cross-posted from my Thriving in Grace blog
Have you ever been in a meeting where the person ended his talk with asking ‘Are there any questions?’ Come on, raise your hands. We’ve all been there. This can happen in any situation–at work, school, church, or in the community. The speaker wants to know if anyone has any questions he can answer.
So, what happens after this particular question is asked? People might look like a deer caught in headlights. They stumble over their words. Some people try to think of a question that doesn’t make them sound confrontational, or maybe they do want to be confrontational to get the answers they want. 🙂 There’s no way to know the mindset of the people in the room.
Sometimes, the questions asked are not expected, and the speaker has to scramble for an answer. This happened to me recently. I was at a meeting about the resignation of a person. The first two people who raised their hands didn’t really have questions to ask. They just wanted to compliment the speaker and tell him how much his tenure had meant to them.
Then, I thought of my question. Since his resignation was going to affect my son, I asked it. He didn’t know how to answer and had to come up with something off the cuff. The question was fairly innocuous, but I was surprised that no one would have thought a parent of a child in the group would have the question I had.
But, then, my mind turned to wondering just like it does before I have a writing idea whether it be for this blog or something else. What about the hard questions? Why do people want to hurt each other? Why do people want to steal? Why do people try to conceal the bad things they’ve done? What makes a person want to do bad things? We can come up with pat answers to these questions. We can even say it’s because of “sin nature” and think we’re done with it.
What about the harder questions though? Why did my child have to die? Why did the tornado or hurricane destroy my house? How come I have cancer? Why did I lose my job? Why does it seem like I’m the only one who struggles? Why is life so hard?
And then there are those questions that come with being a believer. Why does it seem like God has forgotten me? Why are people looking at me? I thought the church welcomed everyone. Why is it wrong for people to want to create? How is it wrong to ask questions about the budget? Why do people seem to judge more than they love? Why can’t we embrace our differences? What kind of songs should we sing in church? How many times should we have communion in a month? Do I trust God for His provision? There are many more questions one could ask as a believer.
I know I’ve peppered this post with a lot of questions (that goes with the title and all, 😉 ). They are questions I can’t answer, and I don’t think a lot of you have answers either. I don’t believe we will know the answer to most of them until we’re with our Lord and Savior. So, what happens in the meantime while we are living in the tension between this world and the next? I’m glad you asked. 🙂 For me, I think it will be a continual work in progress. I will pray to God for faith, patience, and strength. I pray that I will lean into Him for His comfort when I run into these unanswerable questions. And I pray that I will show Jesus’ love in whatever situation I am in and be the agent of change He wants me to be. So grateful that my Lord and Savior is fine with me asking any question I want to, even the hard ones!
Praying God’s blessings on you all today!
Reposted from my Thriving in Grace blog
Saw a challenge earlier and realized I could use it as a writing warm-up time. So, for the next thirty days, I will be completing Jeff Goins’ challenge to “practice in public” on this blog. It will be interesting to see what topics I can come up with.
For the past week, I’ve been using journaling prompts from bibleconnection.com as my topics. Today is the third prompt. I learned a great deal from the first two prompts, and I don’t expect anything less from the third one.
First, the prompt. “Beginnings can be exciting! What new chapter in your life are you about to begin? What have you recently started that you are excited about? What are you hopes for the future? Tell God about it—he wants to be involved in your life.”
The topic is new beginnings. Coincidence? I don’t think so. God has been leading me on a journey to trust Him and what He has given me as gifts. My gifts aren’t necessarily what other people think they are and not necessarily meant to be shared in the church.
So, what about that first question? What new chapter am I about to begin? The chapter of being an empty nester. My younger son is graduating from high school this spring. Though he will be staying at home for college, my role with him will change. Homeschooling will be done, and he will be venturing out to prepare for what he wants to do in life. He’s ready just like his brother was two and a half years ago when he graduated from high school. By the time this school year ends, I will have homeschooled them for 12 years. I was 40 when I began and will be 52 when I finish. That’s a lot of life. I am excited about the possibilities, but a little nervous too. I have poured myself into my kids for the last 12 years. I’ve lived in 6 different places and come back to my faith. I’ve lost family members and experienced illness and financial difficulties.
But, I know the next years will be just as amazing. I will have more time to write and maybe get something off the ground with my writing. I will have time to get in better shape. And I will have more time to either volunteer or get a job. My role with my kids will change, but it will be a good change I am looking forward to–relating with them as adults. I am most looking forward to growing in my faith in God. With God by my side, anything is possible, and I know the things I’ve mentioned will be more possible.
Answering the second question has more profound implications. I am most excited about my recent writing and where it is bringing me in my faith. The things I consider to be weaknesses are the things God wants me to focus on. Why weaknesses, I ask? Shouldn’t I be focusing on my strengths? That seems to be more logical. But, if I am transparent about my weaknesses, God has more of a chance to be seen in my life. This is shown in the first part of 2 Corinthians 12:9. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” Paul is speaking here, and I’m glad we have the second part of what he said. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” We don’t generally boast about weaknesses in the church. In fact, we are reticent to bring up any part of ourselves which may be considered badly. That’s not what God wants though. God wants us to be as authentic within our community as He does when we are talking to Him alone.
So now, I have some knowledge of the steps God wants me to take. He wants me to be authentic and transparent. He wants me to show my weaknesses without being self-conscious. And He wants me to be confident in His love. For it is only in His love that my hopes for the future can be realized. They are all intertwined in order to show God’s glory. And that is the best hope of all!
Praying God’s blessings on you all today!
Cross-posted from my Thriving in Grace blog:
I looked at the date when I was on Facebook earlier. Not only is today the birthday of a very good friend, it is also the week before Halloween. This started me thinking about the holidays and what they have usually meant for me. I almost sighed audibly. Although my kids aren’t small anymore, I seem to do the same amount of running around in search of the perfect holiday. It is tiring, and there have been years when I’ve been exhausted at the end of December wondering where the time had gone. So naturally, I decided to turn this into a blog post. 🙂 These are the first sentences I wrote in my journal earlier. “Am I really looking forward to this year’s holiday season. I’m not sure at this point. For the last couple of years, I’ve felt like I’ve been slogging through the holidays. Not enough money, not enough time, running around to make sure everything gets done. I don’t want to be like that this year.”
Since I had some time to think about it, these are the thoughts I came up with. During the holidays, I want to be more intentional about my gratitude, about my serving, and about my reflection. It’s not just running around from place to place. It’s treating the whole time as an experience, one I might never have again. And if it’s something I might never have again, shouldn’t I live more in the moment? More in the gratitude. More in the serving. More in the reflection. More in the saying. More in the…playing. Yes, I said it–playing. I’ve heard it said many times that experiencing the holidays through the eyes of a child is the best way to get adults to slow down. I don’t have small children, but I am acquainted with several. In fact, I share a birthday with one of them which is also during this season. I’m looking forward to making memories with them during the next couple of months.
Another way I’m going to be more intentional about the holidays is through my writing. For those of you who don’t know, November is a month where many writers begin and hope to finish at least 50,000 words of a novel. It’s called National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short. It’s been several years since I’ve participated, but this year, this year I need to write the words down, to get this idea out of my head and onto the screen. Writing is how I figure out my world, and the times when I sit down and write are the times I experience the most clarity about the world around me. So, writing during the first part of this holiday will be my second way of being intentional. Now, would I like to get to 50,000 words and finish? Sure, I would. But this year, I want the journey to be about the words and about the story. In other words, to live in the experience while it is happening.
Finally, and most importantly, I will focus on the words of my Lord and Savior as I slow down and really think about what this time of year means to me. It’s not the gifts. It’s not the parties. It’s not even the Christmas tree. I’ve had holiday seasons where there has been plenty of money, and seasons where money has been scarce. The seasons that have been the best though are the seasons I have focused on God–having gratitude for what He has given me and serving where He calls me to serve. Psalm 100 brings all this to mind and more. I leave you with this psalm as you seek your own ways to be more intentional during this holiday season.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Have a great day!
It’s been a long time since I’ve written in this blog. So long, in fact, that I thought people had forgotten about it. But people are still finding this blog and following it which has been pretty amazing in and of itself. This has brought me to a decision. I’m going to start cross-posting the posts I write for my Thriving in Grace blog, https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/following-jesus/, in this space to attempt to revive this blog. And come up with some original material for you all to enjoy too.
I’ve never made a secret in this blog of being a Christian, and that is where today’s topic comes from. Hope and redemption–two words that are used often in Christian circles. I never considered though that there might be a distance between them until the other day.
First, to gain some clarity, let’s define each of these words. Hope is to cherish a desire with anticipation or to have trust and reliance while redemption is the act or process or an instance of redeeming. Those of you who are Christians might have also heard of redemption being spoken of as the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.
So, hope is a desire and redemption is action. Both are spoken of in Scripture. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Romans 3:24 says, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (the action Jesus took by dying on the cross for us)
Both of these are necessary for the Christian faith. If there is hope without redemption, no change is ever made, and we won’t experience God’s love in this world. If there is redemption without hope, we are just doing good deeds without knowing the why behind them. Therefore, it is possible for a distance to develop between these words like I spoke of earlier.
I’ve experienced this distance myself in recent weeks, and I wasn’t sure why. A distance between me and my Lord and Savior. Human beings do a good job of hiding their inner selves from the people around them. We can even hide the deepest part of our souls from ourselves. Of course, they’re not hidden from God, but he can’t start to help us or start the healing process until we are willing to let them bubble up to the surface. That takes us being willing to ask ourselves the hard questions or having trusted people in our lives who are willing to ask us the hard questions. I had one of those moments last week, and once he asked the question, and I answered, I felt the layers of distance between hope and redemption dissolving through the tears. It was not something I had considered, but it was something which was totally correct. It was rejection and insecurity from my past I had not dealt with.
Oh, I thought I had, and maybe to a certain extent, I had. But, I was under a mistaken impression which God corrected in those moments in that office and in the moments for the rest of that day. What was that impression, you ask? I thought I could deal with and then put rejection and insecurity in the back of my heart, and it would stay there, never to come out again. It took me awhile, but with God’s help and my friend’s help, I finally figured out life doesn’t work that way.
That was what brought me back to the distance between hope and redemption. I can’t work on my issues until I’m willing to take action and bring closure to the distance. God wants me to take my fear of rejection and my insecurity to him each and every day when I wake up. This will not be something I will ever “get over”. I will leave these fears at His feet and pick up the truth of who He is and who I am in His Kingdom as I live this crazy messed-up life of mine. The distance between hope and redemption disappears as I know without a doubt I am God’s daughter, and nothing will ever change that!
God’s blessings on you all today!
This morning I’m going to let the words flow and see where they take me. I’m overwhelmed, overwhelmed with sorrow, and I don’t understand why. No, I understand why. It’s depression in its finest form. I’ve been told I do well with writing down things in order to understand them so that’s what I’m going to attempt by giving you a glimpse into my life with depression.
First, let me reassure you I am under the care of a doctor and am on medication to help me cope with this disorder, Sometimes though, it gets the best of me like it has for the past few days. I feel, today, like I have ants running around in my head. They’re fire ants so each time they bite I want to stop and scratch, but because they’re inside my head, I can’t. So, each nibble hurts and doesn’t stop hurting. It’s hard to explain the feeling to someone who has never experienced it, but this is the pain that’s been in my head for the last few days. One side of me is saying I can’t cope with this by myself, and the other is saying that being by myself is the way to go. So, I have a war going on inside of my head–not the way I wanted to start my day if I was being honest.
I do know God is with me. I know He is holding me and won’t let go. I have a strong faith that I’m not renouncing or denying just because I struggle with depression. Some Christians would say that my faith couldn’t be strong if I’m admitting to this, but to them I would say, ‘Talk to me after you’ve climbed out of the pit as many times as I have’.
No, what I’m fighting is feeling like I need to be by myself with no other human beings around. Feeling like no one wants to bother with or understand my struggle so why should I bother. Yes, that’s the battle. I feel alone so I think I need to be alone. What makes this more difficult is my status as an introvert. Being alone feels like a present to me even when I shouldn’t be alone, and I have to fight extra hard to push myself out into the world.
Another thing that makes my battle with depression more difficult is feeling like I can’t talk about it. People want to try to fix me when I talk about what’s going on inside my head like they would fix someone with a physical illness. It doesn’t work that way with a mental illness though. Yes, there are medicines which I take. For me though, depression stays at the edge of my brain, even when I’m in a good place, watching, seeking, wanting to devour the things in my life that are good. When I’m feeling at my worst, it accomplishes all it has set out to do. What I need from others when I’m in this place is a chance to talk, cry, or pray, but I don’t feel like I can ask because I suffer from depression and not a physical illness.
So, this is my battle today–wanting to isolate myself from the world. Sometimes I win these battles quickly and am able to go into the world with a renewed heart. Sometimes though I have to crawl into bed and wait for a new day to come so I can fight again.
I hope this has given you a glimpse into the world of someone who fights depression. Thanks for reading!
Today is the last day, the last day of homeschool for 2015-16. You might wonder why homeschool educators mark last days and first days in our homeschools especially since we’ll probably end up doing some work over the summer. (which the flexibility of homeschooling allows us to do) The answer is simple, really. It allows us to mark endings and beginnings. We take stock and see how much improvement there has been from the first day until the last day. And not just for one kind of growth either. We mark academic, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. All of those kinds of growth are important to us.
And, for my younger son, who is the only student I’m still homeschooling, there has been plenty of growth this year. Some of the growth has been the usual growth you would expect from a sixteen-year-old. Physical growth and growth in academic ability. As his mother and his teacher, I am proud of all the strides he has made.
I am most proud though of the strides he has made in other areas. I am proud of how he has learned to navigate life without his older brother who started college this year. I am proud of the kindness and love he displays to other people. I am proud of his willingness to help with what needs to be done even if it’s something he’s not sure he can do. I am proud of how he stuck with a difficult situation and difficult people this year even though it wasn’t pleasant for him or pleasant for me to watch. And I am especially proud of how he has let his Lord and Savior direct all his efforts. I’m looking forward to a great summer with him and his older brother. But, first, the final call for this school year. #honorGodaboveallelse #Godhasblessedus #GreatjobJohn #sophomoreyearisover #herecomesajunior #soproudofmyyoungman #character
Hope everyone has a great day!
This might not seem to be a good topic for a writing blog, but bear with me for a minute. All of us have fears. Some of them are more extreme than others and more noticeable, and some of them are private and in our own hearts. We make fun of some fears like when people play pranks on other people by throwing a fake snake or placing a fake spider in the way of people who are afraid of the real thing. It’s not a nice thing to do, and I try to respect others who have those kind of fears because I want to be respected myself when I give voice to any of my fears.
One might ask why it is so hard to give voice to a fear. I would think one of the reasons would be the one I just mentioned. We do not want others to make fun of our fear. It’s very hard to have a fear and not be taken seriously. Another reason might be because we all have a hard time letting down our shields. We have a persona we show to the world, and if we admit to a weakness like having a particular fear, holes are made in that persona, and the real person is exposed. Most people don’t want their real selves exposed, and if they expose them at all, it’s to a very select group of people. And finally, there is a possibility that if we give voice to our fears, they might come true. For some people, that would be the scariest thing of all.
But, if we can voice or write down our fears, it might take us one step towards lessening them or even eliminating them. For me, as a writer and as a woman of faith, this can happen in one of three ways. First, I can use the particular fear as a fear for a character in a story I am writing. By writing about that fear, I can take the character through mastering it and not letting it impact their life. This can helpful as a cheap form of therapy. Second, I can write about the fears as myself and as I’m experiencing them. This can be a way of giving voice to the deepest parts of me and can help with what I’m most afraid of. Third, and somewhat related to the second, I can pray, pray with my voice and write down my prayers in my journal. God wants to hear about all the details in our lives including the things we don’t want to admit even to ourselves. 1 John 4:18-19 says, “There is no fear in love; instead perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because He first loved us.” I can’t add anything else to that so I won’t.
Have a great day everyone!