Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Loss sucks!

Loss sucks. Seriously sucks. Is that a bad word in your house like it is in mine...? Both "loss" and "sucks" are bad words. Currently I am losing a friend to stupid, awful, bad word CANCER (melanoma) and it sucks. I have lost so many friends to CANCER in the last few years it's almost an epidemic in my heart.  I've had friends lose a child, friends lose a parent, friends and students die too young and in the prime of life, beloved aunties and moms and grandmas. Loss is always earlier than we want no matter what.

This time this awful disease is taking my friend Sheri. Sheri has made me laugh until I cry all of my mascara and eyeliner to oblivion. She has listened to me and been there through some hard,scary times. She was my buddy at work that I would email from across the room, and then we would make eye contact and giggle. She was my sushi buddy, my morning coffee walk, my surprise friendship after years of not really liking each other from a far. She was the one that made leaving my old job so hard that I couldn't speak as she walked me out to my car one last time. Tonight she's almost gone from this earth and I'm mad, and sad and racked with guilt that as my new job has taken me on a new journey, it has taken me away from walking closely with her through these last months. I have been looking through our texts from this last year and although we stayed in touch and "I love yous" were shared, I just feel robbed from more time knowing she's still in the fight. Loss sucks. Her kids are robbed, her friends, her family, and this earth. This is heartbreaking.....she's so young, so beautiful, so full of laughter and craziness.....She's a mom, a girlfriend, a friend, a daughter.....she's not much older than me. She's leaving, and my hope is that we will hit every sushi buffet in heaven and laugh together again and it will seem as no time has passed at all.

 Loss was never in God's original plan. That is why it hurts so bad when we lose someone, and why our hearts can't ever fully heal. We are on the other side of heaven. Tears still easily arrive at every mention of my dad, 26 years since I lost him. Every time I have graduated, every time a niece or nephew was born, my wedding, my pregnancies, watching my kids grow up without him.......It hurts like hell. I never have known what it is like to have a Dad as a teenager or adult. I watch my friends with their dads now in this stage of life and it's still as magical and special as I remember it. I watch my husband with my daughter and I am jealous that the person who loved me THAT much is no longer here. LOSS SUCKS. Loss hurts to the depth of our souls.

It hurt God to the depths of His heart to lose us. It hurt Him so much that He sent His only Son to make a way to never have to lose us again. We have a way to be with Him and those we love for eternity. We just have to wait here on earth, and like I said in my last post, waiting is a hard road to travel. We will have no pain and no tears and no loss in heaven. Eternal relationship with God and others. Our loved ones are off the waiting path and on to eternal glory and hanging out with Jesus. Amazing grace. Revelation 21:4  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 

Lessons from Loss:  Loss brings us closer to Jesus and I have had the amazing and gracious blessing of having a heavenly Father step in during the hardest times of missing my earthly one. Loss brings us closer to others as we cherish and are more appreciative of those who are in our lives. Loss makes us empathetic and compassionate people who really "know" what someone else is going through when they experience loss. Today I was talking to one of my treasured new co-workers who lost her mom not even a year ago and even though our great loss of a parent are 26 years a part, we could share with each other on a different level. I do know the deep pain she is feeling and although grief changes and you do heal partially, you need those people in your life who can really understand. LOSS SUCKS.

I will deeply miss Sheri,and I am praying that I will see her again and that she has the peace of Jesus and He is with her tonight and for eternity...... and until then I will be thankful for the years she touched my life with laughter, and friendship, the way she touched and changed students lives, and our shared love of good food, being silly, Fireball drinks that we invented on the weekends and then shared recipes..... (yep) and crushing on Adam Levine.

Scripture breathes hope and I'm thankful we can trust it fully.

Matthew 5:4  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Isaiah 41:10  “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 43:2  “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Psalm 18:28  “You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.”
Psalm 46:1-2  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
Psalm 119:50  “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”
Romans 8:18  “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
2 Corinthians 7:10  “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Psalm 18:2  “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18  “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
1 Peter 5:6-7  “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Psalm 23:4  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 73:26  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Standing in the gap

Recently, I wrote about our son who has been having trouble adjusting to first grade and the fear that paralyzes him on most days. I would like to share another aspect of his journey with you in hopes that it will encourage someone today.
On most days when we drop A off at school, he is teary-eyed and scared of leaving us. We encourage him the best we know how and send him off with tons of hugs and kisses. One of the days that A was crying after he was already dropped off at school, a sweet family friend saw him from across the playground and was instantly drawn to him. She could clearly see he was distraught and upset. She could’ve just gone about her day, head down after school drop off, staring down at her phone and thinking of her ‘to do’ list; instead, she took the time to walk over to A and comfort him. She decided in that moment, in the middle of all the busyness and chaos of school drop off, to stand and pray over him. She prayed comfort, peace and courage over him so that he would go about his day as the warrior God has created him to be. In that moment, she didn't care that people in a public school setting may have been judging her, all she cared about was the broken heart of one of God’s children. When she texted to tell me this sweet act of kindness, I couldn’t help but get tears in my eyes. My heart hurts for my son everyday knowing he is so sad and I can’t instantly fix it all. I spent the day knowing God truly held A close, closer than I ever will be able; I have to trust that God will hold true to His promise to never leave nor forsake him.
Walking this journey with my son has made me reflect on the goodness of God, even in the midst of our trials. He finds us feeling alone and isolated in a crowd of people, He sees us not being able to get out of bed because the darkness feels too great, He mends our broken hearts and spirits and wipes every single tear. All of this has reassured me that God is still working behind the scenes and is carefully piecing together our stories. When the pain is overwhelming and life continues at full speed all around us, God already knows how He will use our stories, our pain and our losses, all for His good and glory.  
He gives us people who are willing to stand in the gap for us. The ones who say they will pray for us and actually do. The ones that call and follow up to see how we are after a bad day. The ones who show up in a bad season to encourage us and tell us we will get through it all. When we surrender to the hard things and the pain of our situations, God gives us freedom, joy and peace through it. I challenge us all to even be grateful for the hard times, as it will force us to seek God more fiercely. 
God doesn't work independently; He works through His people. This is evident in our lives, our experiences and throughout the Bible. He uses His people to preach the good news of Jesus; to show love, hope and compassion to those in need. 

In the book of Ruth, Ruth stands in the gap for the widowed Naomi despite her own pain. I love this story of faithfulness and loyalty. Ruth put her own needs aside and remained with her mother-in-law as she was in her darkest moments of grief. Through the loss of both their husbands and Naomi's sons, they found God’s provision and sufficient grace. They may not have both known it at the time, but God used them in each other's lives to rebuild their futures and heal their hearts. Naomi was ready to give up, she thought her story was finished after the death of her entire family, but God knew differently. He was busy orchestrating a plan and placing them in the right place at the right time for restoration and redemption in their lives. 
I want to encourage you today, friend, that God isn't finished with your story either. Sometimes chapters in our lives get inserted when we least expect it, but let God start to trade in your sorrows and sadness for joy. Let Him use people in your life to love on you and speak wisdom. Let them into your life and let them help you stand up, dust yourself off and allow yourself to get stronger every day from your circumstances. 
Do you have someone standing in the gap with you on this journey of life? Are you doing it now for someone you know or love? Whether we are a complete mess, feeling isolated, alone in a crowd or unable to take the next step, God never leaves or forsakes us. Activate your faith in taking the next step in your journey even though He has not revealed the full picture of your life. My sweet son is stepping out in faith every morning of school and continuing to trust in his God to provide the people and tools he needs to get through. God can help all of us get through minute by minute if that is where we are or provide just enough strength for our day. Wherever you are today, allow people to stand in the gap with you, rip the band aid and allow full healing to begin and trust a provisional God who loves and adores you.  
Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"for Christmas..." part one

If you're kids are anything like mine, they start talking about their next birthday party about two weeks after their most recent birthday party. My lovely three little arrows also talk about Christmas starting in about mid January and in June the requests seems to get narrowed down. Every commercial, every time one of their friends tells them about the latest craze, as we peruse the aisles of Target, we start talking about birthdays and Christmas. To my surprise they have learned (and now even my three year old B has caught on), that if you want a big ticket item in the Roth house you will hear the phrase "for Christmas" or "for your birthday." Well, now that Christmas is right around the corner, 74 days to be exact, my kiddos are using the phrase "for Christmas" pretty much daily. Waiting is so rough, isn't it? Whether we are waiting on Santa or Jesus or our next birthday party, waiting is hard.

I have had two major "for Christmas" realities in my life. The first being something I waited 10 years to see come to God's fruition. Many tears, my health, tiring conversations, nightmares, many agonizing prayers and prayer requests were spent over those 10 years as I waited for God to do something. I lost relationships, lost my reputation, lost my community, lost my ministry, lost my prior unwavering faith in Jesus. You see someone I love dearly was being abused by someone else I loved dearly as well. I saw the warning signs, I spoke up, and by doing so I was called a liar, a manipulator, a hypocrite, a unbeliever and so much more. I was shut out by Christians that had been my family, my community and my life for many, many years. I have never felt so alone, defeated, abandoned, shamed, lost or broken. The relationships that were spared were not as strong as before and I felt the speculation as they were still in conversations and relationship with the abuser. As the years went by my faith was restored, I learned to trust Christians and Christ again, I found new community and relationships and yet the haunting reality that I felt there was no justice lingered everyday in my heart. I still had bad dreams about the situation, I still ran into people that were once my family and now it was awkward to even say hello. I avoided going into stores when I saw certain cars in the parking lot, I graciously learned to speak kindly about those from my past, and I struggled spiritually with the darkness that loomed. I would hear sermons that related to what I needed God to do, and yet the waiting would remain. I never had peace, there wasn't a day that went by when I wasn't reminded of the unsettled truth. It was a long long journey.

Fast forward to a ordinary morning 10 years from when the journey began. I received a call from the person who had been abused and she asked to meet with me. I hadn't heard from this beloved person in 10 years. I was shocked by that phone call and afraid for the meeting, Thank you Jesus that so many years down the road, I had found enough healing to say yes. The next morning she came to my home, sat on my couch and told me she was going through an amazing recovery program through her church, and that part of her recovery was to revisit people from her past that had been part of the abuse she had faced. My heart wept as she read to me the descriptions of the abuse she had faced and as the TRUTH spilled out all over my living room, I had no idea how much this would be the end to my waiting. The process of my healing was ending as hers began. 10 years later, 10 long years of thinking this dark time in all of our lives would never be restored this side of heaven. She was able to meet with the key players from that time in her life and because of that I was able to meet with people too. Forgiveness and truth and healing and restoration was happening and not of our own doing, but because of God's timing and faithfulness to all of us. Having this wound re-opened wasn't easy as it brought a lot of pain and anger up in my heart. In time though I was able to see how it was in God's timing and that it would set me free. Soon after, the dreams stopped, the daily thoughts of the situation stopped, the need for an explanation or justice stopped. God had taken us all on HIS journey to teach us in the waiting. It took 10 years, and some of the brokenness will not be restored until heaven, but the truth set a lot of us free. Now when my thoughts turn to this situation or I see a familiar car in a parking lot, I have not a moment of fear. God took care of all of us. Praise you Jesus.

Waiting is painful, scary, difficult, faith altering, paralyzing, debilitating......but we have a God that has so much more for us than we can ever imagine. In the waiting we learn to trust Him, we learn that He truly wants the best for us. We learn that what we think is the best for us is not always the real best that God has for us. In the waiting we have no choice but to pray, to cry out to Him every moment of the day when we want to give up. I would have loved for God to have brought this all to an end many years before He did, but it was not time. It wasn't time for the person who was abused, the abuser, the people who were wasn't all about me.

If you are waiting, God is working. If you are waiting, God is faithful. If you are waiting, wait with hope that God's plan is in action, He is in the pain. He is in the bad dreams. He knows.

It brings me so much joy come Christmas morning when my kiddos are thrilled with excitement opening the gift they have been waiting for. I'm sure it feels like a long wait when they started telling me their requests in the month of April. They are confident that I have heard their requests and my promise of "for Christmas" is something they can count on. They have no choice but to wait, even though they sometimes ask me to get them the toy or electronic gadget numerous times before Christmas. They've seen it on TV, been tempted or succeeded to throw a tantrum in the aisle of Target. They have learned that some of the fun is in the waiting, although it is rough. They enjoy the gift more because they have waited for it and pondered it so long.

What is it that you need from Jesus? Are you in the waiting?

The answer, the healing, the job, the baby, the spouse, the financial provision, the home, the friendship.....I promise you it will come. And God, your Father, promises you, it will come......"for Christmas!"

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.
Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God.
I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope.
But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation My God will hear me.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

When fear paralyzes you

My 6 year old son, A, has been struggling with the transition from Kindergarten to First grade. He feels that the day is too long and he doesn’t like his family being separated for that many hours. At 40 days into the school year, he had cried everyday before school all of those days except for two. Every morning for the last few weeks, he wakes my up to tell me that he is feeling sick, that I should take his temperature and that it would be a good idea for me to keep him home. The fear and anxiety he is experiencing overwhelms him and he is allowing his thoughts to spiral to the worst conclusion in this situation. When he looks at all of it as a whole he is overwhelmed, instead of trusting God in the steps to get through, he gets paralyzed.
Have you ever been so anxious or worried about a situation in your life that your thoughts spiral out of control? The fear of the unknown is a real struggle in our lives, for some of us, it appears in our daily lives. It can happen when new job opportunities come our way, when we move states, when a confrontation needs to take place or when a line in the sand needs to be drawn in friendship or marriage. We have a tendency to associate past feelings and experiences to future situations and we can instantly draw inaccurate conclusions before the event even takes place. Letting our past feelings control our current thoughts can stop us from taking steps of faith. Feelings and emotions are not terrible, in fact they are from God; but when we let our feelings govern our mind and overwhelm our thoughts, this is where trouble arises.
When it comes to A, we have had many talks with him, spent time in prayer with him, had playdates to have him build relationships in class, spoken to a counselor, etc. What we have had to do is just take small steps forward, everyday, to get him through the school day. We allow him to feel his emotion and express himself, but we also spend time assuring him about the positive that can come from him trusting God and staying with it. We are trusting that over time, as he remains on course, he will adjust to his new normal.
Fear can make you want to change courses; it can cause your fight or flight response to take over. Do you stay stagnant in the fear of the unknown in your life, afraid to move in any one direction? Experiencing fear every now and then is a normal part of life, but living with chronic fear can be both physically and emotionally draining. My son started to make himself ill by the fear, allowing it to rob the joy out of all other activities.
Some of us may not want what is in our lives right now, but we can trust in a sovereign God who wants to use all things for His Glory. No one signs up for suffering or pain, but in order to learn and grow we must stay on course. As hard as it is, I tend to learn the most when I'm hurting the deepest. So many of us, including myself, want the quick fix, but unfortunately in most cases, it cannot be fixed without help. What I have learned from my experiences is that we don't have to go through any of our struggles alone. God is true to His promises and will walk beside us on our journeys of mountain tops and deserts. In the desert places of our lives we start to think that God is not paying attention, but I have experienced first hand that God works in the silence; He is busy crafting the puzzle pieces of my life into His masterpiece. If I abort a dry season of my life too soon, rush to be out of my current situation and run from my fears, I will miss the blessing and the teaching that is awaiting me. In the unsettled places of our lives, God can lead and position us for the challenges to come.
As time moves forward and we keep taking steps in faith, God will show up. He will provide people in your life that will stand in the gap with you as you walk this journey of yours. You may be the parent that is walking through a tough time with your child or a wife walking through a transition with your husband, whatever it is, find the people who will walk alongside you with accountability and encouragement to get you through. Being there everyday to walk this journey with my son has helped him to get to where he is today. As of this week, my son went five days straight to school without crying. Praise God for answered prayers!!! He got anxious on day 3 this week, but he reminded himself that he could do it. He prayed and used his faith in God to get through the hours of school because his previous steps of faith had proven it true already.
God is our deliverer; He delivers us in the hard moments when it feels like we cannot move or breathe from the fear of the unknown. Victories in our lives don’t come when we turn and run. What we learn through our trials will equip us for our future experiences. Stay on course, stay in the fight, God will give enough strength for the trials of each day.
Psalm 91:5-8. The Message translation is: “Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows in the day, not disease that prowls through the darkness, not disaster that erupts at high noon, even though others succumb all around, drop like flies right and left, no harm will even graze you. You’ll stand untouched, watch it all from a distance, watch the wicked turn into corpses.”