Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Finding Life in Death

    Psalm 33:22 claims, "May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you."
    Death has been an unwanted visitor too often in my life. Starting at the age of 10, death came knocking on our family's door priodically. All four grandparents passed, my great-grandmother, my cousin was murdered, my niece drowned at the age of two and two friends committed suicide. I have always held onto the notion that death is just a doorway into an eternal perfection with Christ.
      Honestly, until my close friend's suicide I perceived death as natural, almost beautiful, simply a part of life's cycle.  In fact, while I was pregnant with my eldest I hoped he would meet his great-grandmother. Instead, four months before he was born, I stayed with my grandmother and held her hands the last hours of her earthly life. It was sad, yet beautiful. I witnessed her departure to eternity.
     However, when I learned my friend left this world in shame and heartache, I crumbled. I had just given birth to my third child and postpartum depression had already taken its place in my life. As if it happened yesterday, I recall standing at the kitchen counter recounting a memory of this person. When my husband heard his name mentioned he then remembered that a mutual friend had told him the devastating news. Three years before is when my friend had ended his life in despair. We had lost contact due to moving around.
      My sense of life and mortality radically changed in a second. As I heard the news, my mind literally went into tunnel vision. I couldn't see straight. I researched frantically on the internet to find any information on his departure. I had no closure. This open wound festered in my heart for over a year. Daily life was a struggle. I didn't know who I was. I  had no one to seek out for comfort or solace. My entire being was mummifying before my family. Grief was physically making me ill. It was then that my fibromyalgia first peeked out in my life.
      For the first time in my life I questioned God's sanity. Who was He to do such a thing to me? Oh, boy. I always believed Jesus was my Savior, but I didn't know Him as a friend. I would be driving along and grief would punch me in the gut. The air seemed to get sucked out of me. I was suffocating myself.  It was then I cried out to Jesus. He was my Only Hope.
     One of the first verses as a baby believer that spoke to me was Romans 8:28. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." I was still looking for the "good."
    Talking to God became easier as I was doing it all day, just to get through the time. I realized as people told me to get "over" it, I couldn't. Only God could get me through it. I was going to have to deal with every emotion that came my way, but no longer would I cling onto the grief as I had been. I had been living in fear of losing my memories. As illogical as it was, I believed if I let go of the grief I was letting go of this person as well.
      Christ taught me something completely different. He freed me from the walls I put around myself. I wasn't even allowing my husband to come in anymore. Seven years earlier, before I truly was in relationship with Jesus, a friend shared a verse that I always carried with me, not realizing the impact it would have later on in my life. 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." As I turned to Christ for solace I became a new creature. I haven't been the same since. Jesus Christ filled the gaping hole in my heart and healed me, filling me with His love that never falters or wavers.
       I still miss my friend, especially on special days, such as when he passed, his birthday, etc. I pray for his family still every night hoping they have grown closer to God as well. It took a couple years for me to even catch a glimpse of God's glory in my friend's departure. You see, if he hadn't left, I may not have turned to God the way I did. God was calling me so fervently during this period of my life, I couldn't ignore Him anymore. I answered His call. My family has become a united family. My children know God because of my friend. That my friends is where God's glory displays itself. In the ashes God brings beauty.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Book Review: A Beautiful Blessing

     Over the past few days, I have read a complimentary copy of The Blessing from BookSneeze on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing. The Blessing authored by John Trent and Gary Smalley, recently revised and updated, lays out a plan for parents to utilize to bless their children as in days of old. Taking cues primarily from the Old Testament, such as Isaac blessing Jacob, the authors give five main points to incorporate into blessings. Every child, person for that matter, as an inherent need to be loved, accepted and esteemed by others.
     A blessing not only adds value to the receiver, but can set the direction of their lives. When a parent or spouse degrades their child or significant other, respectively, they are tearing away at the person's sense of identity. On the other hand, imagine a parent consistently sitting down with a child, cradling him or her, speaking words of significance and distinction. That child is going to know they belong to a family who loves him, accepts him and believes in him as an individual.
     One of the highlights for me was that Trent and Smalley intermittently pose questions to the reader that allow him or her to ponder their own background and upbringing. Were you given meaningful touch, messages of value and a wonderful future in store? Are you passing along what you want to to your child?  It is amazing to see the difference words can have on a life. A parent has the ability to build that child up. Your tongue holds great power to destroy or build up. 1 Peter 3:10, "For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile."
     The Blessing can be a blessing to not only the reader, but an entire new generation and beyond. Children will imitate even later in life what they are shown in the beginning. Love can heal old wounds; love can open new doors. A blessing coming from a parent can direct the course of a young one's life. I truly hope that this book gets read by every parent who wants to be a parent of hope and love. Blessings to the children!


Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Family Parting

     In the past six months I have witnessed the decimation of a family. Twenty-plus years of marriage were placed on the sideline. I still am reeling over all the feelings and emotions that have surged through me during this time. I hate to think about the emotions that have rushed through the lives of those directly involved. I can't quite comprehend how people allow selfish lusts and fantasies take hold of their entire world.  The question I keep asking myself is: what can I do to help?
     I am a total fixer. I hate things broken. If I see any way I can help, well, I try. The best I have been able to muster though is to be a willing listener, advice-giver when asked and prayer warrior. It's seems so trite to say.  I wish I could pick the pieces up and glue them back together. I'm not the Holy Spirit though. Hopefully, He will convict the right hearts of those causing the pain.
    The hearts broken in divorce are more than one would realize. Not only are the hearts of those directly involved crushed to bits, those external witnesses are desecrated as well. The kids involved especially are hurt, with the possibility of turning to behavioral outbursts, cries for help and/or substance abuse.  It's rather ironic. I typed in "divorce and kids- effects,' in my computer search bar. The first article I read states, "kids are resilient.," when it comes to divorce. Really? Okay.
      Next, I added the word "Christian" to my search. I found a great article from Focus on the Family. They quoted the results of studies showing that though we may think of kids as resilient, you cannot expect a child not to be negatively impacted from divorce. It's impossible in fact. This same article said the effects will be there 25 years later. Basically the rest of the child's life will be influenced by the trauma of divorce. How can a child feel secure in a world where the family has been ripped apart at the seams?
     God wanted a man and a woman to unite as one during marriage. It's not just some legal jargon that is stated during a wedding, you hear vows of a covenant being made between the man, woman and God.
     Genesis 2:23-25, "And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed."
     I would like to believe that when a couple stands in front of the crowd during their wedding, they realize the gravity and beauty of the ceremony that they are partaking of. Marriage isn't a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants deal. It is a lifetime commitment to your beloved. One that is sanctified by our Lord. Too many people take off after the 'worse' part of "for better or worse," comes along. Blessings often come after the couple has worked out the low points during the course of the marriage.
     If marriage is a holy ceremony highly esteemed by God, what in the world makes it okay for people to see such little intrinsic value of marriage? I know we are a fallen human race. Yet, it grieves me to see God's Word taken lightly. There are too many shattered hearts, fractured families and broken dreams in our society. It is time to stand up for our beliefs in the Almighty and know He works all for His glory. His Word is inerrant; marriage is holy matrimony.
      The only thing in my power to do is pray for this family. Pray for their salvation and for the Light of our Lord to shine in their lives as a beacon of  hope.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mothering for His Glory

Through red eyes and tears at the verge of falling, I have found great comfort in our Lord. Recently, it seems those hard days have been occurring too numerously to count. I stand wondering how much longer I can hold myself up? That is where my thinking falters and travels downhill fast. How many other mothers question their mothering? Am I a good mother? What if I am destroying my children? I degrade myself and then as I am at the bottom of the barrel of sanity, realize I have allowed Satan to infiltrate my mind. Even more sobering is I have disappointed my heavenly Father. If I don’t value myself as a mother, then I don’t believe in Him. I am questioning His sovereignty and truth.

I cannot stress enough that God values us as mothers more than we can fathom. God apparently values each one of us enough to entrust His children to our arms and our care. To think He has called us all to homeschooling even adds to the enormity of our responsibility as our children’s primary caregivers. Parenthood alone is a huge task. Then to add the responsibility of educating our children is incredible.

Our jobs as homeschooling moms can be downright overwhelming. Praise the Lord, He has offered us His yoke. Matthew 11:29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Even when our children have tested us in what seems to be every conceivable way, we are never alone. Our Lord is with us.

He hears our pleas. He sees the tears and He witnesses us as we grow. There is not one trial that has not contributed to the mothers we are. God has placed every circumstance in our lives for a reason, for His glory. God sanctifies us everyday bringing us a little closer to the likeness of His Son. Sure there are days that are messier than others in the human mire we sit in, but God brings something beautiful out of it.

The Potter molds us into the vessels He created us to be slowly and carefully. God stretches us and continues to form us. Every moment contributes to us adding the fine detail He crafts us with. Isaiah 64:8, “But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” He fills us with love that we may pour unto others. Others see, particularly our children, His glory in the love that is given and received.

Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." It is all to easy to lose humility in the day to day ruckus. Between cooking, cleaning, teaching, loving, chauffeuring and every act in between humility can fly out the window before the sunlight streams through the kitchen window. Especially, for those of us mothers with younger, little lambs or monkeys depending on the moment’s happenings, all that Christ asks us to be seems lightyears away.

Philippians 2 can guide us. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

It’s those moments where we have the option of renewing our minds and serving our Lord or caving in and bowing down to the enemy. Love, humility and meekness can be our foundation reminding us that we are mere servants serving God. We are raising our Father’s little servants to become the men and women He created them to be. Our calling is noble, but in no way can we be mothers with out our Heavenly Father, Savior Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Mom, you are never alone.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Book Review: A Read for the People

     I have been utterly delighted to read my complimentary copy of Be the People by Dr. Carol M. Swain, provided by BookSneeze on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing. In Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America's Faith & Promise, Dr. Swain reminds us that the United States was established by the founding fathers as a covenant nation. When our nation was established they held God in high-esteem and protected our freedom to worship our Lord. However, as society has turned the tide toward secularism, God has been left out of the picture with detrimental consequences. Dr. Swain gives a very startling picture of reality in the different spheres of society. She proposes different remedies to cure our ailing nation. 
     Where does that leave us? That is a question that has haunted me as I read Be the People. The  statistics involving abortion, racism and marriage are daunting, leaving me heartbroken. Dr. Swain wants to inform the reader with reality. If so many Americans call themselves Christians why are we in the abysmal state that we are in? Every American, Christian or not, needs to take action and at the very least, vote.
     I was amazed at the blatant lies that our media feeds us and the ideals that birthed some of our nation's social programs. Planned Parenthood was created by Margaret Sanger, whom held eugenic views and wanted to eventually "exterminate the Negro population." It's hard to imagine that a program has been covered so well with a blanket of love and care. How is abortion glossed over as loving and caring? I owe a big thank you to Dr. Swain for enlightening my mind. I am pro-life anyway, but it goes to show how blind our society is.
     Dr. Swain also gives an account of scant beginnings to her place of prominence in political and educational circles. She is black and calls herself so.  The reason I state that is I don't want to offend because I didn't call her African American, which is definitely part of the racism issue and labels that plague our nation. Swain is a refreshing breath of air, to voice her conservative and godly views of a nation in crisis. Racism is part of every citizen's life at one time or another. I have seen both sides of racism first hand. Being white in America can be difficult because I always am afraid that I will say something that isn't kosher in another's world view. I am married to a Mexican American and wonder how my fair-skinned children will fair. Most people see them as white and frankly I am proud of their heritage, even if some people have said their skin is "pasty."
      Dr. Swain speaks truthfully, which Christians are called to do. Some people may get upset, but isn't it time our country gets past labels and starts talking? We're all descended from the first people, so what good does it do to call one white or black, yellow or red? We are all God's created children, of course not everyone believes and not everyone wants to hear the truth.
     I enjoyed Be the People extensively. The subject matter is controversial and rather alarming. Some readers may find themselves disheartened, others may be even a bit angry and others may find themselves sitting at the edge of their seats wondering how they can jump into action. It is when we read a book and are moved to do something, when we can say with certainty, "that was a great book."
     Let me close this review with a quote from Be the People's Dr. Carol M. Swain herself. "With a concerted effort and a plan of action, we can help restore America to its former glory." As 2 Chronicles 7:14 reads, "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book Review: Interesting Apocalyptic Read

      The Seraph Seal, my latest read, was provided courtesy of BookSneeze on behalf of Thomas Nelson Publishing. This book written by author duo, Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner takes the reader on a journey to the year 2048. The chosen one, Paul Binder, a Virginia college professor begins to unlock a mystery that will lead him around the world to lead believers of Christ to a new dawn. As the world has slowly disintegrated to an apocalyptic nightmare people try to make sense of what is going on as Binder unravels the way. Where does love fit in if it is ultimately to prevail?
      What will the world look like if our present world continues on a godless path where power, fame and wealth lead the way? Technology could develop further leaving God on the outskirts of our minds. When we want to control to every iota of our lives God has no place to lead in our hearts. The Seraph Seal poses those questions and thoughts leading me to wonder where are we headed? As a society we see teens killing parents or peers, abuse escalating and general violence becoming more pronounced every day. I think it's the moral "me"-ism philosophy of the day in every realm that is leading us to destruction. When you hear more people questioning God's presence, praying for Christ's return and others predicting the Apocalypse it really seems to convey a message of desperation.
      The symbolism in The Seraph Seal and factual information woven into the story grabbed my attention and appreciation of the artistry at once. This book is rather long at 420 pages, in addition Paul Binder's notes and symbolic interpretation at the end. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and by the first fourth of the book I could hardly set the book down. The end surprised me a bit and left me ambiguous. Although there is some science fiction involved, the scary thing being we're probably not that far from succeeding to such a place in history, I didn't find it too hooked into that genre. It is an interesting combination of science fiction, non-fiction, biblical history and apocalyptic in one intricate tale.
      I always scoff at the idea of science fiction, yet am finding that books such as The Seraph Seal intrigue me and produce thought-provoking dialogues in my head. This book created an awareness in me that I hope has changed me for the better. We all need to become aware of the future of our planet that God so beautifully created. It is sad to say the least, to see the destruction and loss of resources and life. Even if your aren't into science fiction and have an appreciation of biblical prophecy The Seraph Seal would be a fine addition to your library.