calling?

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Write me a message or leave a comment on FB!  I want to hear your story!

Being Happy Isn’t Always Best

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Courtesy of Mark Nickerson

We all want it.  We read articles, search for it in people, or buy one more thing that will finally make us happy…  Till it fades and we need something or someone else to make us feel good about ourselves.

We are drawn to these people who seem to have mastered the art of happiness. They seem to have so much fun and are always, well happy!  After all, fun=happy right?

Then tragedy strikes.  You lose your job, or your loved one loses their health, or maybe you are just plain depressed… Whatever the earth shattering loss is, the “happy” people disappear and you feel abandoned and rejected. The hardest part is you are left wondering, where did the friendship go?  I thought friends are supposed to be there in sunshine or in rain?

It’s hard to blame the person who chases happiness, because let’s face it, we all want to be happy.  Yet the constant pursuit of happiness can also lead to unnoticed selfishness.

Sometimes when we are out there chasing a feeling, we forget about those who are truly in need.  I love in Ecclesiastes Chapter 7: 1-4 (NIRV) shares:

“…People can learn more from sobbing when someone dies than from being happy when someone is born.  So it’s better to go where people are sobbing than to go where people are having a good time.

Everyone will die someday.  Those who are still living should really think about that. Sadness is good for the heart.  That’s why sorrow is better than laughter.  Those who are wise are found where there is sorrow.  But foolish people are found where there is pleasure. “

We were made for community.  We have never lived in such an individualistic culture, ever.  Modern culture says self love/selfishness is equal to our own happiness.  When people aren’t happy, they no longer stay and work things out.  Now we are encouraged to just quit and start all over because, I am no longer happy.

How do we stay in relationship with others without sticking it out through the hard times? What happens to the marriages? Kids? Friendships? Our society as a whole?  We have more people now that are on antidepressants, and suicides have gone through the roof.

What changed? Is it our own selfish desires that are letting our communities fall apart?

We weren’t made to carry our burdens alone.  That’s why G-d created others to be His hands and shoulders to help us through those tough times.  Quoting scripture to a person who is hurting isn’t enough.  Nor is saying they should give their pain over to G-d and just deal with their suffering alone until G-d rescues them.

He sends us. G-d doesn’t just want us to read His word, but do His word.  He sends us to be His comfort.  He sends us to show His grace. He sends us to show His love!

Jesus and his disciples went out to the sick, lost, and to the dying. He went where the need was great. He didn’t shame people for their pain, and tell them to get over it.  Instead he blessed and encouraged them with truth and love. Jesus did not come to teach us how to be happy. He came to show us the way of His Father.  He was sent to show us the greatness of being a servant. Not the greatness of being served.

Are we supposed to walk around somber and stoic all of the time? No! I do believe that there is a time and a place for everything.  When joy is to be had, we celebrate!  When injustice is done, we feel righteous anger and shake our fists!  When grief strikes, we weep.  It is all about timing and yes, sacrifice.

My life has been filled with valleys and mountains.  The people that I have found to be the most faithful, loyal, and trustworthy; are those that are there in every season of life. I know who I can count on, and that is priceless.

I have found true happiness isn’t in everything going right or fun 24/7. In fact, most happiness is quite temporary.  That’s why people look to affairs, drugs, spending time coveting and working for what others have… The list goes on and on.  Happiness is a feeling.

We should never be living life for our own feelings.  G-d calls us to share in His love with gratefulness and a humble heart.  When we are searching for our own happiness, you can be sure that there is hurt beneath our feet as we pass by those who need us in their tender moments.

Speaking as one who loves to laugh and feel good, I encourage you to love life to it’s fullest. However our happiness should never come at the expense of someone else.  Especially when I know they are suffering and I have the ability to be an extension of G-d’s direct word.

Being happy is wonderful in a healthy balance. One of our goals in life should be to leave our selfishness behind and instead embrace selflessness.

I have found true happiness comes when giving and making a positive difference. Whether it be a kind word, a special gift, or just the act of listening, there I find happiness.  When I see someone smile who has been in the depths of despair, I feel happy.  Feelings are fleeting, but it’s our actions that define who we are.

How do you balance a being happy?

 

If this story speaks to you, please feel free to leave a comment below.  If you would like to follow my blog,  scroll up on the right hand side and click on Follow to get the latest posts!  If FB is your thing, scroll on the right hand side and click on kellynickerson.com FB and Like!  I value each comment with deep gratitude.  Thank you for taking the time to read and feel free to Share with your friends!

 

The Good Grief Girl

 

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In the Quiet stillness   Photograph by Mark Nickerson

 

As I smooth my hair back behind my ears, I pad forward in the lush emerald green grass that squishes between my toes.  The whole place is lit up as with a golden hue and I follow the children’s laughter.  It’s Heaven…

As my ruffled white sun dress flutters in the wind, I feel my heart and it is beating with joy. I feel no fear. The pain has left my body and I feel as light as a feather. I can hear and I don’t need my hearing aids anymore. It’s peaceful, even in my hurried pace.

The scent of wildflowers fill the air.  I hear their laughter again, only this time it’s like melody and harmony are doing a magnificent Viennese Waltz.  It’s so beautiful that it takes my breath away.

I finally reach the top of the hill and it’s as if a symphony is playing at a crescendo as my eyes lock with theirs—my children.

I see the Weeping Willows surrounded crystal clear pond.  Children are climbing the trees and playing in the water.  Their laughter is contagious.

Aurora’s hair is long, golden, with a tousled wave.  She has a wreath of flowers in her hair and her dress is a white with eyelet lace.  She is running barefoot with half of her dress hanging in the water. She looks up and yells to Eli, “Elijah Praise!  She’s here, Mama is here!”

I glance over to see him catching frogs.  No tubes, no scars, no bandages; just a happy little boy.  He stops and looks up, his steel grey eyes pierce mine…  I know those eyes!!  He flashes his double dimples and my heart soars!

There are two others, my two I didn’t get to meet.  They too are running to me.  I run as fast as I can down the hill, the wind whips my face and I can feel me yelling their names.  As I stretch my arms wide, I suddenly wake up.

As I lay for a moment in my bed, there is a chill in the air that makes me shiver that wakes me up to reality. It’s a re-occurring  dream I have had through-out the years. I brush the tears away, and sit up and listen to my kids here on earth, and smile.

I never planned on being the Grief Girl. In fact, I tried to run from it.

I do remember hiking in the back of our wild woods and finding an old cemetery. One grave stuck out in my mind.  It just simply said Baby on it. It had a lamb carved out on the top and was dated back in the 1800s.  I would often go by myself at age 11 and 12 and just sit silently visiting, wondering what had happened.

Maybe it was G-d getting me ready for what was going to happen later in life.

There was another time me and my friends were on a walk and came across another cemetery to cross through for a short cut.  We heard “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” playing over and over.  We followed it and found we were in”Baby land”, and look down to see so many names carefully scribed into the stone.  So much love. So much loss.  So many stories left untold.

When we answer the call of G-d, it’s often not in ways we would have expected or even wanted.  From a young age, I would pretend to preach sermons from my father’s pulpit.  I loved G-d with all my heart and loved the idea of going into ministry.  I would quiz my Dad for hours and ask him how he got “the call.”

I wanted “the call” too; and I didn’t want to miss it.

Little did we know that when my heart felt it couldn’t beat one more time, is when G-d whispered “the call” into my heart.  I didn’t realize that it would be a specific call or that I would even find myself wanting to run from it. Yet he called and I responded, “Send me.”

Often being in a ministry for grief, sickness, and for the lost; I get a lot of questions.  Some questions are, “This is just a season, right?”  Or, “Is this healthy? Are you sure you aren’t stuck?  Do you need counseling?”  This is understandable as most don’t want to stay in this hard place.  Most want to pass through it quickly and never look back.

Me, I have been instructed to stay.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”   2nd Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)

He gave me comfort, and now it’s time to do my part.

What I have learned about those that grieve deeply; we also know joy at a level most can’t understand.  As one of my favorite books “Hind’s Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard, spoke about regarding Suffering and Sorrow being transformed:

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Hind’s Feet  Photograph by Mark Nickerson

 

“We are no more Suffering and Sorrow than you are Much Afraid. Don’t you know that everything that comes to the high places is transformed? Since you brought us here with you, we returned into Joy and Peace.”

Joy and peace are literally a part of my name. This book helped me explore all the emotions I had been feeling for so long and helped validate my experiences.

While Grief Girl wouldn’t be my first pick of dreams to fulfill, it is what I have been called to do at this point of my life.  (Like those in the Bible who have tried to run from G-d leading, I should have remembered he always gets his way.)  I wear this badge with honor and gratefulness.  I am a testimony of G-d’s saving grace.

When I see those that need to go down into the “Valley of Loss,” I take their hands and remember that it’s my turn to “Return to the Valley” and take ahold of another “Much-Afraid,” so that she doesn’t have to go through the journey alone.

Deep losses are devastating.  Yet when we allow ourselves to enter into the place of brokenness, that is where our Father can do the most miraculous work.  Without sadness, you can’t truly experience or appreciate joy.

Happiness is a feeling, joy is a gift and choice. While grieving is hard, it brings a gift that can only be earned; that is empathy, joy, and peace.

We all have a call on our lives that many may not understand. I am now embracing my title and renaming it, The Good Grief Girl.  With G-d leading, we press on to what He has called us to do, and that my friend is good!

What is your call?

Have you answered?

 

 

If this story has touched your heart, please feel free to leave a comment below.  If you would like to follow my blog,  scroll up on the right hand side and click on Follow to get the latest posts!  If FB is your thing, scroll on the right hand side and click on kellynickerson.com FB and Like!  I value each comment with deep gratitude.  Thank you for taking the time to read and feel free to Share with your friends!

 

 

 

 

Inspiration of Faith & Courage (In Memory of Pastor Ed Dobson)

 

MJN_3848I will never forget the first time that I saw Pastor Ed Dobson preach.  We were going to Mars Hill and were sitting among the mass of people.  Our first son Elijah had passed away only a couple of years before, and I was really struggling.

Even though G-d had given us another son, a true answer to prayer, I still had so many questions and heavy guilt. I had often felt my faith wasn’t strong enough, and maybe that’s why our children had died.  We had prayed so hard, and He did answer, just not in the way we had hoped.

Watching my children die was the hardest thing I have ever endured.  To see them struggle for their last breaths and knowing there was nothing I could do.  This made me realize how fragile life is.

Their death’s gave me an eternal mindset, which is a good thing for the most part.  The down side was where I gave the devil a foot hold, the guilt and fear.

I was worried that I was going to die and not be right with G-d.  I knew that Jesus was my savior and that I couldn’t earn my way to heaven, but I still felt like I was out of favor with G-d.  I was stuck in a rut of my circumstances.  I wondered if this was a result of my own sin.

Pastor Ed stood up that day and spoke on the fact that fear and faith COULD co-exist.  At that time, anyone I spoke to said that if I was fearful, I wasn’t faithful. This shook me to my core.

Pastor Ed spoke candidly about being diagnosed with ALS and his wrestling of why he wasn’t being healed.  This all struck so close to home with Eli and Aurora passing away.  We had prayed, was I not faithful enough for them to be healed?

As he spoke with such honesty, I could feel the walls of my heart being shattered.  He went on to share his story of faith and struggle.  He didn’t candy coat it, or even come up with a perfect solution to wrap things up.  He was just, real.

I found myself crying with relief.  I know that I love G-d with all my heart.  I know that Jesus is my savior.  I also know that in this world that we will have trials and temptations, and sometimes we will overcome with blatant victory.  Also, sometimes we may feel pounded into the ground. (This is where I know G-d is the closest.)

While victory in every battle we face would be awesome!  I have found more times than not, as I pour deeper and deeper into the Bible; is that the faithful followers life is going to be hard.  After all, is it really faith if it isn’t hard?

Jesus has won over death, but we are still going to have troubles here on earth.  We know that G-d walking is walking beside us, watching over, and cheering us on.  Yet, a life a faith doesn’t mean we will go through it unscathed.

I am a Christian.  I am tempted, challenged, and I make mistakes on a daily basis.  It isn’t my strength that makes me victorious.  Rather it is, “the Joy of the Lord that is my strength.”

He is my protection.

My shalom.

My provision.

My strength.

My healer.

My joy.

He is my everything that I am not.

So after Pastor Ed preached, I went up and shared with him about my struggle about my fear of dying.  We were at a mega church, so I spoke as fast as I could and expected a one sentence reply.

He listened and took some time to respond.  I won’t share everything, but he basically said, “The fact that you are so concerned about where you are with G-d, shows how much you love Him.  You are seeking Him, and that is what a faithful person does.  You keep seeking, even when you are afraid….”

(Selah)

From then on I was hooked on his teachings.  Anytime he came to speak, we were there.  I loved it when he teamed up with his son Kent, they were amazing together.

I read his book “The Year of Living Like Jesus,” and was enamored at his hunger and thirst for seeking out G-d even as his body was deteriorating.

Little did I know that my body was going to come to a sudden halt. I entered into a 4 year heavy battle with sickness and I am going to be honest, it about took me out.  He had just written, “Seeing Through the Fog: Hope When Your World Falls Apart.”  This book helped me keep on going.

At that point I under 90 pounds.  I had lost 60 pounds rapidly and not in a good way.  I could barely do anything on my own.  I needed help walking and even getting dressed.  I was so scared and angry at G-d.  I felt I had been faithful, I had believed, and yet there seemed to be no great healing…

My Mother In Law suggested that I go and listen and try to talk to Pastor Ed for some encouragement.  So we did.  I listened as he shared about his frustrations with his body not working the way that he wanted.  He shared with such transparency that I hung onto every word, as if it were the food I had been so craving.

We were going to be heading to U of M for a possible feeding tube placement.  The doctors didn’t know what else to do and let it be up to me what to decide.  You see medical technology seems easy, until it was me that was having to endure the procedures, side effects, and long term effect scenarios.

I was petrified.

When he finished, I again walked up to him and shared.  I am still in awe that here this man himself was suffering, and yet he had so much compassion for all of those who are fighting for their lives.  He gave me hope when no else could.  He understood my pain and empathized like no other.  He made me feel like I mattered and acknowledged my pain was real.

I asked him about the feeding tube and explained my dilemma.  He just said, “Let that be your last resort…”  There is more to it than that, but those words stuck.  “Don’t give up, keep fighting.”

Pastor Ed won his battle on Saturday.  He had ALS for 15 years.  He left behind a legacy of what it is to be a true follower of Jesus.  The two brief encounters that I had with him, helped me get back on the narrow path.  He did what was instructed in the bible.  He gave others hope in the middle of his suffering.  He shared the love of our Father in heaven, and the need for Jesus.

My favorite part of what he left behind, was his honesty.  He didn’t pretend that his suffering was easy.  He showed us why we are supposed to be so transparent with each other.  When we are open about where we have been and what we have done, it allows for others to see that we are human.  That we need to hang on to G-d and trust that His grace is enough.  We need Jesus as our savior.   When we allow others to see the ugly and hurting side of our faith, it lends to opening a door of trust.  To see and hear of others suffering and still seeking G-d, that is what makes a profound impact.

To tell you the truth, it’s the people that have been broken in life and are honest about it, that I look up to and trust.  I know that they will be compassionate.  I know that their faith has been tested and refined.  I know that what the world deems broken, is where G-d is able to piece back to together and form into His likeness that is a testament of G-d’s miraculous power.

I am so sad that Pastor Ed had to suffer.  But he did it with such grace and dignity.  He left a path for those who are suffering, to let them know that they aren’t alone and that G-d Is. With. Them.

Pastor Ed’s life has taught me, that even in the midst of agony, we are called to help others.  No one should ever have to suffer alone.  We keep living each day, even as we wrestle, and press on…

If you are suffering, for whatever reason.  I urge you to check out the many resources that Pastor Ed Dobson left behind.  These are just a few that I have actually read or watched.

The Year of Living Like Jesus

Seeing Through the Fog

Or the his video series, http://edsstory.com/

I look at Pastor Ed’s life and know he was/will be a shining light to so many.  He was/is G-d’s faithful servant, and this world is a better place because of him.  May we all learn from his example, and give our best in every circumstance.  Who knows whose lives we will touch for the greater good of G-d’s kingdom?

May we all live each day to the fullest and encourage others to keep their faith, love, and hope alive.

Thank you Pastor Ed for helping me see through the fog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.