Joy During the Darkness

Each day the media gives us detailed accounts of how dark and broken our world is. Whether you get your ‘news’ from television news reports, printed newspapers and magazines, or social media–you’re being bombarded with doom and gloom. The worst minutes of strangers’ lives are plastered, shared, and argued over. There is so much heartache, and no answers or solutions coming from the people participating in the often lengthy and irrelevant comment section. Everyone has an opinion, and while we are entitled to an opinion, shouldn’t we think before stating it?

Yes, this should be obvious to everyone, but so often it isn’t. These actions can’t be laid at the feet of the unbeliever either, but rest at the dusty soles of each person. I’ve seen loudly proclaiming Christians tear people down in the guise of fellowship just as I’ve seen athiests and agnostics do it.

God created all of us, and our job is to share His gospel with others. This doesn’t mean we’re supposed to browbeat unbelievers or malign their name. Our world is currupt enough without turning our faith into a tool of corruption. When we do that, when we use Jesus as a way to bully others, we aren’t doing His works, we’re doing Satan’s.

Instead of pointing out the faults of each other maybe we, as Christians, could spread around some joy.
That’s the amazing thing about Jesus. He brings joy. People loved Him and followed Him. They were willing to give up their material possessions and their careers to join Him. They were willing to give up their lives to follow in His footsteps, to spread His teachings. This didn’t happen because He condemed each person He came in contact with. It happened because He not only had joy–even through His trials, He was joy. He was and is the light.

You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.
2 Samuel 22:29

During the last eight months I’ve focused on joy. Not just the word, but all that it signifies, and so far I’ve realized one very important thing. Even in the darkness that has been covering our world, there is still joy. There is still light. God is still here, with us. During each and every trial, during every painful experience, He is beside us.

That’s joy.
Knowing that this world is temporary, that the life we live on this earth isn’t the best there is, that’s joy.

Instead of pointing out the faults of everyone and adding to the darkness, choose to add light to the world. Choose to add JOY.

This day is holy to our LORD. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Nehemiah 8:10

Blessings,

Sare

Father’s Day and Healing

Three days ago we scattered my father’s ashes in the Puget Sound. A place he’d always loved. The week leading up to the memorial was rough and emotions ran high with everyone. I wanted nothing more than to forget about the whole thing and keep my father’s ashes on my shelf, because as soon as they were removed from their place of honor, lonliness enveloped me. He’d been there since February, a constant companion in my home. It was time to let him go, but I wasn’t sure I was ready.

At the approximate time the sun would have been setting, had the rain not decided to join our tears, we said a final goodbye to the man who had taught us so many things. There was laughter amidst the inappropriate humor my father was so used to from my sister Rae, and me. As she shared her memories, it occured to me that my father was a wonderfully flawed person. He swore, he drank, he was selfish, and was always impatient. I realized much of my personality came from him. Many of my strengths and many of my weaknesses were nurtured and ingrained at his knee. My father made many mistakes in his life, but one thing he did that wasn’t a mistake, was loving his children inspite of our differences, and sometimes because of them.

With that knowledge, it was important to remind myself that we all grieve differently, and that emotions are strong factors in the way we react to situations. That night wasn’t about who we were, it was about who he was. There was no right or wrong way to memorialize him. Whether it was drinking a bottle of wine in his memory as the rain poured down, or closing off from others and holding inside whatever emotion was burning the heart. We needed to set aside our various differences, ignore the typical family dynamic and just be there for one last moment with the man who had raised us in the only way he knew how.

After the others left, I sat on the bench beside the water with my dear friend. We watched otters play in the current, and I cried. Big, ugly, body wracking tears. For months there had been a pain inside my heart that couldn’t seem to heal. It was like a splinter left just beneath the surface, and it was festering as the days went on. I didn’t realize it, even as I sat there, that the healing had finally began. For the months since my father passed, I was in a holding pattern, not really grieving, but not really healing either.

Three days before Father’s Day, the proverbial splinter was finally removed, the wound cleaned, and my body and soul could really begin to heal.

When Sunday arrived I was leary of attending church. It was my first Father’s Day without my Dad. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was concerned I’d break down and not be able to stop. In fact, I almost decided not to go, to stay home and be safe from the emotions, smiles, and warm wishes of others.

Instead, I prayed.

Then I put on my big girl pants and joined my family in church.

It was a wonderful day. The words were exactly what I needed to hear, and my heart didn’t ache. For the first time in months I didn’t feel like I would get blown away in a stiff breeze, or shatter like glass. I felt free. With the scattering of my Father’s ashes, a weight was lifted from my shoulders. My Father is truly at peace now, and even though I might not be completely there yet, I am on my way. My heart is light and I am filled with the Joy of the Holy Spirit.

Life moves on and changes, much like the tides of the sea.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy and may you forever be at rest in the place you loved best.

Sare

Working Through It

The past few weeks have been hard. Events I’d like to have control over, but don’t, brought my father’s death back to the forefront of my mind, and my emotions are raw. These emotions seem to be reflected back at me through my daughter as well. She is such an amazingly strong and loving little lady, but I see the sadness lurking behind her eyes. While she is happier now than she was a few months ago, I still see the shadows that dim her happiness.

It concerns me that I see in her a child trying to take control of her surroundings. So much like me, only far too young to have those responsibilities. I do everything I can to remind her to be a kid, to keep her focused on things more positive than the random emotions tearing at my own heart.

We’re working through it.

God’s working through us.

I know there is a reason to all this, and I have faith that in the end it will all be for the better. Until that time I do what I can to keep the balance. I workout to strengthen my body for God’s work, and I spend time with Him daily. I turn to Him in thanksgiving as well as for strength.

Some days are easier than others. There are great days, and then there are days when I’d rather never get out of bed again. On those days even sunshine doesn’t seem as bright, and I am reminded just how imperfect I really am.

I’m thankful that God loves me anyway.

So, together, God, my daughter, and I will work through it.

Together.

Happy Birthday

Today would have been my father’s birthday. I’ve been aware of the date my whole life, and for the past few weeks I’ve seen the date staring at me from the calendar. Up until this morning I hadn’t realized it would be so hard to breathe when the day actually arrived.

It became very obvious this morning when I woke and realized I wouldn’t be contacting him for our yearly conversation on aging and the unimportance of celebrating birthdays after the age of 21. I wouldn’t hear him chuckle over the phone when I asked what he wanted for his birthday, and there wouldn’t be a gruff reply of “new eyes” or “working ears”.

Grief is amazing when it hits. The feelings can blindside you, and leave you groping for a foothold. For me, I often don’t realize it’s hit until I can no longer see for the tears. I’ll be a curled up mess on the floor, the bed–or when I’m really lucky (and by lucky, I mean not at all)–in the car driving through the rain in crazy “Oh my goodness, it’s raining!” Pacific Northwest Traffic.

My grief today has been like a world-class roller coaster. The loops alone would leave even the biggest thrill seeker checking their throat for their stomach.

I know healing takes time, and on most days, I’m good with that. Today however, I’d love if grief would show itself to the door so my lungs could resume functioning properly again.

There’s always tomorrow, right?

Until then, Happy Birthday, Daddy.

I ask you to guide me through this day LORD. Help me to see the light through the darkness, and to embrace joy rather than crushing despair. Amen.

Heal My Heart, LORD

On January 31, 2015, my father passed away. In the last few months he had become someone I didn’t recognize–the man with strong convictions and an analytic mind had disappeared. In his place was someone who was angry, and emotional. In all my years growing up I can count on one hand the number of times I’d seen him cry. During the months leading up to his death his tear flowed freely.

He started making decisions he never would have before. His conversations stretched to the outlandish, and his understanding of right and wrong bled together. I made one of the hardest decisions I’d ever had to make, and it broke my heart.

Reading this, one might assume my father was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

He wasn’t.

My father, the first Hero I ever knew, was being destroyed by Cancer. It began several years ago with Skin Cancer, something the doctors treated, and we assumed had cured. Then, last year the doctors diagnosed him with Prostate Cancer. Again, he went through treatment, and it seemed to be working.

Only, it wasn’t.

Somehow during the treatments the doctors missed the cancer that had spread to his brain, his lungs, and from what I understand into his heart.

None of this was discovered until after his death.

My father knew something was wrong.

I feel responsible.

Even though circumstances kept us apart the final months of his life, he made sure I knew he didn’t blame me.

I wish I didn’t blame myself.

Nothing that happened was within my control, and I know God has a plan for everyone. I don’t know what His plan is, but I know I need to trust in His will.

My father is in a better place, or at least I choose to believe that God has welcomed him home. He isn’t in pain anymore, and he can see and hear again. He can once again enjoy all the things he’d missed out on as his body broke down.

Yet, I can’t help but feel guilt. People tell me over and over that I’m not at fault, that he didn’t blame me. I just wish God would help me to believe that as well.

I need strength to get through this. I need not only understanding from those around me, but from myself as well.

LORD, I pray for strength and healing. Lift my spirit up, and bring peace to my soul. Heal me from the inside, and grant me the forgiveness I can’t seem to give myself.

Sare

Loss

On December 30, a dear friend of my niece’s went home to the LORD. She was a young woman with plans and dreams. She was a new mom with a little boy about the same age as my own son. Her loss was as unexpected to her family as it was to my niece. Although I didn’t know her personally I’d like to take a moment to pray for those affected by her loss.

Please, join me in praying for her family and loved ones.

Heavenly Father,

May her family and loved ones find peace in Your Greatness. May their hearts be filled with happy memories of her love and laughter. May her son grow up hearing wonderful stories of her love for him. LORD I ask that you comfort her family and friends while they grieve and help them to find solid ground once again.

Amen.

Sare