It was one of those “perfect” weather days – mid-70’s, low humidity, the sun was shining, and a light breeze was blowing through the air. I was walking the trails at a nearby park (one of my favorite things to do), listening to Pandora radio on my iPhone, and admiring the beautiful scenery. Life was good.
The song, “Take My Hand,” by Shawn McDonald started playing through my earbuds, and I was singing along inside my head as I continued walking the trails – “Take my hand to the promised land / And on you I want to stand / Cause I cannot do it on my own / You’re what I need and I need to be / Right by your side cause I cannot hide / Lord, I know I need you…”
Then, right before I was about to take my first step across a bridge, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I looked down and saw this…
My foot was within inches of stepping on the tail of a snake! Some people might scream. Some people might run away. I froze. Fear stopped me in my tracks.
But I didn’t stay frozen for long, because a few seconds later I remembered, “I’ve come across snakes two other times walking this trail. In the past, I stepped back, let the snake slither away, and then I continued walking. Everything turned out okay. I should do that again.”
So, I stepped back, took out my camera, snapped a picture, and watched this long snake slither across the bridge and into the grass.
I continued walking on the path, but this time I was looking down more frequently, in case that snake had any friends in the area. As I was walking, I realized a few things:
A snake stopped me in my tracks. Maybe something else has stopped you in your tracks - financial difficulty, an unexpected medical diagnosis, dealing with trauma/painful experiences from your past, stress at work or at home, worrying about a loved one or the future, etc...
When fear stops you in your tracks, extend your hands – to God and to others.
When fear stops you in your tracks, use it as a moment to reflect on God’s faithfulness.
When fear stops you in your tracks, remember that God already knows what’s ahead and He promises to stay by your side.
Fear temporarily stopped me in the park that day, but I’m thankful I kept going. Otherwise I would’ve missed the beautiful scenery that was waiting for me up ahead.
At the beginning of 2016, I started this blog because I felt led to share more of my story with others. As an introvert, sharing personal information about myself does not come naturally to me, but God continued to prompt me to write and share. So I did.
Forty-three blogs later, I've come to the end of 2016, and I realized something pretty amazing. My hope and prayer has always been that God would use these blogs to encourage others, and while that may have happened, He has actually used these blogs to encourage me.
Re-reading my blogs has reminded me that I can trust God in the present and with my future, because He has always been faithful and loving in the past.
I have been reminded that joy and pain can co-exist and that we weren’t meant to experience either alone.
Looking back, here are my top 10 (most read) blogs of 2016. I hope they encourage you, and I look forward to writing more in 2017.
I recently finished reading Jenny Simmons' latest book, Made Well: Finding Wholeness in the Everyday Sacred Moments.
Made Well is full of stories – stories that will make you laugh and stories that will probably cause you to shed a few tears. All of the stories remind me that healing is possible but often comes in unexpected ways.
What I admire most about Jenny Simmons is her willingness to be vulnerable. She shares stories from the lives of friends and family members, but also honestly shares struggles she has faced in her own life. Through those experiences, Jenny has learned:
“Healing happens all the time, even if a cure doesn’t. I am invited to be made well even when the broken things don’t get put perfectly back together. Healing happens.”
This quote resonates so much with me. The truth is, God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we would like. For 9 years, I watched my mom battle breast cancer, and I prayed that God would heal her. I wanted that healing to take place here on Earth, but instead my mom was healed when she met Jesus.
What does healing look like for those left behind after a devastating loss? God often reveals His love to us through others. Many times it’s through simple acts: someone brings us food or runs errands for us, we receive a card or text/e-mail, someone asks us to share memories of our loved one, or they are willing to simply sit with us in our pain. Being “made well” doesn’t mean our grief disappears. Instead, it’s love displayed in ordinary moments. Moments that give us hope in the midst of our grief.
One of my favorite chapters of Made Well was Chapter 6 – “Psychiatrist, Therapist, Pills – Oh My!” First of all, the title made me laugh. Then, I thought, “Is she really going to write about this?” The answer is yes! I’m especially thankful for this chapter because of the words of truth that are shared:
“Naming our broken bits is the first step to finding healing for them. Inviting someone else into your journey might be your bravest decision.”
Jenny invites us into her journey of seeking help for anxiety, OCD, and ADHD. She reminds us that God does amazing work through counselors, doctors, and sometimes He even uses medication to bring healing.
It was so refreshing to read this, as many people think it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help. I used to be one of those people. Now, I see asking for help as a sign of strength.
Like Jenny, God brought healing to my life through a Christian counselor. Sitting in her office that first session and naming my “broken bits” was scary, but it was a huge step on my healing journey.
Part of my brokenness has been the result of experiencing childhood sexual abuse. It was something that I kept a secret for most of my life. Breaking the silence allowed the healing process to begin. While I won’t be completely restored until I meet Jesus, I am currently in the process of being “made well.”
Healing has come through the love and support of family and friends, learning healthy ways to deal with my emotions (writing, exercising, music), connecting with other survivors of abuse, and reading books, articles, and blogs by people who honestly share their experiences. Realizing I'm not alone has brought comfort and hope.
Healing has come through words of truth spoken by pastors and friends at my church. While I still struggle at times with feelings of shame, guilt, and unworthiness, they have reminded me of who I am in God’s eyes.
Do you desire healing? If so, allow others to walk with you on the journey.
God still performs miracles, but many times healing happens in the small everyday moments of life. It may even happen while reading the words and stories of Made Well.
“Healing in this life is but a foretaste of what is to come.”
Every week, I read lots of blogs. I’m drawn to writers who are vulnerable and honest in their blogs, because I think the world needs more honesty. If someone were to ask me today, “How are you?” my automatic response would be, “I’m good.” But my honest response would be….
I’ve been feeling restless. I’ve been wondering if what I’m doing now is what God wants me to continue doing, or if He has something else planned. The overwhelming sense of peace that I used to feel is now replaced by moments of peace and waves of restlessness.
For someone who likes to have everything planned out, feeling restless is scary and uncomfortable.
I was talking with a friend today and told her how I’ve been feeling. I was surprised when she admitted that she has also been feeling restless. I would’ve never known this unless I had been honest with her in the first place. At that moment, I sensed God saying, “See….I brought you a friend who understands what you’re going through. I place specific people in your life at a specific time for a reason. You two can support one another.”
I’m thankful for the honest conversation I had with my friend today. Maybe I’m feeling restless because God has something different planned for me. Maybe I’m feeling restless because He’s using this season of my life to strengthen certain aspects of my character. Maybe it's a good thing to feel restless.
If feeling restless causes us to pursue God more and ultimately fulfill His purpose for our lives, then maybe we shouldn't want to settle with being comfortable.
In her study, Restless, Jennie Allen says:
“The restlessness we feel is not a bad thing. I believe it is the longing and passion in us for God – for more. It could push us to move forward, to live epic lives that were designed before the foundations of the earth were laid.”
If you’re feeling restless, maybe it’s because God doesn’t want you to settle for less than what He’s created you for.
Pray for wisdom and discernment, and surround yourself with people who will encourage you along the way. I’d be happy to be one of those people if you need someone.
Bravery doesn’t always involve risking your life for someone else. Sometimes it is taking a risk for yourself – a risk that could result in experiencing a better life. It’s stepping outside your comfort zone. I recently met some incredibly brave women. We only spent a weekend together, but we will forever be connected.
Who are these brave women? They are the participants of our first Motherless Daughters Journey Retreat. These women, all different ages and from different backgrounds, chose to spend the weekend with a group of women they never met. Some of them even traveled great distances. They all chose to share their stories and were vulnerable about the heartache that comes with mother loss. Instead of hiding their grief, they honestly expressed it. They trusted their pain with someone else. That is bravery.
These women quickly bonded with each other. They not only cried together, but laughed, supported, and encouraged one another. It was incredible to see the healing that took place.
It was such an honor and privilege to be one of the facilitators at the Journey Retreat. It’s humbling to think that God would allow me to be a part of His plan - that He would allow me to walk alongside and support these women. I honestly had doubts and questioned God about facilitating. I questioned my abilities, which ironically was the exact reason I knew I was supposed to facilitate – I couldn’t do it on my own, but I needed to rely on God to equip me and help me.
A lot of planning went into the retreat, but so did a lot of prayer. Our group of volunteers prayed for these women before we met them. As a facilitator, I prayed that they would feel loved, supported, and encouraged, and that God would give them peace, comfort, and hope in the midst of their grief. I also prayed for healing.
I expected God to answer those prayers, and He did. What I didn’t expect was for Him to use these women to do all of those things for me. They provided me with love, support, comfort, and encouragement. I felt such peace in their presence, and they gave me hope.
God used them to remind me that even though I will have to experience several major life events without my mom, He will put other women in my life to help me through those experiences. It may be hard to face them without my mom, but I won’t have to go through them alone. I saw this lived out in the stories of the women at the retreat, and it was such an encouragement to me.
Even though all of our stories are different, mother loss binds us together. There are certain things that only other motherless daughters understand. It’s a group that I never wanted to be a part of, but I’m so thankful for the women I have met along the way. I’m especially thankful for the brave women that I met at the Journey Retreat.
I'm an ordinary introvert who loves an extraordinary God.