Posts

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Grief & the Power of Giving Thanks

I stood paralyzed in the doorway, staring at Pippy laying lifeless in a Rubbermaid box on the living room floor. To think that she would never again experience the wind blowing through her ears or prance at the park overwhelmed me with shock, disbelief and heartbreak. I cried, desperately hoping it was all a terribly bad dream – the worst I’d ever had.

But Pippy’s lifeless body couldn’t lie. This wasn’t a dream. It was real life.

I must admit that part of me wanted to pray and ask God for a resurrection miracle. He did it with Jesus, couldn’t He do it with Pippy? I knew that He could but, even in the midst of heartache, I knew in the depth of my soul that Pippy’s passing was God’s will. He had allowed her to leave this earth earlier than I had hoped but right on time according to His perfect schedule. It wasn’t my place to beg Him for a rewind and redo. It was my job to ask Him, “How do I glorify You in this moment?”

God’s answer came like a lightening bolt: “By giving thanks as you walk with me through this season of grief. That’s how you glorify me in this moment and every moment of suffering, pain and loss you will encounter as you travel down this road called life.”

At first, I was hesitant to give thanks. I was worried that by being thankful I would dishonor Pippy and minimize her importance. But God’s word spoke to me again, “Give thanks in all circumstances. That’s my will for you.”

All meant right there and then – even with Pippy’s lifeless body still in a Rubbermaid box.

All meant in grief, loss, sorrow, sadness, heartbreak and pain.

All meant in the face of life and in the face of death.

All meant that I couldn’t withhold my thanks on account of worries and concerns about hurting my deceased pup’s feelings.

All meant that I was compelled and commanded to give thanks right then and there in obedience to God.

And so, that’s precisely what I did.

I started by thanking God for blessing me with Pippy eight years ago and providing me with an incredibly loyal and faithful friend. I thanked Him for creating Pippy and filling her with gentleness, kindness and love – the very fruits of His Spirit. Then I thanked God for making Pippy a furry little teacher who demonstrated so perfectly priceless lessons on walking obediently with Jesus and following Him by faith and not by sight.

While giving thanks to God for my departed Pip, the pain of losing her was replaced with the joy I experienced in loving her. With each praise of thanksgiving offered up to God, a deeper level of peace and comfort descended on me from above. By the time I walked away from Pippy’s side, my Spirit was transformed by the very presence of my Father God.

What’s so incredible about the night Pippy passed is that, even in death, God was using her to teach me how to trust and obey Him. This particular lesson could have been titled, “Grief And the Power of Giving Thanks” with the objective being to understand that, by giving thanks, an open invitation is extended to the Holy Spirit. When we thank God, it is as if we are welcoming the Wonderful Counselor into our brokenness so that He can comfort and console us with His love and grace.

When grief threatens to crush my Spirit – and Heaven knows it will try – the way back to peace is always through the doorway of thanksgiving. As soon as I put God’s lesson on giving thanks in all circumstances into practice, my heart is opened wide to the Spirit of Christ and I am once again comforted by the assurance that Pippy is in a better place.

Although Pippy’s spirit has left this earth, she is not truly dead. She has gone to her heavenly home, experiencing more fullness of life than ever before. The good news that I am choosing to celebrate is that my best walks with Pippy are yet to come. I will rejoice and give thanks for the adventure’s we’ve had thus far while looking ahead to Heaven’s streets of gold, where an eternity of togetherness awaits us.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

, , , , , , , , ,

How to End a Pity Party

The aqua blue waves brushed gently against the silky white sand, covering my feet and cooling me from head to toe. It was a picture perfect day at the beach; the kind of day that refreshes a person in both body and soul.

But that’s not what was happening to me.

I didn’t feel refreshed at all and it wasn’t the sun or the sand’s fault. It was all me. I was too blame because I was too busy have a pathetic pity party to enjoy a walk on the beach.

The pitiful party all started when I began rehearsing the past. I just couldn’t seem to get the last nine years out of my head. I kept returning to opportunities gone by, missed milestones and a decade of disappointments. For days my thoughts had been traveling down “poor me” lane, lamenting time and dreams lost thanks to Lyme Disease.

While the pity party was going strong, joy and contentment were nowhere to be found. Consumed with thoughts about what I don’t have robbed me of enjoying the gifts that were right in front of me – namely the beach, sun and life.

It was that last, critically important gift that put an abrupt end to my pity party. As I wiggled my toes in the sand, it suddenly dawned on me: You’re not dead.

To most people, that wouldn’t have been a shocking or profound thought. Especially while sitting upright and very much alive on a beach. But, given my past nine years of ill health, thinking about the life in my body stopped my party dead in its tracks. And with that, I called off my pity party and showed my ungrateful, pathetic, self-absorbed thoughts, feelings and emotions the door.

A moment later the pity party had completely packed up and gone home and, immediately, in it’s place, a new thanksgiving party up shop.

With gratefulness back as the host of my heart it was as if the beach transformed before my very eyes. With my gloomy attitude lifted, the sun began to shine brighter. Suddenly the water took on a sparkly hue and the sand felt softer, like a heavenly mattress just begging me to sit down and take a rest.

And so I did.

As I sat myself down on the sandy earth and dug my heels into the sand, I thanked God for my feet and the incredible healing that’s occurred in each and every toe. As I glanced up and down the beach I thanked God for restored eyes that can see such a beautiful world. Next, I looked at my legs and arms and thanked God for muscles that are relaxed and no longer flaring. Then I looked up to the cloudless sky and thanked God for Jesus, my friend and Savior who rescued my soul that once was perishing.

During my silent and solo beachside worship time, I was reminded that the joy of salvation is mine to enjoy the moment I stop the pity party and invite Jesus back onto the throne of my life. As soon asI put an end to the  lamenting and ask the Holy Spirit to come and refresh me with the joy of salvation, Chris always comes flooding my heart, renewing me from the inside out with streams of abundant gladness. Resurrection power ushers in the indescribable peace that can only ever be experienced while content and at home in His presence.

Let’s face it. Pity is never a very good party. It is always pathetic and sad. But when Jesus enters in that’s when the real, holy, eternally jubilant party gets started. And the good news is, it will never, ever have to end.

, , ,

Choose Joy

It was 5 PM on Halloween night and the thought of Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat attire was taunting me. “You’re too sick to dress up in a fun-loving character’s costume”… “You feel too lousy to wear a stripped hat and big red bow… “You certainly can’t put on a cartoon character smile in your physical condition.”

Weeks before the October 31st holiday I purchased my Cat in the Hat costume accessories. With high hopes for my Halloween day health I double-clicked on Amazon and, two days later, Prime delivered a classic Dr. Seuss inspired ensemble featuring the Cat’s signature tall, white and red-stripped hat, big red bow and white gloves.

When the package arrived at the door I let out an audible sigh. On the day I clicked “Complete Order” I’d felt strong and hopeful for my health’s near future. That had only been two days prior but already my gut had taken another hit. With Halloween still a few weeks away I silently prayed that the suffering in my stomach would subside before the holiday arrived. “God, I want to be a joyful Cat in the Hat on October 31st but I can’t if I’m plagued with a gripping pain in my gut. Please heal me…and quick!

For the next three weeks the costume accessories remained unopened in my closet as I waited for my prayer to be answered. Days passed and the pain didn’t. When October 31st finally arrived my physical condition wasn’t the least bit improved. In fact, it had worsened.

As the sun was beginning to set on Halloween night and trick-or-treaters were about to hit the streets in search of candy I laid on my closet’s floor gripping my stomach in pain. That’s when I looked up and, out of the corner of my eye, caught a glimpse of the Cat in the Hat attire still in its bag. All day I had tried to avoid the accessories, too discouraged by my condition to consider changing into a costume. The very thought of the Cat in the Hat produced in me feelings of sadness and grief until I looked up and noticed a picture on the side of the package – a picture I hadn’t noticed before: two smiling faces dressed like Cat in the Hat smiling back at me.

The sight of those smiling faces quieted my mind’s taunting voice and flooded my spirit with a fresh burst of resolve. It was as if the Cat in the Hat himself were beckoning me to rise up, change my attitude and my attire and choose joy.  

Five minutes later I was wearing black pants and a black button up shirt underneath a white suit jacket. Around my neck was a big red velvety bow. On my hands were white cotton cartoon gloves and on my head was a tall, wide brimmed, white and red-stripped hat. On my face was a big, wide toothy, cartoon smile and in my heart was overcoming joy.

On Halloween 2018 I embraced the joy and delight of the Cat in the Hat. On All Hallows Eve I choose to wear a smile. Yes, I was in pain. Yes, my gut was still in distress. But my heart was full of persistent hope. In my spirit that was determination and resiliency.

Choosing joy transformed my Halloween night from one of defeat into one of overwhelming victory. Choosing joy will do that – it will change things. It will change people. It will transform circumstances and outcomes.

When I prayed to God weeks before October 31st I believed my pain needed to be removed in order for joy to be restored but God showed me the error of my ways. God used a Cat in the Hat costume to remind me that the presence of joy is not contingent on the absence of pain. I do not need to be painless to be joyful because the joy of Jesus is so powerful it can overcome my pain.

Every time l rise up and approach God’s throne of grace with faith and belief, asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit and joy of Jesus’ victorious life, God always delivers. He annihilates pain’s power in the presence of Christ’s resurrection power. He lifts sorrow and sadness and replaces it with joy and gladness.

Every day I get to make a choice about the attitude I will wear. By the grace of God and the strength of the Risen King I pray I’ll always choose joy.

, , , ,

The Joy that Freedom Brings

It’s here. The day children wait for all year. And no, I’m talking about Christmas. Jesus’ birthday didn’t suddenly move to June.  The highly anticipated day I’m referring to is none other than the first day of summertime freedom. It’s official. School’s out for the summer.

All year long students have been held like caged birds trapped in small, stuffy classrooms. Confined to uncomfortable desks and a dictatorial bell schedule they have not been free to flit around and fly. For one hundred and eighty days they have waited for summer and all the fun it brings. Now it is here and students are giddy with relief.

In commemoration of the final day of school children and adults of all ages are gathering at amusement parks and picnic pavilions to celebrate. There will be rejoicing on roller coaster rides and suds of fun on water slides. Ice cream will be eaten for lunch and funnel cake will be devoured for dinner. For one day shouts of glee will be encouraged and no one will be shushed.

On school picnic day children are full of the joy that freedom brings.

 

In June or January, while stuck at a desk or basking in the sun, I aspire to live with the joy of a child enjoying the first day of summer vacation. I long to embody a child-like delight and glee as I rejoice in endless freedom.

I have every reason to be full of joy because Jesus Christ has set me free. God has released me from the guilt of my past. I am no longer caged by sin and shame. The door to salvation has been opened and on the other side is an eternity infinitely more glorious than summer.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

We are free to be full of the joy that freedom brings.