BrokenHearted

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It’s the Season of Lights and most people are excited about the holidays. They are running around buying presents, planning parties and they have a feeling of good cheer about them. But what if that isn’t you? What if you are experiencing a broken heart this season? Maybe you are experiencing grief because of loss. It may be the loss of a loved one, a job, your health, a house, or a dream that had been dear to you for many years. 

I have been there a few times. Personal grief and loss has left me experiencing a broken heart at this time of year. While everyone else was enjoying the bright lights, I was living in the shadows. Where could I turn to find someone who could help put the pieces of my heart back together again?

What I needed was a physician, a specialist, one who could heal my heart and bring me hope. In my darkness, I found one who was able to do just that. His name is Jesus, He is the Great Physician and He specializes in healing broken hearts. Take in the words He spoke about Himself more than two thousand years ago: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; HE HAS SENT ME TO HEAL THE BROKENHEARTED, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19.

Unlike other physicians, there is no copay, deductible or waiting time. You can call on Him at any moment and He will be there to help you. He was certainly able to help me. Yes, my heart has scars and you can see where He has mended my heart. It may not look like others who may have a perfectly whole heart, but my heart is healed now and I am able to function. I can experience joy again and look forward to what life has to offer.

Call out to Him. I promise He will be there to help you.

Course Correction

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Several days ago, a friend read something I had written. It was an allegory, and I thought what I had written was very clear. Funny thing was, she didn’t get it at all. In fact, she thought that what I had written had a completely different meaning than what I had intended. We visited, and after I assured her I wasn’t going to the dark side, she suggested that I insert the meaning of the allegory in the story.  I thought about what she had said, shared it with my husband and of course, she was right. I did need to explain what I was writing about. If someone I know and trust did not get it, how could I be assured that everyone reading it would also get it? I needed to make a course correction on that particular piece of work.

Sometimes, we can be a click off. You know, not a lot…just a little. It doesn’t seem like much but if not corrected, we can be way off further on down the line. Did you know that if you are only one degree off on your trajectory from earth to the moon, that by the time you should have reached the moon, you would be 4,169 miles off? You wouldn’t miss your expected destination by a little, you would miss it by a lot. 

It’s hard to listen to correction from someone, but many times, we need that objective voice to speak into our lives. I really appreciate my friend’s opinion on the piece, that’s for sure. What if 4,169 people read it and didn’t get it? I would be so sad that I had given people the wrong idea. 

What about you? Has someone spoken into your life and you are not listening? Are you balking at the thought of making a course correction? It’s not easy to consider another opinion on your work or the direction of your life, but we must do it if we want to stay on our expected trajectory. After all, we don’t want to miss what we are aiming for!

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:6

Collateral Damage

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When our defense department is planning an operation, many areas are evaluated. Among them are cost, number of assets needed, and last but not least, collateral damage. When we hear the words collateral damage spoken by the defense or intelligence communities, we know it is government-speak for casualties. Defense operations are not the only place where collateral damage happens.

This past week, I have heard several people talking about the approaching  holidays. When they share their dread and anxiety about inviting their relatives, they talk about what might happen if certain people come to their gatherings. Some of their relatives are known for sharing gossip, unforgiveness i.e. reminding them of past mistakes, and dropping emotional bombs when the extended family is present. When our relatives engage in this kind of behavior, they create a lot of collateral damage.  Rather than let this kind of behavior continue indefinitely, it might be worthwhile to spend time in prayer and contemplation in order to come up with ways to deal with our problem relatives in a more effective fashion. 

Are there practical ways we can deal with this kind of destructive behavior or do we even need to? First, we must ask ourselves if we need to invite them to the gathering at all? Perhaps if they were uninvited for a few holidays, they might begin to question themselves. When they call and ask why they were not invited, we can politely tell them we are downsizing our celebrations for the time being. If you think it is wise, you could share the reason they were not invited. 

Second, if they must be invited for the sake of family unity, how can we be proactive and prepare for their arrival? We can evaluate what seems to trigger their outbursts and be prepared to de-escalate and redirect the conversation when a hot topic is introduced. We can also evaluate the level of alcohol consumption that will be allowed. It might be wise to have an alcohol-free gathering if alcohol seems to loosen tongues that otherwise might be kept in check.

Third, we need to make sure we are not part of the problem. Do we have firm boundaries set up in our homes so that those invited know they are NOT allowed to criticize others when they are there? Can we stand up to the family bullies and let them know their behavior will not be tolerated? When we are setting up firm boundaries for the first time, it is only fair to let the offending parties know the rules several days in advance so that they can prepare themselves to be on their best behavior. If they then cross the lines, we can remind them of the “new rules” for family gatherings. 

The holidays can be brutal for some, depending on their relatives. We do not have to be victims and at the mercy of our relatives if they are toxic for us and our family.  Remember, our homes are not war zones and they do not have the right to cause collateral damage when they come to visit!

Illusion

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Last week, I was listening to a woman speak to a large audience. She had been dealing with cancer and had gone through chemotherapy. I knew she had lost her hair and was amazed at how good she looked. Her hair was beautiful and her skin was glowing. I thought, “Wow, she looks so healthy!” The next day I was able to look at her up close and realized she had on a wig and pretty heavy makeup. It was all an illusion. Who knows what she really looked like without the wig and the makeup? She certainly was well enough to speak to a large audience but had not progressed to the point that she looked like she had previously.

Have you ever looked at a model and thought, “She is just beautiful.” Later when you see her without her makeup, false eyelashes and wig, she looks pretty much like everyone else. You realize you were looking at an illusion, an image that was being projected. The thing about illusions is that we are looking at them all of the time. When we watch a television show or a movie, we are watching an illusion. The people are not really in a war, hospital or home. They are on a set creating an illusion. The industry has become so good at it that we don’t need our imaginations anymore to help us believe what we are seeing. The illusion looks like reality.

When I was growing up, my father used to say, “Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.” I understood the hearing part but I struggled with the seeing part. Now, I am beginning to understand. Much of what I see is an illusion that is being projected as reality. In the case of television programs and movies, that is a given. However, when I look at people, that is not always a given. I need to look closer at them and attempt to see below the surface. Only then will I have a better understanding of what I am seeing. What about you? How’s your vision? Are you able to see a bit of reality beyond the illusion?

This 24

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I have a friend who went through a pretty rough decade. She lost a son by suicide, her husband after twenty-five years and her godly father passed. I remember calling her when her father was failing and I asked her how she was doing. She said she was hanging on. Then she said two words that have stuck with me…this 24. She explained to me that she only had to live this 24 hours. She held on to her faith through everything she was going through one day at a time. When she was deep in the valleys, she held on to God’s hand moment by moment, hour by hour and day by day.

I took her advice to heart. When I walked through valleys, I reminded myself of her words…this 24. I then tried to push back the angst about tomorrow and the regrets of the past and focus on the one day I had been given. Jesus said it best when he said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

My friend continued to trust God, went back to school and became a Christian Counselor. She was able to help hundreds of people, either directly or indirectly, by sharing what she had learned in college and in her walk with The Father. Someone who has gone through the fire and come out the other side is a living testimony to the power and grace of God. Her experience has proved invaluable not only to me but to all the other people she has shared her wisdom with.

You may never get to know her or talk to her. That is why I am sharing one of the nuggets of wisdom she gave me about twenty years ago. If you’re going through a valley, I hope it speaks to you. Remember, hang on to the Father’s hand…you only have to live this 24!

Gloria

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I first saw Gloria when I was in the second grade. She was a small fragile child with light blonde hair. Her skin was so translucent, you could see the blue veins in her face.  She was partially deaf and had a large hearing aid attached to her head behind her ear. When she spoke, she was hard to understand as she did not enunciate her words like the other children. Because she was so delicate, she did not participate in games during recess. 

I felt bad for Gloria but didn’t know how to express my feelings. One day when I walked into the girls restroom, she was at the sink washing her hands. She shyly smiled at me and I returned the smile. I watched her reach for the paper towels with difficulty. Her plight touched my heart. At six years old, I didn’t know what to say to her. When she left the restroom, I went into the stall and started crying. Here was a delicate child, a special child with lots of problems, that struggled with even the most basic tasks. Gloria was only in my class for a few more weeks. I don’t know if she moved or was placed in a different class because I never saw her again.  I do know that I will never forget her and that I owe her a debt of gratitude for opening a well of compassion inside of me.

When I think about her, I think about her name. Gloria’s name is from the Latin meaning glory or glorious. Some see the glory of God in a star athlete who can run fast or climb a high mountain. When I look at an athlete with those kinds of accomplishments, I see the glory of man. Conversely, when I look at a child with a disability, I see the glory of God. He is the One that gives that special child the strength to struggle through each day and night. He gives the child joy and thankfulness for the simple accomplishments we all take for granted.

Gloria, wherever you are, you changed my life and I will always be grateful to you.

“And the King will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40.

Sonlight Sensitivity

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As a child, I suffered from a condition called “Sunlight Sensitivity.” When I spent too much time in the sun, I would break out in hives. From the time I was about five, I had to take Benedryl every night before bed, even in the winter time. In the summer, I would have to wear a hat and put a special cream on the area where I would break out. When I was a teenager, my allergy doctor read that possibly certain shots would help my condition. He wanted to know if I was willing to try them. I was and so I took the series of shots, and voila! I was able to spend time in the sun without adverse effects.  

As a young adult, I suffered from a different kind of  “Sunlight Sensitivity.” I was raised in a town that got about three hundred days of sunlight a year. Dark cloudy days were at a minimum and there were only about two weeks in the winter that were really dark. I was used to living in an environment where it was really bright outside. When I moved to cities that had a different climate, i.e. were rainy and grey most of the time, I did not do well. I felt “off” and not really myself. When I would return home I felt normal again when I was in the sunlight. Even today, when it is a really dark day outside, I turn on lots of lights in the house to get a certain level of light in my environment.

Now, I suffer from “Sonlight Sensitivity,” a spiritual form of the condition. If I do not spend enough time with the Son in the Light of his Word, I can suffer from symptoms of impatience, intolerance, a lack of vision, and a real absence of joy. In other words, I am not the person I want to be and I am sure I am not that pleasant to be around. I need the Light of the Son to brighten my days and the Wisdom of His Word to guide me so that I don’t make bad decisions and end up on the wrong path. 

What about you? Do you suffer from Sunlight or Sonlight Sensitivity?

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105