Trusting God with A Broken Heart #First5

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Do you live in a radical realm of faith where you know that God is the end-all solution for the hurts you encounter? For every loss, every disappointment, even death?

It’s hard to decipher how God can be the answer to everything bad that happens in our lives, isn’t it?

But the truth is … He is.

A lot has happened inside of me over the last two years.

A lot of healing and learning to live by the truth of God’s word.

It’s so hard to understand what God allows to happen in our lives.

The loss of a marriage, job … and even a child.

But even in these deep hurts, He is still a good God with a good plan for our lives.

For that reason alone, He deserves our praise.

God has used the Psalms to minister to me on so many hard days.

Today I am sharing a little of my grief journey over on the Proverbs 31 First 5 forum.

This study through First 5 is entitled “EVEN IF” and it’s been profound to daily read the truth that God uses as a healing balm for so many of my hurts.

I encourage you if you are hurting … dig into this study and let God use His healing words to transform your thoughts, feelings, and fears.

Here is the link for my devotion today … which is day 42 … but go find the First 5 App on your phone or the online forum and subscribe. I promise … you will be glad you did!

Blessings to you all sweet friends!

Love, 

Melanie 

 

Trusting God When We Can’t See What’s Ahead #ForJon

autism day

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10

The service was just starting as I found my place in the choir loft last Sunday. The music started and immediately my eyes found Jon, keeping beat with the rhythm, slightly bouncing his knee up and down. It made me smile to see this sweet boy acknowledging worship in the Lord’s house.

I first told you about Jon in 2015 and I thought it would be neat to give you an update of how God continues to bless this boy and his family.

Jon is now 20 years old and he’s still defying the odds. He’s currently a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, majoring in mathematics. He’ll be going into the engineering program in the fall semester and it’s no surprise to regularly find Jon’s name on the Dean’s list.

Jon voting

Employed with a major government firm, Jon does CADnet drafting and actually started this job when in high school. Every morning he drives himself across town and navigates the madness of campus parking to make his classes on time. This still makes his momma a little nervous, but trusting God with Jon is old hat for my friend these days.

jon driving

If ever God’s hand has been on a child, it’s Jon.

Four years ago, right around Easter, Jon felt the Lord pursuing his heart on a Sunday morning. His older brother, David, sweetly led Jon in the sinner’s prayer as he asked Jesus into his heart. It was an unforgettable day of rejoicing for all, especially mom and dad.

jon prom

Jon faithfully attends the college ministry meetings at the local Pike House Coffee shop with a determined attentiveness.  There have been a few times Jon’s dutifully given the college pastor an update on the time, after all, punctuality is important for success, right?

jon sliding

To run into Jon in the hallways at church makes my day. He always gives me a hug and says; “Hi! How are you, Melanie?” I always reply, “I’m good, Jon, how about you?” “I’m good,” he says, always. That’s our routine, and it’s sweet.

He’s still got that wit and can land the one-liners with perfect timing.

He gets more handsome every day and he’s always a true gentleman.

And he’s now an uncle which brings a new dimension of fun for the whole family.

jon beach

The obstacles that Jon has overcome in his 20 short years are a true testimony to God’s faithfulness.

Months after Jon’s birth, the unknowns for Mike and Kelli were paralyzing some days.

There were times that fear shrouded any visions of what they could imagine for their boy today.

But my goodness … God has outdone Himself with Jon.

I’ve watched my friends trust, day by day, consistently giving God glory for the victories … and it’s truly been victory after victory with Jon.

Trusting God in the darkness is hard … but what a testimony of trust we see in this family.

And so on this Light It Up Blue Day … Jon’s story is a good reminder that when we can’t see what’s up ahead … we need to remember who can.

trusting God

To look back at all that God’s done … here’s the link to my original post about Jon.

 

When We End Up in Emotional Bondage

P31 Devotion Collection WoundsIt’s so easy to sit and think about our hurts, isn’t it? To relive the moments that cause such a ripple in our souls, right? 

But are these thoughts causing you to collect wounds?

In days past, I found myself stuck in a quagmire of grief, loss, disappointment, rejection, and more since the tragic death of my step-daughter and son-in-law, two years ago.

There were days that I thought I was losing my mind, days that I begged Jesus to return, and days I just didn’t want to go on. I cut myself off from everyone and everything. I was easily hurt by everything that came my way. Unfortunately, the enemy was watching me every day, and he knew just how to complicate my grief greater.

Finally, I got tired of waking up hurting. There was a shift in my soul that reminded me that how I was living is not what Jesus died for.

It’s been quite a spiritual journey finding emotional freedom. Honestly, I didn’t think I would ever come back from the hurts – and I didn’t think I would ever write again … BUT GOD! 

I’m sharing a bit of that journey today on Proverbs 31 Ministries website. I’m grateful for the opportunity to tell you about the healing that God’s been leading me through these last two years.

Jesus came to free us from emotional bondage that holds us back in this fallen world! He came to give us abundant life! That means He wants us whole and walking in freedom.

I invite you to read a little about my journey and I encourage you with this thought: the best thing to do with a broken heart is to embrace God’s truth!

Thank you for stopping by today and thank you to Proverbs 31 Ministries and the Compel training program. My how the Lord has used this ministry to encourage me on many dark days – and for that, I am so grateful.

love mel

Fighting Grief

So, I’ve been quiet on this forum for some time now. I’ve never addressed it here formally – and thank you to those who have continued to reach out in messages. I’m grateful that many of you continue to read old blogs and send messages of encouragement to keep writing.

For those in faraway places who don’t know … My husband’s daughter – my stepdaughter, and our son-in-law were killed in a tragic car wreck on January 30, 2017. Our three, precious grandchildren lost their whole world that night. And I want to be clear … any pain my husband and I have felt can’t compare to theirs.

In the days and months that’s followed, the enemy orchestrated chaos and our grief’s been complicated in ways that our family should have never experienced. A lot of loss has peppered our lives and it’s still hard to comprehend. So … I’ve been quiet – not because I didn’t have anything to say … but because I didn’t like how I sounded when sour words found their way onto pages and pages of countless journals.

A lot of tears … a lot of honest prayers … and a lot of sleepless nights have come and gone over the last 16 months.  We will never find a new normal because what our family experienced is flat out abnormal. It isn’t the natural order of living.

The losses and pain hurled my way over the years have left me at times asking if this life is worth living?

There have been moments that courage floundered and my faith shilly-shallied like a triple crown filly that’s thrown a shoe.

The last year’s events have brought the realization that there are defining moments in our faith that will make us ask hard questions.

Like when the unbearable happens and you almost feel like God let you down?

Is there a line that God can cross in your relationship?

Have you ever thought about that?

What it would take?

That’s rattled around hard in my brain … cause all I’ve ever known is trying to seek Him out in an imperfect life. I naively existed as though faithfulness will keep me safe from the reality of life and death trials.

I’ve wondered how in the world can the last year and a half of losses ever work for God’s glory like the verse in Romans 8:28 proclaims.

I’ll be honest … I’ve asked the Lord if all this pain is worth the glory because from where I’m sitting … I just can’t see what good can come from it.

And then after I repent of thinking thoughts that I recognize came from the enemy, I ask Him … am I living in a way that will make the loss worth God’s glory? I don’t want to mess that up.

So many questions and not enough answers for a hard thinking girl that probably thinks too much.

At the end of the day … the pain is only lessened by time, a lot of honest prayers and the word of God. That’s it. That’s all I got.

Grief is a place where you put up or shut up so to speak.

It’s where you find out if what you’ve practiced as a way of life is going to carry you through the darkness.

Grief wrestling sure ain’t for the weak -pardon my Tennessee twang.

In my grappling, I went back to the Ecclesiastes 3 scripture – you know the one about …  “to everything there is a season.”

As I studied word meanings and cultural explanations, verse 7 jumped out at me.

“A time to tear … and a time to sew.”

The bible is full of people who would rend (tear) their clothes when great grief, pain, regret or even sin were a factor. We see this term a lot with those who mourn death.

As I studied further … I learned that after a period of time, they sewed their robes back together. Not only did this signify that we are to move on from mourning in time … but it’s a beautiful picture of a tapestry of faithfulness … that God puts our hearts back together … just like the garment.

The stitched-up tear reminds us of the pain … but also of the faithfulness of a Holy God to bring healing and hope again. I’ve found this truth very comforting of late.

And if this scripture in Ecclesiastes signifies anything its that God made life to be a cycle of activities. Some of those activities are darn hard, while others are joyful.

We may think sometimes that what He allows will kill us.

But in each hard place that we experience … we find balance. God balances everything with time … joy … sadness … death and new life. He leaves nothing undone … ever.

Grief has the makings of a great come back and restoration if we are willing to let God do with time and purpose what He wants to do in our lives.

It’s a fierce buckling under a Holy God that allows the incredible pressure of heartache to melt and refine stubborn hearts.

It’s hard. Just darn hard to learn from grief … but God deems it necessary to make us more like Him.

That almost seems harsh … doesn’t it?

But in truth … He knows what will make us better … kinder … more loving … more patient … more forgiving … more generous … more faithful … just more like him – period.

God allows grief with a period of mourning to measure the good things in life and to learn from the bad. And we have to fight the enemy’s schemes for grief to take us to places that we can never recover from.

Some days it feels like this time of grief will never be over … and then out of nowhere a day of pure joy will surprise us.

We still have days of overwhelming sadness and it sure makes this old girl tired.

But the one thing I have come to believe with all my heart is … grief and all of its questions have to lead us to faith … because faith is where the hope is.

If there’s no faith … you got no hope to heal, restore, or find a purpose out of the pain.

So, I’m going to keep digging a hole in my bible …  and refuse feelings that want to bury me in acrimony.

I don’t want to be bitter at the losses or those who have inflicted our family with their bitterness.

I don’t want to let the losses and pain of life entomb me … because then I will be useless for the kingdom.

I’m not going to lie … it’s a daily struggle … but I know this … I have to press on in doing the right thing even if I don’t feel like it because God is in the process.

And as long as He’s here with me in this process and I’m honest with Him … the weeds of sorrow will eventually be pulled out and I’ll relish in the beauty of new growth.

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Lord, Help us run to you in our deepest griefs for a shelter of protection from the enemy’s attempts to break us. Help us believe you are in the process and in the mourning. Give us faith … give us hope … and help us endure until you turn our mourning into dancing. Amen.

Remember … broken hearts run to Jesus.

love mel

The Big Picture

Faithfulness Matters

Photo by IB Wira Dyatmika on Unsplash

“As for you, you thought evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are this day.” Genesis 50:20 (Amplified Bible)

For months I’ve lost track of life mourning the fact that some situations can’t be redeemed this side of heaven.

Some pain can never be reversed can it?

Like the death of loved ones … a way of life … relationships.

I’ve spent days in bed with my bible just trying to get a word from the Lord that would pull me out of this funk.

The enemy has used the pain and my introverted tendencies …  to tempt me in walking away from the church and community in general.

The Devil loves using pain and loss to persuade us that faithfulness doesn’t matter in light of our circumstances.

But the story of Joseph has been a great encouragement these last few months.

This story has it all – betrayal, loss, oppression, dysfunction, jealously, rejection, false accusations and bondage … the list goes on and on.

And every time Joseph was oppressed … falsely accused … rejected … the scripture reminds us that God was with him.

I recently read a story about Andrew Murray who was a beloved pastor and writer in England in the late 1800’s. He suffered from debilitating back pain as a result of an injury. As he was eating breakfast one morning, his maid came to tell him that a woman was downstairs in great distress and was seeking advice or encouragement. Murray handed his maid the piece of paper he had been writing on and said, “Give her this advice that I’m writing down for myself. It may be helpful to her too.”

The paper read:

“In time of trouble, say, ‘First, He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place; in that I will rest.’ Next, ‘He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.’ Then say, ‘He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.’ And last, say, ‘In His good time He can bring me out again. How and when, He knows.’ Therefore, say ‘I am here (1) by God’s appointment, (2) in His keeping, (3) under His training, (4) for His time.”

When I read this story, I realized that Mr. Murray’s advice is the exact model that God used in Joseph’s life … over and over.

Amazingly … Joseph remained faithful in all things … good or bad.

As a result, God used him to save many lives … including the lives of the brothers who hated him … yet Joseph held no bitterness in his heart for his oppressors.

Trusting God with our pain and learning to walk in the fullness of His sovereignty … just like Joseph did … can lead us to our purpose in life … if we remain faithful.

Faithfulness matters … especially when our world has turned upside down.

So, let this truth seep into every crevice of your heart …

You are here by God’s appointment … kept under the shelter of his loving wings … for His instruction to grow … within His timing.

Oh, sweet friend with the broken heart …

God has a purpose for your pain … so trust Him and remain faithful.

And that’s the Big Picture that Joseph so wisely understood.

love mel

Is Loyalty Dying Among Christians?

When I look back on the people that have come in and out of my life … the enemy wants the losses to overshadow those who remain loyal friends.

We know when people pull away … when they are for us or not.

It’s obvious by their speech, actions, and heaven forbid … even in their Facebook activity (that’s a truth said in jest by the way).

It’s difficult when we realize the loyalty we give … is not always matched. And that’s okay because we know too well how human we all are.

But loyalty – that true kind that eptiomizes God in every sense of the word … has been on my mind for some time. Recently in a meeting with one of my pastors, he hit on the subject -reiterating how important loyalty is for Christians to practice.

Loyalty comes in many forms.

There is loyalty to God that says … no matter what … I’m going to be faithful to you Lord.

This determined faithfulness to His statutes and commands, compels us to do the right thing … even when we don’t feel like it.

There is a persistent, unwavering commitment to our spouse that hangs tough when life is less than perfect.

In fact, this kind of loyalty builds character. It’s a determination much like a tenacious hound dog that won’t let go of a bone.

There is a loyalty that a mother hen gives to her children.

A mother’s devotion will take on a herd of bullies even if it means being smashed like a bug in the dirt. NOBODY messes with my hairy, man, babies … and that goes for my daughter-in-law and grand-kids as well.

Then there is the sibling allegiance – like the kind my boys have.

They may aggravate and irritate each other but by golly … nobody’s gonna’ mess with any one of them … or there will be a hellacious problem.

There is steadfastness to an Alma Mater … our favorite learning institute …  or die hard dedication to our favorite sports teams … and even to our preferred hobbies.

Then there is devoted constancy to the church … to God’s man in the pulpit … and to the body of Christ over all. This kind of loyalty guards against fickleness or offense.

Loyalty is vast in variety, but the one that’s wrestling in my heart of late … is the loyalty of a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

It’s a beautiful picture of walking through life’s valleys with those you value during the hard times and even the good times.

And as I’ve tried to wrap my flawed brain around what loyalty really is and means in regards to friendship … I keep thinking about what loyalty isn’t. Those descriptions are much easier to name and recall for obvious reasons, aren’t they?

You see, we all can find a reason to abandon someone … when it’s not convenient … when we’ve been hurt … when there’s no apology … or when we just want to sit on the fence and not get involved.

But the truth of that is… we can still be loyal in neutrality if we desire to. And perhaps we don’t realize when we’ve walked away from loyalty? Or, maybe we justify it by flawed reasons?

Then for some reason we think loyalty is about shifting the relational balance and standing in one’s corner. But that’s not true loyalty. It’s not about taking sides … it’s about faithful friendship, period.

But as I search the bible looking for examples of what it means to truly be loyal … I keep hearing the Spirit say … “It’s all about the love, Mel.”

“It’s all about the love.”

That’s a thought that makes me think … well if it’s all about the love … then the people that abandon us never really love us, is that right God?

Maybe … probably … maybe not.

So, if we don’t feel this love to the core … then either we don’t love like Jesus loves … or we allow the enemy to draw our intentions away … making us abandon God, and each other.

In fact, I believe the loyalty we give is equal to the love we have in our hearts. This truth is making me examine some wounded places deep in my soul.

final love and loyalty

We can always find a reason to walk away … whether it’s a righteous one can only be determined by the Holy Spirit … but the flawed words of man should never pull us away.

I’ve finally realized, if loyalty is all about love … then I need to adjust my love meter, I guess.

The truth is … there are times when it’s easy to be loyal, right?

Like when it’s not costly or when it’s righteous … when we feel it to our core. I guess that’s the love part the Holy Spirit uttered to me.

But the point is … we are all so stinking flawed … we blow it in this love and loyalty thing.

If there is anything God has taught me at all in the last 12 months … loyalty matters because it’s a reflection of God’s Covenant love.

If you’ve never studied God’s Covenant love … then you will never understand true love or loyalty.

So … I want to love better, period.

And loving better doesn’t mean that I dive in without boundaries … but it does mean that I love … without judgement … without hypocrisy … and without giving up the desire to want God’s best for those that abandon me.

Loving better means I don’t take sides and I sure as heck don’t wag my tongue.

Loving better means I forgive … and I move on to heal.

Loving better means I don’t look back.

And finally, loving better means that even if my love and loyalty is not reciprocated … I love anyway … without offense.

Loyalty may be a dying character quality to the world … but Christians can show the world a better way – if we truly love what’s important … and what’s most important is God … and each other.

Lord, May our love be evident to you and each other … by our loyalty to do what’s right.

love mel

The Truth About Social Media #pocketsofjoy

pockets of joy

“I got off social media, the devil was using it against me.” This message came from a sweet, young mom of two littles. I shot back, “I’m proud of you, you are a wise, young woman!” And she is. My friend gets how the enemy can lie about perceptions. She totally understands that this comparison game on social media is one big hoax, 90% of the time.

Don’t get me wrong – social media can be fun and a tool for good. I love seeing special moments in friends and family’s lives. But outside of the real moments of life, Satan has used social media to wreak havoc in our lives with this comparison sham, and it ain’t pretty, pardon the Tennessee slang.

We see the pictures posted of what appears to be the perfect person, in the ideal setting, smiling ear to ear, and making us all feel less than perfect, right? I don’t have to tell you that comparison messes us up, we know that.

My sweet, young, mama friend said that she felt like a failure when her kids were screaming and she was cleaning house like a slave – and then the glossy pictures with  perfect, behaved children on the fun mom outings pop up. Needless to say, she was defeated.

The real truth behind those types of pictures is that nobody’s life is perfect – It doesn’t matter who we are – there is a mess in our lives somewhere – or a difficult circumstance we are enduring.

I really became aware of this last fall when a friend told me that we had the perfect family. That we seemed to have so much fun. I realized she perceived my life to be different from what it really is. So, I just point blank told her. We are far from a perfect family. We do have fun with each other, but we have situations that are hard for us.

For example, my husband’s PTSD from his time as a combat soldier in Vietnam. My sweet daughter-in-law, Kayla, recently said; “No one would believe how he is behind the scenes if they didn’t see it for themselves.” My husband is a charismatic, fun guy when he’s in public; however, there is a deep sadness that comes over him sometimes when he is alone with his thoughts. As a result, my children have lived life in ways that most kids will never face.

For this very reason, I am more aware than ever of the pictures I post.

Losing our precious Paula and Ronnie in a tragic wreck on January 30th has left our lives in a mess frankly. The same is true for our grandkids, they’re really feeling the loss of their parents in a messy kind of way that we will never get. That fact is, we’re all broken in ways that we will wrestle with for years to come.

So, I’m not going to pretend that my family is all that when we are not, nor have we ever been.

But the Lord gave me a scripture that brings great comfort and truth during this time:

“When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”  Psalm 94:19  

psalm 94 19 pockets of joy

Here is the truth that I can sink my heart into … and it’s never been more true in my life than of late.

The cares of my heart are many, but God consoles through tender moments just for me.

The pictures I post are merely “pockets of joy” wrapped in imperfections.

They are moments that have been ordained by my heavenly Father to console and cheer my soul.

They are precious times when we laugh in the midst of our pain.

They are sweet, sweet memories that I cherish afterwards for days.

I wish we could all just get wise and honest about those pictures that we post in the moment. Yeah, it’s a good moment and a blessing … but it doesn’t mean life is perfect.

So, don’t let the enemy trick you into thinking, posting, or believing in something that isn’t real. Be real, share your “pockets of joy” and savor the memories.

Here’s your challenge … live your “imperfect joy moments” with the hashtag #PocketsofJOY

love mel