New Year’s Resolutions

As you craft your New Year’s Resolutions, think about this…

Nicki Edwards

Resolutions

Resolution: 1. A firm decision to do or not to do something.

A New Year’s resolution: 1. The commitment a person makes to one or more personal goals, projects or the reforming of a habit.

“I am about to do something new! See, I have already begun! Now it springs up. Do you not perceive it? Do you not see it? Will you not give heed to it?” (Isaiah 43:19)

Just as a new Christian becomes a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), New Year’s Eve marks the start of a new day for many people. It signifies the start of a new year. It can symbolize the ending of one thing and the beginning of a new season. A new chapter. It can represent new opportunities. It can represent change. A chance to do something different. It can represent hope for the future.

For me, there is just…

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Broken Hearted Christmas

As we trim our trees and sing our carols, there are families suffering.  In Newtown, CT, 26 families are approaching this Christmas without someone they love.  Someone who died too soon.  Someone they can’t breathe without.

What do you say to someone who has lost a child at Christmas?  Many avoid the family, thinking they don’t want to be bothersome.  Some come up with cliche’ saying that will make the speaker feel like they did their part, but will not help console the grieving. If you have never experienced a loss like this, it is difficult to know what to say or how to act.

Do you say Merry Christmas?  Do you ask How are you?  Do you invite them over for a party?

These families most likely do not want to celebrate Christmas in the traditional way.  They may cling to the gift of Jesus, our Saviour and the glory of His birth.  But, that is probably where it will end.  They do not need “Merry Christmas” cards and calls.  Every photo they receive in the mail of someone else’s family is a heart-wrenching reminder that they will never have another family photo again.  Every facebook post about baking cookies and Christmas parties and trimming trees is a reminder that their lost child will never experience those things with them again.

So what do we do?  We will see these families at church.  We will see them in town and at school.  What do we do?

We pray for them.  We embrace them with hugs.  We listen if they want to talk.  We don’t pretend to know what it’s like and we don’t offer cliche’ advice.  We simply say, “I am here.”  We don’t say Merry Christmas, or Happy Birthday, or Happy New Year.  We say, “I know this day must be so difficult for you.  Please know that I am praying for you and thinking about you.”

All of their wonderful memories, their family traditions are gone.  They will never be able to hold those traditions again without feeling pain.  They will in time build new memories and maybe begin some new traditions.  But, they may not want traditions.  Traditions attach us to the past and the past is painful.

They may avoid social engagements for a long time.  There is no time limit on grief.  There is no amount of time that can take away the pain of losing a child.  If it’s a year or 5 years or more, just understand that you cannot understand what they are feeling.

Imagine going to a birthday party for one of your children.  You are sort of hiding against the wall, trying not to talk to anyone.  Someone comes up to you and starts some “safe”, on the surface conversation.  One of the first questions she asks is, “Do you have any other kids?”  How do you answer that if you child was killed?  Or died of an awful disease?  So, do not be insulted if you invite one of these families to a party and they decline your invitation, for years.  It doesn’t mean they don’t like you, it means they maybe cannot take the social pressure after losing a child.

Imagine grocery shopping and you put double stuff oreos into your cart because that’s your child’s favorite.  And then you remember that your child isn’t here anymore.  Do you take them out?  Do you buy them anyway?  Imagine setting the table every single day and having one place empty.  Every single day is a reminder that you child is gone.

So, while you are enjoying your family, parties and church services as so many do, pray for the ones who can’t seem to make sense of their world right now.  Pray for one breath at a time for them.  Pray that they will find comfort in our Lord and that they will see Christmas for what it actually is, the birth of Jesus.  Pray that the ones who surround them will be a comfort and will carry them long after the rest of the world has forgotten.  That these people who surround them will be sensitive to their needs for years to come and will not put times limits and pressure on them to move on.  Pray that through this unfathomable tragedy, they can find peace, somewhere and sometime.  That their loved ones did not die in vain and that their memory will be preserved in the hearts of many, not in the media of our world.

I hope that you will all take this advice and apply it not only to Newtown families, but to anyone grieving the loss of a loved one.  No two people grieve the same and although we may not know what to say, it is more important to just be.

God Bless you all.

2 Kings 4 – Wasted Faith

2 Kings 4

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.     ~ Romans 8:28 NIV84

How many times in your life have you prayed for something, big or small, to have it not happen the way you wanted?  Maybe it was as simple as finding a lost item, or as complicated as repairing a broken relationship, or as miraculous as healing someone on their death bed.  Have you bargained with God?  If only, then I will…. or take me instead….. I have.

When I read the story on 2 Kings chapter 4 in the book Greater by Pastor Steven Furtick, at first I was astonished that the bible should depict a story of a faithful woman losing her son.  The son she didn’t ask for but was a gift from God in her later years.  I found it amazing that from the perspective of Greater, Elisha the prophet had a servant lay his staff on the child and the child remained dead.  Pastor Furtick used this part of the story to show that our prayers are not always answered in the way we want and they are not always heard in the way we ask them.

However, when I opened my bible to read 2 Kings 4, I realized that once Elisha arrived at the scene, he did indeed revive the boy.  As wonderful as this is, it made me mad.  (Yes, I am admitting these horrible feelings.) A miracle should not make me mad, but in the context of what was in my book verses what is in the bible, it did make me mad.

You see, when my son was sick with cancer, I prayed.  I begged.  I bargained. I would have done anything to keep him alive, including dying myself.  Most parents would.  I remember sitting at my kitchen table with my pastor just a couple of days after Louis died and asking him, “Why are there so many accounts of God bringing people back to life in the bible, but he couldn’t bring my son back to life?”  Honest, raw question from a newly grieving mother.

I have spent the past 6 1/2 years learning.  Learning more about God.  Learning more about the bible.  Learning more about myself and my relationship with God.  And as I learn more, I question less.  As I learn more, I ask for less.  This balance, this relationship, is built on faith.  A faith that does not require Why’s and I Don’t Understand’s.  A faith that just accepts.

I don’t know why my son got cancer.  I don’t know why he died.  I don’t know why God didn’t bring him back to life for me.  But I have stopped asking those questions.  I don’t doubt that He could, I just don’t need to know the answer.  As much as I don’t like the situation, it is not about me.  I can’t see the whole picture, but I need to trust the one who can.

God is the almighty Creator.  He never leaves us.  When things get difficult in our lives, we are the ones who walk away from Him.  If we remain steadfast in our faith, especially through the most trying times, we will reap His rewards now and in heaven.

Wasted faith?  I think not.  It is those times when we feel the most lost, the most out of touch, the most like God has forgotten us that we must remain faithful.  God sees the whole plan and He will see us through, always.

GOD-fidence

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. ~ Hebrews 11:1 NLT

I do not find it ironic that our verse this week is on faith.  Last week, my husband cut his left, middle finger off below the nail in a lawn mower accident.  Sparing you all the gross details, trust my word that it was ugly.  We rushed to the emergency room with tears and fears.  My husband is left-handed, and more importantly to him, he is a piano player.  He plays for our church each Sunday and this is his passion.

The ER doctor did not give us much hope.  He stitched the skin back on.  The bone was obliterated, so really, it was just skin.  He wrote a prescription for pain medication and sent us on our way with a referral to see a specialist the following Monday.  My husband, Pat was devastated.  He was in pain both physically and emotionally.  Here we are at the beginning of advent and he can’t play piano.  He can’t go to work and he can’t really do much of anything.

We went to the specialist and he told us that he wanted to “see how it heals”.  He said it was a long shot, but IF the skin stays viable, and IF scar tissue forms inside where the bone used to be to fill in the finger, and IF he doesn’t get any infections, then MAYBE he could keep his finger length.  The nail is gone and won’t come back, and it may look a bit funny, but for the purpose of playing the piano, it would work IF all these things fall into place.  Did I mention that the finger was actually cut OFF?  Below the nail at that first knuckle?  Yes, it’s a long shot.

He was dizzy.  He was nauseous.  He was in pain and he was depressed.  However, we prayed.  We prayed prayers of thanksgiving mostly.  We thanked God for sparing his life, his hand and for allowing him to make it into the house to get me to take him to the ER.  All miraculous things to me.  He could have passed out in the driveway and I may not have noticed since I was watching a movie with my girls inside.  We kept praying prayers of thanksgiving and were faithful in our prayer that he would heal in whatever way God wanted him to heal.  We didn’t ask for anything.  We were just grateful.

About a week after the first doctor visit, I started noticing some black skin on the wound.  This was a sure sign to me that the skin was dying and that surgery to remove part of the finger was most likely sooner than later.  I even called the doctor’s office and they confirmed that my thoughts were on track and that was most likely the situation.  We were due to see the doctor in 2 more days and they said we could wait until then.

We went for that appointment just yesterday, feeling scared and nervous.  We knew God was in control and we accepted that, but anxiety was creeping in.  The doctor looked at his finger and told us it was healing beautifully.  (WHAT?)  He said it looks exactly as he hoped it would. (IS HE LOOKING AT THE SAME FINGER?)  He said to keep doing what we are doing and he will see us in a week. (WHAT ABOUT THE BLACK SPOT?)  So, I asked him about it and he said it is dying skin, but it is one layer on the surface.  From what he can see, there is good, viable tissue underneath and that black skin should shed off just like we shed off skin each day!   He made no promises to us that Pat will or will not need surgery in the future, but he told us right now, it is not necessary.

This moment, this situation to me is a miracle.  I saw my husband’s finger in two pieces.  I know he is missing bone.  I see the black skin each time I change his bandages, yet, God is healing him in a way that is practically impossible and against the odds.  I can’t even explain it, but I see God working where no one else can possible work.

I have faith in God.  I have confidence that he can heal my husband’s hand.  I don’t know if he will choose to allow Pat to keep his entire finger or not, but he is doing great things at the moment.  He gave us such a gift and lifted my husband’s spirit so much, that Pat went to church last evening and played piano, less one finger, with our pastor.  He played until he bled and smiled the entire time.  Maybe God is healing his hand completely. Maybe he is boosting his confidence and showing him he doesn’t need that finger to play.  Either way, he is building our faith and he is working greater things in my husband.

I hope this story which is real and very much happening as we speak will inspire all of you to look at what you have and pray thanksgiving for it.  As small or  insignificant as it may seem, God can do miraculous things with what you have.  He created you and he can use you for wondrous deeds if you let him.  However, it all starts with thanksgiving and faith.