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An Open Letter From Someone Who is Grieving

Dear Friend,

First of all, thank you. Thank you for sending that card or showing up at the funeral, either for the service or just the viewing. Thank you for the prayers uttered on my and my family’s behalf. Thank you for offering comforting words. Please don’t worry if they were somewhat awkward. I really didn’t know what to say either, and I could feel the concern and care behind them. They were and are appreciated.

Second, I totally get that this is my loss – not yours. I get that your life – in fact all life – has to go on. The world does not stop spinning just because I have lost someone I love. I don’t expect you to halt your life because of the grief I am walking through.

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But you know when you asked me what you can do? Well, I’ve been thinking about that because I didn’t really know at the time. After walking in my grief for a few weeks, I came up with a few things that do help.

  • Please understand the funeral doesn’t mark the end of the grieving process. Going through the grief process can take anywhere from 2 to 4 years. The hardest part is AFTER the funeral is over.
  • Please don’t assume just because you see me smile and even laugh that I’m “over it.” Grief is a process that takes a lot of twists and turns.
  • Please ask me how I’m doing once in a while. I realize your life has gone on (as it should), but it’s comforting to know that you remember that I’m struggling.
  • Please understand that, while I’d love to “get back to normal,” I’m not sure what that looks like anymore because my normal has irrevocably changed.
  • Please don’t be upset if I have to pull back from some festivities. It isn’t personal – I promise! It’s just that certain days will be harder for me than others, particularly holidays and special dates and events.
  • Please know that I care about what’s going on in your life too. But, while I really want to be there for you in your crisis, I might not have the emotional energy or reserves to do everything you need me to right now. I’m sorry. It doesn’t mean I don’t care.
  • Speaking of energy, please understand when I have to pull back from all the things I normally do. I just don’t have the concentration or energy right now. Being busy can be a distraction, but it only delays working through my grief. Please allow me that space.
  • Please know that your presence is mostly all I need. If you want to bring food or, better yet, dessert, I won’t object, but just having someone who cares enough to be present is enough.
  • Please ask me about my brother. I really don’t mind talking about him. I want to hear your stories and good memories. Talking about him doesn’t remind me of my loss – that is with me every moment of every day.
  • Please don’t be alarmed if, sometimes, I start crying for no apparent reason. Trust me, it takes me by surprise too. Just hand me a tissue and it will pass soon.
  • Please don’t tell me how I should feel or mistake my sadness for a lack of faith. While I really appreciate you sharing a verse with me that is comforting to you, telling me  “God is in control,” or “God knows what is best” really doesn’t help when I’m feeling sad. I know those things, and I believe them – but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. Even Jesus wept when Lazarus died – and He knew He was raising Lazarus from the dead in a few minutes.
  • Please know that I appreciate your friendship and kindness. One of these days, I will get to the place of a new normal, and I will always look back and remember how you came alongside me to shine a light during my darkest moments.

 

Blessings, Rosanne

 

What I Learned in August

Today, I’m linking up at Chatting at the Sky where at the end of every month, we share what we’ve learned that month.

I’m going to be completely real here and say this has been one of the hardest months of my life. I wish I could list some fun things, but this is probably going to be a fairly heavy post. Sorry about that!

But I do hope that in sharing, maybe you’ll feel a little less alone if your July was kind of tough.

learned July 2

1. Knowing you need to let your kids go is easy to say, but not as easy to do. My oldest son turned 17 the last week of July – July 29th to be exact – and he will be a senior this coming year. He also went away to camp for the first time (he had never really wanted to before), and he didn’t just go away. He went 20 HOURS away to Daytona Beach for a Christian conference with his youth group. I’m normally pretty laid back as far as worrying, but I have to be honest, that drive made me VERY nervous. I was never so glad to see someone as when my oldest came through my front door! I’m not sure what I’m going to do when he goes after college. For now, I’m in denial about all that! 😉

2. On the same note, kids bloom on their own time table. My oldest is kind of quiet and reserved. I was always worried that he didn’t have enough of a social life. This summer, all that has changed. I’m not sure if it is because he can drive now or if it is because he has suddenly discovered girls or what, but now, he’s flitting around with friends all the time. I’m glad – it’s great to have a group of friends – but I’m also sad because, well, we’ve entered a new chapter. Oddly, my younger son went through this much earlier. He has been a social butterfly all through junior high and I don’t really see that changing.

3. My parents and my in-laws are getting older. I know – duh right? But seriously, in my mind, my parents are somewhere in their 50s. But recent events have driven home the reality that my parents and my in-laws are now officially elderly. My dad has cancer and went through a rough patch this spring. He is doing MUCH better now, but his pace is a little slower. This month, my mother-in-law had a stroke. She’s is also (thank you, Lord!) doing well and it could have been much worse. But it just really drove home to me that as my husband’s and my parents age, we need to remember to take time NOW because we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

4. A phone call can change your life. On July 30, almost the last day of this month, I got a phone call that completely changed my life. My mother called to say they had news of my brother. See, my brother had gone missing in mid-June sometime. When my husband and I got to my parent’s house, they shared the devastating news that my brother’s body had been found, and he had taken his own life. It’s what I had feared, but you know, you just don’t think that stuff will happen to YOUR family. Tomorrow is my brother’s memorial service.

5. This brings me to the fifth thing I learned this month – don’t put off making that phone call or visiting that person because you don’t know if there actually will be that opportunity later. I know I wish I had called or visited my brother more. I wish I had seen one last time. Now that opportunity is gone. I won’t ever get another chance to pick up the phone or drive across town to see my brother.

6. Even if you don’t know what to say or do, reach out anyway. One thing I have learned in the past few days is that it is beyond comforting to have people reach out to you when you are in pain. I tend to be a private processor. When I fall apart, I like to do it alone; so when other people have gone through a painful time, I’ve sent cards and emails, but generally give them space, thinking they need that privacy. My brother’s death has shown me that I may not have gotten that right. The phone calls I got from tentative friends who weren’t sure what to say in the face of the unimaginable were a great source of comfort to me. I will remember in the future when my friends go through their own grief.

7. Grief is a strange and weird thing. It has been five days since I got that phone call that rocked my world, and sometimes I think I am doing okay. Other times, I can barely stand under the heavy waves of grief that wash over me. I find myself crying over the weirdest things in the strangest places – like in the grocery store while buying a gift card. I suppose the rest of journey of grief will be equally odd.

I know my list of what I learned isn’t exactly upbeat, but this hasn’t been the easiest month. I guess I should add a #8 to my list. Through the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, God has shown Himself in big and small ways to be faithful. He has protected us. He has sent unexpected people to comfort us in our sadness. He has given us multitudes of small graces that make bearable what should be unbearable.

What did you learn in July? I’d love to hear about it!

Blessings, Rosanne

Gay People Aren’t the Enemy

Unless you are living under a rock, you have probably heard about the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage and on Obamacare.

If my Facebook feeds are anything to go by, I should expect doomsday probably tomorrow – maybe Wednesday if I’m lucky.

Fingers point at the Supreme Court Justices’ 5-4 decision to make gay marriage legal in all 50 states as a marker of the decline of America and the values the country was founded upon. While I certainly don’t agree with the ruling  – and I could go into a long discourse about the fact that the Supreme Court majorly overstepped their bounds – blaming everyone else isn’t really the answer.

Instead of looking at everyone else, I’d like to gently suggest that maybe Christians should start looking a little closer to home for the problem. The Supreme Court decision is a symptom of a much greater problem and that problem resides within the walls of our churches.

Plant during the warm winter.
Plant during the warm winter.

Like a driver who gets sleepy on the road, we’ve fallen asleep at the proverbial wheel, gone left of center and only the blare of an oncoming truck has jerked us, startled and alarmed, from that sleep.

We can point our fingers at the sin outside the church – and yes, the Bible clearly states that acting on homosexuality is wrong – but there are a lot of things we, as believers, participate in every day that are wrong, too.

Instead of focusing on winning the lost and meeting the needs of the least of these, most American churches are very comfortable meeting their own needs. Needs like the color of the carpet or the song number that the choir sings or latest technology or the perfect activity.

While none of those things are wrong in and of themselves, we’ve lost sight of the big picture. The majority of new church members are people moving from other churches – often because something at that other place rubbed them the wrong way. Young adults are leaving churches by the droves – mainly because they don’t really see the point.

And they might just be right.

Our churches have become consumer-driven, just like the rest of society. We are all about our members, our activities, our wants and our preferences. We’ve nodded off when it comes to the main purpose of God’s Church.

Instead of being a place where people meet together to encourage each other, to learn from each other, to love each other well so we can then go back into our culture and share Christ’s love and the good news of the Gospel, church is often no better than a spiritualized country club whose main purpose seems no bigger than the next activity rather than being a light in a dark world.

I’m not pointing fingers. I struggle every day with what it means to live in the world but not of it. There have not just been days, but weeks, months and even years where my agenda and my to do list have taken center stage. When, as Dante puts it, I’ve been “lost in the wilderness of daily cares.”

When life is comfortable and persecution mainly consists of nasty comments on your blog, it’s easy to lose sight of the great spiritual battle that is being waged every day for billions of souls.

So, I want to ask you what I’m asking myself:

When was the last time you shared the Gospel with someone?

When was the last time you made a sacrifice for the Gospel – maybe skipped the expensive vacation, latest iPhone or the cable upgrade so that someone could go to a place where they had never heard of Jesus?

When was the last time you spent time on your knees in prayer for the needs around you?

When was the last time you dug into your Bible because you wanted to hear from Jesus?

Do you really know Jesus or just about Him?

When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone or inconvenienced yourself to meet someone’s legitimate needs in the name of Jesus?

We talk so much about losing our religious freedoms, but how often do we even use them? Trust me when I say I am yanking the log out of my own eye as I write this, before I mess with the speck in yours.

During the time of the Roman Emperor Julian, the love Christians showed the pagan world around them that wanted to kill them was astonishing. The emperor was frustrated because that love was drawing so many to Christ that it was foiling his own attempts to revive the ancient pagan religion. He wrote these words about the “atheists” (in reference to Christians who did not believe in the Roman gods):

“Atheism (i.e. Christian faith) has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well, while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.”

Can anyone say that about us? Or are we more like the pagans?

A “good” Christian life doesn’t consist of attending church and occasionally reading our Bibles. It’s not avoiding a list of specific sins while going about our own business, always putting ourselves and our families first.

We’ve fallen asleep at the wheel and we’ve drifted dangerously left of center. I hope the Supreme Court decision is the blaring horn that finally wakes us all up because the decline of America can’t be laid at the feet of the liberals or the media or the gay community.

It sits squarely on the doorsteps of our churches where the people coming and going are indistinguishable from the culture around them.

What will you do differently?

Blessings, Rosanne

 

The Duggars – Busting the Myths of Forgiveness

I was not going to blog about the Duggars – mostly because, besides seeing a few minutes here and there when flipping the channels, I have never watched their show. While I’m sure they are nice enough people, I disagree with a lot of their beliefs and philosophies (and no, I don’t have anything against large families – I promise!).

While I can say unequivocally that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar did not handle the issues with their son the right way, as a parent, I can empathize. I would be heartbroken and scared and sickened if my son had to be put into JDC over these behaviors. I’m sure there would be a big temptation to hide it, especially if my church gave me tacit approval to do so.

I can also say that my heart breaks for the victims in all this. With all the attention of the media, they are being victimized all over again. I wouldn’t wish anyone, never mind the innocent victims, to have to walk through something like this in the glare of the media because let’s face it – the media doesn’t really care about any of the victims. They care about a juicy story.

Ultimately, I don’t know all the details of what happened. I did read the police report, but nobody really knows all the ins and outs of this except the Duggars themselves. I don’t know if Josh Duggar truly repented and changed his ways. I pray that he did. I don’t even know as much about the Duggars as a lot of people because I never watched the show.

The only reason I AM blogging about the Duggars is because I think this story brings to light some major misunderstandings of what forgiveness is and is not.

Let’s start with what forgiveness most definitely is NOT.

Adventure decoration with compass and shells on antique parchment.

Forgiveness is NOT saying what someone did is okay. In no way does forgiveness gloss over real wrongs and hurts. In fact, the first step to truly forgiving someone is to acknowledge the hurt and pain their actions caused.

Forgiveness is NOT denying all negative feelings. In the Bible it says to “be angry and sin not.” Read the Psalms  – David had a lot of negative feelings. Jesus overthrew the money changers’ tables. There is a lot of emotion in the Bible, and it is not all of the sunshine and smiles variety either.

Forgiveness is NOT giving someone a free pass, especially if what they did was illegal, hurtful or destructive. I can forgive you, but that does not mean that you will not be held accountable for your actions. Canceling out all consequences, all the time, is not healthy, and, ultimately, it is not loving.

Forgiveness does NOT mean the relationship will be the same. Forgiveness is something we can do without any participation of the other person; however, reconciliation is not. That takes both parties. The Bibles says to “Be at peace with all men, as much as you are able.” (emphasis mine). There is a vast difference between being sorry and being repentant. Repentance involves confession (agreeing with God that what I did was a sin) and then turning away from those actions and going in the opposite direction. Without true repentance, restoration of a relationship can’t happen. Being sorry usually involves a lot of words, but repentance involves action. 

SO WHAT IS FORGIVENESS?

Forgiveness IS a choice. It is not a feeling. We can actively make the choice to forgive even if we aren’t feeling it. If we wait until we feel like forgiving someone, it probably isn’t going to happen. Sometimes, it is a choice we have to make more than once – even daily in some cases.

Forgiveness IS a command. God does not say you should probably forgive people. He commands us to – BECAUSE He loves us. God knows that unforgiveness is not healthy for us. I love this quote: “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” (author unknown). Hanging onto unforgiveness is a one way road to bitterness,and bitterness eats you from the inside out.

Forgiveness IS a process. That being said, God doesn’t just leave us to do this forgiving thing on our own. He doesn’t expect forgiveness to be like flipping a switch. It can require going through many layers of emotions to get to a real and lasting forgiveness. He loves us enough to walk through that process with us.

Forgiveness IS ultimately, a leap of faith. We have to trust that God is the perfect judge, and we have to leave our rights in His hands. We have to leap into the undefined space of forgiveness, trusting that we will land – not in a squashed heap of pain – but whole and able to walk.

Have you ever had to forgive something that seemed unforgivable? I’d love to hear how God walked you through it!

Blessings, Rosanne

 

What I Learned in May

It’s June all ready. School is over and the first week of summer vacation has commenced. It also means that it is time to link up with Emily Freeman over at Chatting with the Sky to share what we’ve all learned this month.  You can check out the conversation here.

This month was actually a pretty big month for me, as far as learning stuff. In fact, I could say it was pretty profound. Over the course of my life, there have been moments that God has used to redefine life as I know it. This month, saw several of those moments. So, here it goes – what I learned in May.

butterfly on many flowers
butterfly on many flowers

1. You can build it, but they ain’t coming. At the beginning of May, I started listening to Jen Hatmaker’s book Interrupted. While I don’t agree with all of Hatmaker’s theology, I couldn’t get away from the fact that she said so many things that resounded with me. The idea – when you come down to it – that we can build a church building and then spend all our time, energy and resources bustling around in it and the lost will just magically find us, does seem rather unrealistic. But that’s what we do. We no longer live in a culture where going to church equals being a good person (in fact, the opposite is true and if you claim to be a church goer, you are often met with suspicion or even hostility). In order to win the community, we have to be out IN the community. We need to actually DO what Christ asked us to do – which is to help the poor, the hurting and the oppressed. Having another church activity with our church friends, while not bad in and of itself, doesn’t accomplish that. Which led me to my next epiphany.

2. When I cry, it gives me a headache. While still listening to Hatmaker’s book, I also read David Platt’s Come Follow Me. To say this book had an impact on me is a major understatement.  Halfway through, I ended up spending an entire day with my Bible, in prayer with frequent bouts of crying. I’m not much of a crier and I learned that crying gives me a major headache, but Tylenol aside, I spent part of that time deeply examining what it means to be saved. That day, God opened my eyes to the years – literally YEARS – I had wasted by not getting this crucial truth.

3. We are ALL supposed to be living as missionaries. If Hatmaker’s book showed the importance of getting out into the community to know and serve people, Platt’s book brought it home about WHY we need to do this. It’s as simple as one of Jesus’ last statements to His disciples and to us. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19). Missionary work is not just for those people who visit once a year and live in far off places. If we are believers, it is for each of us. We are ALL supposed to be multiplying.

4. Knowing Truth brings peace. For years, I’ve felt restless. I’ve felt like there HAS to be more than just going to church on Sunday mornings. In my late 20s, I learned to study the Bible for myself. I learned to know God – not just know about Him (major difference). It changed my life. Since then, it’s not as if I have done nothing for God. I’ve been involved in women’s ministry. I teach a women’s Sunday school class. I volunteer and teach at a home that houses young women who are struggling with getting on their feet – either through a pregnancy or tough circumstances. But the restlessness was still there – like we were all somehow missing the point. Now, though, I don’t feel restless or vaguely guilty – I know what I’m supposed to be doing which brings me to the other thing I learned.

5. Knowing Truth brings purpose. All my life I’ve been a story teller. When I was a kid, they used to send us out on recess no matter how cold it was. I soon devised a way to stay warm – I’d tell stories. As long as I kept everyone entertained, I’d have a small swarm of girls sitting around me, blocking the wind and chill. I always kind of wondered what purpose story telling could have. I mean, if you’re a doctor, you save people. Telling stories, while entertaining, didn’t seem to have a purpose really. God pointed something out to me just the other night. I was at Guiding Light (where I volunteer) and a woman asked if I could come to an event and “tell one of your stories.” When I teach, I often use the power of story to share a vital truth. It allows people to connect to that truth in a different way than just facts or information do. I also love animals, and Kipper, my collie, has been an ambassador of sorts in my neighborhood. I’ve met people I never would have if I had been walking on my own. Everything I do is now filtered through the lens of making disciples. It gives me passion and purpose and a strange sense of peace.

I know I am supposed to just share what I learned this month, but can I just end with what I HOPE to learn next month? I want to learn what it means to be a missionary right where I am using the gifts, talents, and passions with which God has created me.

My blog’s name is Divine Ordinary because I truly believe God often uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary. This month, I learned how much deeper that truth really goes. We do not have to go to Africa or some other far off place to be a missionary. We can do that right where we are at.

Blessings, Rosanne

God is Able Even When We Are Not

The pictures were horrific –  debris littering the streets; flames licking the black sky; screams and chaos renting the air; police officers in riot gear facing an angry crowd.

For the second time, in less than a year, violence and anger boiled over and bled into the streets. Racial tensions snapped into retaliation by a life carelessly, callously thrown away.

This year has felt like a parade of violence. Every time I turn on the television or peruse my news feeds, someone is being shot or choked or beheaded or burned or some other unspeakable, awful, incomprehensible thing.

While Baltimore was rocked by racial riots, Nepal was shaken and reduced to rubble by Mother Nature. Thousands were displaced, missing, dead.

It seems like too much. Too much death and suffering. Too much to take in or absorb or process.

Sad little girl

I look at it all and feel helpless and hopeless. The gulf seems so wide. The problems seem too big, too difficult, insurmountable. The blows seem to come in waves that continuously lap at the shore of my soul and relentlessly wear it away.

And there doesn’t seem like there is anything I can do. What is one person, one voice in the face of that endless tide of pain and heartache and sadness?

Yet, small slivers of hope shine through. A young boy hands water to a police officer. Grace in the face of pain and hurt.

A wall of men stand up. Thousands of men and women quietly, peacefully protest – stand tall, their silence shouting the need for justice, for accountability, for acknowledgment.

A father, bent by grief and pain, asks for peace, asks for what he wasn’t given.

Across the world, a baby, tiny face caked with dirt, is found alive. A shining miracle among the mayhem.

A young man, hope mingled with despair, willing others to hear him. Afraid he was lying in his own grave, is found. Another miracle of life in a landscape of death.

But, the hope, the joy moments seem small – their light weak in the face of the vast darkness of these past weeks.

And yet, if we are believers, we have peace. We have hope. We have joy.

 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

At least, we can if we dare to have faith. It starts with a question – do you believe?

Do you believe that God is bigger than any crisis?

Do you believe that God is good despite circumstances?

Do you believe God is working amidst the hurt and pain and anger?

Do you believe that your God is the same God who parted the Red Sea, brought down the walls of Jericho, stopped the sun in its orbit, saved and redeemed all of mankind?

This is the type of God we serve:

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. Ephesians 3:20

Now – not yesterday or sometime in the future, but right now.

He who is able – God is able. He is bigger than any problem. He put the planets into orbit, placed the mountains and formed the oceans. Our problems are infinitesimal in the face of His power.

To do far more abundantly beyond – Paul was so overwhelmed by God’s ability that he can’t quite find the words to express it. He is saying God is so able, he can’t even really express God’s able-ness. He has to keep tacking on adjective after adjective.

All that we ask or think – Our requests are puny compared to what God can and will do in and through us. It’s beyond our capacity to even think up what to ask because our perspective is so small and so narrow compared to God’s.He sees the events of the past week and they don’t surprise Him.

According to the power that works within us – If we belong to God, His Spirit resides in us. John writes in I John 4:4 that greater is He that in us than he that is in the world. In another verse, it says we are MORE than conquerors through Christ. The same power that works in and through us, is the power that raised Christ from the dead.

Despite the grim news and discouraging reports, we can have hope and peace and joy. It all comes down to whether we are willing to believe more in God’s goodness than in the world’s evil.

Blessings, Rosanne

What I Learned In March

Every month, over at Chatting At the Sky, we link up and share what we learned that month. I hope you’ll hop on over there and check out what everyone is learning, or share what you learned this month!

The month of March seemed to disappear in a blink. I still can’t believe it is really April all ready. Looking back at the month, which seems like a blur, I had to really sit and think about what I learned this month. When I took a moment to consider, I realized God had been teaching me more than I realized. So, here is what I learned this month – in no particular order.

March lesson collage

1. Sometimes, moving forward – even if it is imperfectly – is better than not moving at all. I have been very frustrated with my inability to move forward in sending out queries. It seems every time I get some momentum, something happens (usually at my newspaper job) that trips me up. I wanted to be sure I sent out quality queries, but I learned this month that sending some out – even if they aren’t as perfect as I wanted – is very important in keeping my momentum going. It is certainly better than coming to the end of another week without any sent out!

2. I have both more time and less time than I realize. I have never been very good with time awareness. I can think I’ve been doing something forever and look up and five minutes have passed, and just as frequently, I can think only 10 minutes have passed when it’s actually an hour – or more! So, when it comes to managing my time well, I seem to swing from either thinking I HAVE NO TIME AT ALL (which isn’t true), or I load my schedule so full, all I do is frustrate myself. This month, I feel like God has been showing me the REALITY of my time – which leads me to the next thing I’ve learned.

3. Even though I am NOT a schedule type person, I probably need one. I kind of balk at a schedule where I have the hours in my day accounted for in some way. It feels a bit restrictive and kind of claustrophobic to me. I want my options open and putting something in the little hourly squares in my calendar feels like I am giving up any possibility of spontaneity. But, this month, I have found the days where I sketch out the hours of my day with what is on my to do list are the days I feel most productive and less frustrated. Since I am a visual person, I think it has a lot to do with seeing the reality of my time – those 24 hours we are all given – with the weight of my to do list. It also gives me a clear picture of whether I really do have time to take on anything else. Using a schedule has taught me something else,

4. Having a schedule gives me enough information so I can be more spontaneous. What? How is that even possible? Well, when I see everything laid out in black and white, I can also see the things that can be put off or delayed. I can decide that lunch with my friend who is down CAN fit into my day rather than being afraid to do anything not on the to do list for fear it will put me irrevocably behind.

5. I’m just responsible for being obedient. The outcome is God’s responsibility. I taught a workshop at a fairly large teen conference the other weekend. I was super nervous – not because I’m afraid to speak in front of people – but because I felt this huge sense of responsibility and I wanted to do a good job. I prayed and sweated over my message on forgiveness. While my prayer was that God would simply speak through me – that they would see Him and not me – part of me wanted to do a good job because, well, to be perfectly frank, I wanted the teens to think I was a good speaker. I wanted to be successful. I had a few pangs of insecurity about this when the workshop down the hall had to bring in extra chairs, but mine was just barely full. That is, until God reminded me that, ahem, this wasn’t really about me at all, and all I needed to really be concerned about was doing what HE told me to do. God would take care of the rest. Ouch! Nothing like letting your ego cloud your vision!

6. Prayer is important. I know, this shouldn’t be a news flash, and it certainly is something God has been showing me in various ways for the last six months or so. But each time I glimpse the huge battle going on around me in the spiritual realm, it sort of awes me. At that teen conference, I was reminded once again, that I need to put in the time, energy and effort into my prayer life, that I am in a battle. Victory depends on me hitting my knees (or writing in my journal in my case since I have a bum knee – but you know what I mean!)

7.God can use my creativity to encourage others. I admit it – I’m a little artsy fartsy sometimes. I enjoy creating things and being creative. I knit. I make word art. I try new crafts and DIY projects with enthusiasm. I like to learn new things. In fact, I wish I had more time to pursue this kind of thing, but I often shove it to the side because it feels a little selfish to indulge myself too much with my hobbies. Like in the grander scheme of a calling, crafting is a bit pointless. God has been showing me though, that He can use anything – no matter how seemingly insignificant – if we let Him. Words fitly spoken are like apples of gold in settings of silver, and word art shared at the right time to the right person, can encourage that person’s heart. I was ridiculously excited to learn my hobbies can have a purpose! Which brings me to the other thing I’ve been learning this month (although I seem to be a bit hard headed when it comes to this!)

8. You don’t have to be productive every moment of every day, nor is “productivity” always the obvious thing. It’s so easy for me to get sucked into my to do list, and in the process forget about the people and relationships in my life in my effort to get more done. The thing is though, while there is nothing wrong with using your time wisely, you don’t have to use every moment in every day doing something.  Being productive, being busy, having a long to do list – all these things don’t  necessarily mean you are living out your purpose and calling because at the end of the day, every calling is about people. And guess what? Relationships and people take time. They are messy. While spending an hour listening to a friend’s heart doesn’t feel productive, it can be the most important thing you do all day.

9. I don’t really want to make real sacrifices to step into my Promised Land. I don’t like hard things. I don’t like being uncomfortable, so I have been resisting doing the hard stuff to realize my Promised Land. Like the Israelites, I want to just settle in without fighting any battles. I want to set up house without driving out the enemies and claiming the land. I want things to be easier – not have to do the hard work of claiming the Promised Land. In order to move forward, I’m going to have to probably have to pick up my sword and fight, but I don’t want to because it will be hard and possibly unpleasant. This is not an aspect of my character I like to look at too closely, but the hard truth is, I am by nature a bit on the lazy side. Ironically, I can run myself ragged being pointlessly busy, but when it comes to the real deal, I balk. I’m not sure why, but I do know that in order to fully step into the life God has called me to, I’m going to have to be uncomfortable and do the hard stuff. I guess I need to take a deep breath and pick up my sword.

So what did you learn this month? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Blessings, Rosanne

What I Learned in February

At the end of every month, we all get together over at Chatting at the Sky, and we share what we’ve learned that month. I hope you’ll pop over and read what everyone is learning this month. Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to share too!

February lesson collage

1. I don’t like winter as much as I thought I did. People always look at me really strangely when I say I LIKE winter. There is something about that hush that falls right after a snow storm that is soothing and peaceful to me. However, I’ve discovered that lots of school delays and cancellations are NOT good for my productivity. Maybe it is a throwback to my own school days, but snow days always equal holiday in my mind, and no matter how many times I tell myself I will get up early even if there is a delay, it has yet to happen. Also, it’s been really, really, really COLD. I like winter, but once it dips into single digits, I find my love is fickle, and I start to long for the warmth of spring.

2. I do, however, still like birthday parties. February is my birthday month, and even though I just turned 42, I really like birthdays. I admit it. I get ridiculously giddy about opening presents and having a party and eating cake. Even if it means I’m getting older – maybe especially then.

3.  Sometimes, it is harder to watch someone you love go through something hard than to go through it yourself. When people I love are hurting, I want to fix it. Often – probably the majority of the time – I can’t. I just have to stand on the sidelines, at the most cheering them on, while God works in their lives. I have a very dear friend who is going through the adoption process. I wish I could hand her a baby today or make the waiting easier – I can’t. My son has had a rough couple weeks on the basketball floor with several very tough losses. I wish I could take away the sting of defeat or will the team a win, but I can’t. What that comes down to is trusting God is harder when the person He is working on is not you.I have found, for me, it takes so much more faith to trust God’s goodness when it pertains to a loved one’s pain than my own.

4. I really don’t want to be Beth Moore when I grow up. For years, I had this secret fantasy of being a speaker like Beth Moore. I would daydream of speaking in front of a huge audience and impacting hundreds of thousands of lives. When I was 5, I stood up in front of a big audience at Word of Life to give my testimony. They had to pry the microphone out of my little fist. I have never had any issues standing up in front of people. Well, I volunteered to do a workshop at Converge – a teen conference at the end of March. I will admit to you – I am SCARED. TO. DEATH. Now that the date is looming, it is all so very real, and it hits home in a very deep way that what I teach that day matters. A lot. It makes me incredibly nervous to have that responsibility. So, I have decided – I really DON’T want to be Beth Moore because I’d probably have a nervous breakdown or something!

5. God can trump what the experts say. Because of a very busy November and December and then being sick for 6 weeks, my freelancing plans have not gone according to, well, plan. I didn’t get out my queries, and I just felt like a big fat failure. I mean, what kind of loser am I that I can’t even finish up a few queries and get them out? So, I was praying about how stuck I felt – as in every time I got any momentum going, life stuck it’s foot out and tripped me up. The very next day I opened my email only to find an editor I had never met, asking me to write an article for a publication I had never heard of, for 8 times as much as I normally make. Yeah, that pretty much never happens. Like never, ever. I can’t begin to explain what a huge encouragement that was, and I couldn’t help smiling that basically what every expert says never happens (an assignment falling into my lap without any marketing whatsoever), God made happen.

6. If I want to get up earlier, I’m going to have to go to bed earlier.  I know – duh right? The thing is, I’m a night owl. I LIKE staying up late, but I have found if I get a late start to my day, then I just don’t get much done. And honestly, no matter how many times I tell myself I can always take a nap later, I still can’t seem to drag myself out of bed until the last minute. So, in the month of March I am committing to turning off my light at 10:30 p.m. and getting up at 6:30 a.m.. Yes, even with the time change (yuck!). Good thing I like coffee!

7. I became a big believer in essential oils. Even though I have believed essential oils work for a while now, that was mostly in theory. During the month of February, essential oils have proven to be worth their weight in gold. Inhaling tea tree oil steam got rid of my sore throat. Rubbing an immune blend on my feet has kept me from getting sick and rubbing on lavender has made me chilled out. I am excited to add this to my medicine cabinet.

So, what has the month of February taught you? I’d love to hear about it!

Blessings, Rosanne

In the Face of ISIS – We Are NOT Helpless!!

(This picture appeared on Melinda Doolittle’s Facebook page)

This picture haunts me. Twenty-one men kneeling in a line. Waiting. My mind can’t help wondering what they are thinking as they kneel on the hard earth, waiting for the slice of a knife to end their lives.

Their faces are stoic. They look serious, but not scared or terrified.

I look at pictures like this. I read stories like the one about the girls in Nigeria – 200+ – that were stolen in the night and still have not been returned to their families, and I am tempted to feel helpless. To feel overwhelmed by the nightly news.

I was getting ready to start a series on taming the tongue – goodness knows that’s a lesson I need to learn! 🙂 But this picture, recent events – I had to share what God placed on my heart. Not because what I say is all that important, but because sometimes I forget the power I have residing IN me and I bet you do too.

See, I’m not helpless, and neither are you and neither were these men, martyred for their faith. in fact, all 21 of these men are now in presence of their Savior right now, not victims but overcomers.

But for those of us left with this last earthly image of them, it is easy to let the horror overwhelm you, to feel like there is nothing you can do but watch, powerless, as these events unfold.

We are NOT powerless though – far from it!

In 2 Timothy 3:4b-5a, it says, “Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.” (emphasis mine)

When did Christians get to the point where they felt helpless?

When did Christians forget that “greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world”?

When did we forget that we can influence the hearts, minds and actions of people around the world?

When did Christians become wimpy – or at least the ones in the U.S. anyway?

I can tell you when – when we started viewing prayer as a last resort and a long shot one at that. When we started letting busyness rule our lives and crowd out time for prayer. When we started viewing prayer as a weak alternative to action. How many times have I said or you said, “Well, all we can do now is pray”?

Recently, God has been opening my eyes to the immense power that is in prayer. I mean, I believed prayer was important. I had seen its power in my own life, but I never thought of it as influencing events across the globe. For those things, I felt helpless and powerless – not a great feeling.

I have been reading a book called The Hour that Changes the World, and in it, the author introduced the novel – to me at least – idea that I could contribute to the evangelizing of the world, without every leaving my house just through the power of prayer.

But this call to prayer, it’s not easy. Just because prayer is simple doesn’t mean it is easy. See, the enemy, he is VERY aware of the power of God’s people praying and he doesn’t want you to do it. He will do everything he can to keep you from it.

Ever notice how when you set aside time to pray, something interrupts you or your mind wanders or you fall asleep?

Yep, that’s the enemy keeping you from praying. It’s why there is a whole passage on putting on your armor BEFORE you ever get to the praying part.

Of course, this isn’t a new problem really. There is this great story in Acts 12. In the story, Peter is arrested. Since James had just been put to death and Herod saw that that was popular, he arrested Peter next. The believers knew Peter was terminal at this point, so they all gathered together to pray fervently for his release. In fact, they had been praying All NIGHT for Peter.

Meanwhile, an angel delivers Peter miraculously from the prison, and Peter makes his way to this house where everyone is praying for him. When he knocks on the door, the little servant girl, Rhoda, opens it. (I wrote about Rhoda as part of my Women in the Bible series) She is so excited to see Peter, she basically slams the door in his face and runs back in to tell everyone.

You’d think they’d all be rejoicing and jubilant that God answered their prayers. But they aren’t. Instead, they tell her, “You are out of your mind!” When she insists, they tell her, it must be Peter’s angel.

Meanwhile, Peter continues to knock and when they finally open the door – who knows how much later – it says they are amazed.

Amazed that their prayers had actually been answered.

Maybe, like us, they had prayed before and didn’t get the answer they wanted.

Maybe, like us, they had gone out on a limb with this whole prayer thing and felt like someone had sawed it out from under them.

Whatever the reason, they were AMAZED God had delivered Peter.

The thing is, God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The same God that heard those early Christians’ prayers is the same God that hears our prayers.

We don’t have to have the perfect words, or to intone “Thee” and “Thou” for God to hear us. We just have to put in the time on our knees.

So, when you see pictures that haunt you or read stories that make you cry and wonder at the state of the human race – remember that we have the power to make a difference.

Don’t let it make you feel powerless. Let it make you hit your knees and do something about it.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16

Blessings, Rosanne

 

6 Things I Learned in January

 

Getting Up Early With A Cup Of Coffee

#1 I am a terrible patient.

See, the week after Christmas I caught either Influenza A or B – not sure since each child had a different strain (lucky us!). After a couple weeks battling that, I had three days where I felt GREAT! Then I caught a different virus that my husband had – because I accidentally USED HIS TOOTHBRUSH! Yes, you read that right – I used his toothbrush on accident and caught the virus he had. I’m not sure if it was worse than Influenza (either A or B), but it was certainly a close runner up.

I did try to be a patient patient, but my forbearance ran out when I came down with the second illness. All the plans I had made – you know that THIS year I wasn’t going to procrastinate but actually accomplish my goals – had to be put on hold. It did not make me happy. Which leads me to the second thing I learned.

#2 Rest is NOT a four letter word.

Maybe it’s because I was SO ready to stop procrastinating, but I chafed against my need for rest. I felt a combination of guilt and irritation, but I couldn’t get around it. I either had to lay down for an hour or so every afternoon OR I’d both feel worse AND find myself nodding off at inopportune times.

I came across these verses on a day I was really upset by the whole “get the year off with a bang” debacle. “For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did  from His. Therefore, let us be diligent to enter that rest so that no one will fall.” Hebrews 4:10, 11a. (emphasis mine).

I finally cried “Uncle,” and gave in to the fact that, for whatever reason, January was supposed to be a month of rest for me. Which led me to the third thing I learned this month.

#3 I am fortunate to be able to work from home.

There are sometimes when weekly deadlines kind of get to me, but honestly, I’m not sure what I would have done if I had to drag myself to a workplace on a daily basis for a set number of hours. Because I work from home as a freelance writer, I get to set my hours. I made all my interviews phone interviews, and I really didn’t even need to leave the house (well, except to go to the grocery and those times I had to get out or go crazy!). There is something to be said for being self-employed. Despite the challenges that it sometimes presents, I really can’t imagine having to go work for someone else!

#4 Quiet times don’t always have to include a commentary to be meaningful.

I am a big believer in studying God’s Word, but over the past month, mornings have not been stellar for me in regards to my brain functioning. So, I have spent a lot more time just reading a Scripture and meditating on it and then journaling out my prayers (for fear if I bowed my head and closed my eyes, I might nod off). While it is a bit different than what I normally do, I have found a sense of peace and quietness in allowing myself to just BE with God. In fact, He didn’t even mind when I did nod off a few times.

 #5 Down time isn’t wasted.

I spent a lot of time on my couch this month instead of the usually running around. It made me realize that down time doesn’t have to be wasted. Stilling my body so I could rest, did something kind of interesting – it gave me time for my creative juices to start flowing. It gave me some white space in which to dream. Sure, there were days when I felt a sense of panic over all I WASN’T getting done, but there is something very peaceful about not having much of a choice. Even if I WANTED to go full speed, I just couldn’t (and I’m still not up to 100%). By late afternoon, I was pretty much done. Instead of trying to do one more project or one more chore, I would sit and read or hang out with my family (the weather helped that out by canceling some things so we HAD to stay in). And guess what? The world did not come to a stop. Everything didn’t crumble or spin into chaos (well, mostly). One of my goals for this New Year was to make more time for family, friends and fun. This month sort of forced me to slow down enough to even make that possible. Which leads me to the other thing I learned this month.

# 6 I can say no and the world doesn’t end. 

I don’t like to tell people no. My husband is always saying – “Do you REALLY want to do that? You are already busy so how is that going to work?” In 2014, my inability to say no often led to me being overwhelmed and frustrated because by saying yes to too many things, I was missing out on what God actually wanted me to do. Being sick, it made saying no pretty easy – especially as most people didn’t really want me or my germs anywhere near them.

Being forced to slow down, to not take on anything but the absolutely necessary gave me some margin in my hectic life I think that realization might just have been worth all the kleenex I’ve been through!

What did you learn in January? Was it what you thought it would be?

I’d love to hear about it!

Blessings, Rosanne

p.s. Today I’m linking up over at Chatting at the Sky. Why don’t you hop on over to see what other people have learned in the month of January!

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