How do You Help People During a Time of Personal Tragedy?
I sipped my coffee automatically. My friend sat across from me at the table, her own cup growing cold. I fidgeted with my napkin, folding and unfolding it.
All the while, my friend continued to tell me her story. My mind and heart rolled over and over, lost in her hurt.
How do you handle other people’s pain? I am a fixer and a "do-er". I am on a long difficult journey learning how to handle these situations. My reaction is usually trying to find a solution and give other people the "right" answers so they can move forward. However, I am learning that most the time this is a misguided thing to do.
I love that story in the Bible when the pregnant maidservant, Hagar, runs away and cries in the desert (Genesis 16). This woman was mistreated and full of fear. She had no hope and was consumed by emotional pain. God hears Hagar and sends His angel to care for her. But, though the angel surely knew her whole story, he began by asking, “Where have you come from and where are you going?”
The angel’s first step in ministering to Hagar was to come close to her in her loneliness and give someone who would listen to her story. It was only after she spoke that He gave her the message from God. He didn’t weigh her down with opinions of his own.
I tend to over-talk someone in pain, trying to fix their world with my poor assembly of knowledge. However, the reality of it is that until someone has their heart ministered to, they are often unable to use their head to make decision and plans.
If you want to help someone in pain, even if you don’t agree with all they say, you can let them know that you hear them, that they are heard. That they are loved. That they are not alone.
So, as my friend let out her story, I concentrated on simply listening to her. I didn’t try to fix it or judge the situation, I let her talk. Later there was time to discuss a solution and a course of action, but, while she was still in so much pain, all I could do was listen.
How did you react the last time someone came to you in emotional pain?
I take no credit for the truth I'm about to share with you. But I am thankful for this new revelation. It could not have come at a better time.
Life, I thought, surely couldn't have gotten busier or more stressful. But it did. I've more responsibities at home and on our farm. Micaela has more clinics, doctors, and therapists than ever. Adela comes home with a small mountain of homework each evening from school, and it is the holidays.
One sad evening I sat at my kitchen table and despaired. When would the rest of my dreams be realized? I had hoped to finish the first draft of a new book and successfully establish crop-pruducing greens . Instead I was thankful to have clean dishes and a day where we didn't go to the ER.
I think you reach a point like this in your life and all you feel is confused. You start asking the questions like "How did I get here?" "When is this going to get better?" "What am I supposed to do?" and worst of all, "What am I doing wrong?".
God in His great mercy sent me some answers.
I love listening to Podcasts when I work and the girls are at school. I fell upon one titled RESOLUTION FOR WOMEN // SURPRISINGLY SATISFIED by Priscilla Shirer. As I listened to the wise words I felt great peace settle into me.
The truth is, there is nothing wrong with where I am or where my family is. God has planted us here. If I can honestly confess to God that I am doing my best with the time He has given me while I honor Him, my husband, and my children, then I am to be blessed with contentment. And, with that contentment, comes strength.
If you are feeling the pain of disappointments, the pressure of burdens, or the discomfort of uncertainty, perhaps it is time that you take a step back. I took a step back and saw that, in all truth, my family and I are fine. I am fine. We are honoring God, doing the best we can with His blessings as we grow in His wisdom. If we want peace, it is right there in acceptance that we have been provided for and trust that God has us covered tomorrow.
Contentment is strength. With that strength I have reached out and reclaimed my joy, my love, my hope.
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
How have you found strength in contentment?
Breathe in. Breathe out. Think about where you feel your breath. Concentrate on that part of you body. Breathe.
My mind concentrates on my breath for about ten seconds. Unruly and untamed thoughts bounce back and forth, ping pong balls in my mind. I can’t focus for long.
Recognizing my undisciplined mind is important. Knowing that I have no control over my thoughts, makes me aware of how easy those downward spirals are or those tangents of panic and paranoia.
This year I have found myself on the battleground of my mind. My fears and concerns are real, daily, and many in number. How do I not allow them to control my life?
Micaela’s seizures are life-threatening and while she sleeps. She was recently implanted with a VNS. We have been working with Phoenix Children's Hospital who are hopeful that the VNS will lessen the severity of her seizures. In the meantime, Jovani and I check her hourly during the night.
During the day, Micaela is a bright bundle of energy. She can walk holding on to one of our hands. She jabbers away, daily adding to her vocabulary of single-syllable words. We are potty training which at our rate will most likely take years. Yes. Years.
She is now eating and drinking water. We continue to wean from the G-tube feedings.
God's blessing fill our lives.
Our family life is busy with Adela in second grade and Micaela going to Kindergarten. The farm continues to grow and our responsibilities grow with it.
On paper, it is easy to see the blessings. However, a few months ago, it was growing harder to live with joy.
I don’t live in the present anymore. A lot of us don’t. We live in a memory of the past or the fear of the future. We work out problems or dwell on issues. We walk through 90% of life outside of the here and now. Then we are stressed and full of fear.
For the first time in several months I feel hopeful and awake. I have been given the possibility of learning to live in the moment, enjoy it even, instead of constantly juggling a heavy load of what-if’s and if-only’s.
I’ll share more about this next week, but, if anything I’ve shared has struck a cord with you, I want you to take a moment to look up “Mindfulness.” It is incredible how many health benefits are connected to practices that have been around for thousands of years.
God is in the here and now. He wants us to release the past and the future and take our seat in front of His presence in this very moment.
I’m just having to re-learn how to get there.
The Christmas Season can be full of hustle and bustle. Do you find yourself having a difficult time enjoying the holidays?
How do You Harness the Power of Community When You Are a Farming Stay-at-Home Mom?
from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
There are coutless ways to spend time with others in the Body of Christ. Can you share more in the comments below?
How I've Been Blessed By the People Who Come Alongside Me as I Parent.
I glanced at the news and didn’t know whether to wrinkle my nose or bury my head in my hands. I know it has been said, but I will say it again, “What is this world coming to?”
And, “What can I do?”
The truth is, a lot of our cultural problems could be solved with good parenting, but, if the mom’s of today are anything like me, they are living in survival mode. They make decisions day to day, moment by moment, with full heads, bruised hearts, and exhausted bodies. We need help.
I think about the amazing women who have become “mothers” to me. Each have their own sweet styles of coming into my life and helping me. If you are a woman (or a man) in the more mature generation and feel drawn to helping young parents cope, I need to give you two very happy thumbs up.
I have found myself incredibly blessed by the advice and love of others as I parent. Especially in these ways:
If you want to change the world, change the life a mother or father. Come along side their journey as they do God’s precious work. We don’t need someone to do it for us, we need someone supporting our hearts and sanity as we move forward. And, we need the maturity, wisdom, and life perspective of that older generation to bring us out of survival mode and into joy in the journey.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25, NIV
Lessons I Learned Watching My Eldest Care for Her Little Sister
I stepped into my office and was assaulted by a disasterous collection of stickers, notecards, glue sticks, and glitter strewn across the large white craft table. I have no idea how my seven-year old had managed to make such a mess in the ten minutes left before the bus came.
She grinned and held up her creation. "Look, Mom, I made Micaela notecards so I can teach her more words."
My heart melted. The cards were gaudy with their flamboyant lettering. She proudly flipped through them and read the words.
Adela and Micaela have such an interesting relationship. Like all siblings, they fight and bicker, but Adela's heart is softened toward the difficult journey her sister has. She keeps her chin up even when Jovani and I are gone for days with Micaela for hospital stays and specialists. She understands the extra time Micaela demands as we help her eat, dress, potty, and keep her glasses on. As Adela matures, I see her stepping up more and more to help her sister progress.
Have you ever stopped and considered the older sisters in your life? We have ones we are raised with and others that God placed along side us. Our older sisters encourage us, cheer us on, and are there for laughter and tears.
One of my favorite sister memories was when I snuck into my sister's drawer and grabbed the intense, round, bristly brush she had told me not to touch. Exultant, I wrapped a chunk of hair around the brush and yanked, expecting a ringlet to emerge. Instead, the brush laid claim to my hair in a terrible impossible tangle. My sister came in. I ran, sobbing to a corner to hide my disaster. My sister followed, and without yelling, sat on the floor and began the slow process of detaching my hair from her brush. I felt unjudged. I felt loved. Many years later I shared that memory with her and she told me that she had done the same thing when she was little, so when I tangled myself up, it was easy to be kind.
We should be ever thankful that the sisters around us who know what we have been through and emphatically share our pain. May we also never miss the opportunity to help our little sisters get untangled.
What a blessing Micaela and Adela have in each other, one that will continue to bless them the rest of their lives.
Who are the God-given sisters, young and old, in your life?
How a Mother Feels When She No Longer Spends All Day Every Day with Her Child
My eyes traveled down the hall and settled on the door of Micaela's classroom. It was hard to keep my feet from picking up into a trot. "No running in the halls"... even for mommies.
I reached the door sporting a happy collection of kindergarten decorations and turned the knob. Micaela was waiting for me inside, her EA helping her cut out a pair of paper shoes for her paper person.
I took a seat at the child-size table, my knees coming up to my chest in the tiny chairs. Fascinated, I watched her pudgy fingers work the sissors up and down with the EA's guidance. Her little pink lips made a perfect "o" as she concentrated on her work.
My arms ached to hold her, but my mind and heart filled with a hunger I had never considered. I wanted to watch her like a biologist sitting before a beehive or astronomer measuring stars.
I wanted to know her.
I was hungry to know her.
Micaela has a limited vocabulary. Adela, as a kindergartener, would come home and tell me about the games she played at recess and complain about her homework. Learning about Micaela is a constant challenge. How I long to know what is going on in her sweet head.
However, I admit that I feel the same about Adela. I love having someone stop me and tell me what my girls did that day in school or have a friend recount a funny thing they said. I want to know if they ate their lunch and if it tasted good. I want to know when they were sad and what made them laugh.
I want to know everything. It is a hunger that makes me catch my breath.
Did God breathe this into me? A distant echo of what He feels about me? Of how He longs to be invited into to every intimate corner of my world? Or, is it an invitation to long for knowledge of our Abba Father the way we long to know the constantly progressing character of our loved ones?
Eventually, the shoes were cut out and my girl was handed back to my care. The EA let me know the answers to some of the mysteries: what she ate, what she learned, what made her angry, and how much she smiled. But, the challenge to know my girls continues.
I am so thankful for family dinners and bedtime prayers. They are the moments in daily life when I get to peek inside their world. I like to believe that my Heavenly Father thinks about me the same way, that He gobbles up our every conversation. That He anxiously awaits the moments that I come to Him, to be held inside His arms.
It is such a precious kind of hunger.
Are you eager to know and understand your loved ones better? How do you see this mirrored in your relationship with God?
Recovering Before Rushing into the Next Season
I watched the bus pull away. I waved frantically, trying to catch Adela or Micaela's eyes, but they were already busy with friends. Then they were gone. The farm yard was full of the sound of sheep. The wind tugged strands of my messy bun out.
Alarm filled my heart.
I was alone. Unencumbered by the needs of little souls. What if I didn't honor this new season? What if I let the unfilled hours fall waywardly to the ground instead of doing something with them? And that "something", what is it? What does God want of me? What does my family most need from me? How do I strategically fill the hours in just the right way?
I turned around and whirled into action. I attacked the house and farm chores, pushing my anxiety aside. That still small voice whispered but I brushed it away. Later. I thought. Later.
At lunch I pulled out my journal and scanned some notes. My eyes fell upon an entry from a few days ago when I had been reading a book by Ruth Graham. In the book she spoke about how important it is that we utilize seasons of transition because these seasons are rare and they often are the times that God speaks to us about a direction He wants us to go.
But, the key to transitions is that you have to give yourself over to the quiet. You have to give it to God. If you try to cram every second with busyness, you will miss out on the blessing of building a closer relationship with God.
I pushed the journal back and put my head in my hands, breathing in and out. How I have longed for the quiet. My soul feels like the soil beneath my geranium, dry and cracking. Like my brave little geranium, I am still upright, but not up for extending my branches. I want to draw myself in, retaining whatever is left to sustain me. My geranium would never turn down a nice cool drink from the tap water. Why would I turn down a rare season in which I can refresh my walk with God and settle my roots deeper in His truths?
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been faced with a new season with more space and quiet? Did you rush to fill the empty spaces with more work, tasks, or responsibilities? In her book, Ruth Graham, filled her space with busyness. She made choices that ended up having devastating consequences. She encouraged the reader to never give up an opportunity to seek God during a time of transition.
I am no longer a mother of preschoolers. I am a mother with two girls in school. I thought this day would never come. My over-achieving mind wants to jump into a million projects, but my exhausted heart craves rest.
I stop and finally listen to that still small voice. I relax the grip I have on my life and give it over to God.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
What would prevent you from allowing time for study, reflection, prayer, and quiet in a season of transition?
A New Home and New Dreams
My boots made hollow thumps as I stepped into the empty rooms. The bare floors and empty walls held a thousand dreams and promises of memories. I reached out and touched the smooth gloss of yellow paint. My nose filled with the scents of paint, vinyl, and hard work. My stomach gave an anxious flutter. A new chapter in life of my family beckoned.
I just needed to pack.
Moving is an incredible process. You weed through your life, deciding what will go and what will be sent away from your home. There will be bags of forgotten toys, ill-fitting clothes, and ratty furniture that won't make the cut. But, other items will be treasured and put in places of honor.
I love this process. I like cleaning out cupboards, filling boxes, and unpacking everything. As I organize my little kingdom, the world makes more sense.
I wonder how you do this for your soul.
Recently I watched the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. In the series, Ms. Kondo goes to homes and has the families put things in piles, weeding out what will go and what will stay. Then, everything that stays gets folded, stacked, put away neatly. Afterwards, the family lives with more breathing room, space, and clarity.
Right now my heart and mind are so cluttered I find it difficult to walk straight. I wish I could throw all the priorities, memories, responsibilities, longings, and dreams into the middle of my living room floor. I would step back, hold things in my paint-smeared hands, and gently put many in the trash. Others I might pack away for a different season. I would make room for the vitality of my family and remove the guilt I feel and I see certain projects or hopes gathering dust on a cluttered shelf.
Yes, a good soul-cleaning sounds lovely.
Someday soon, when I have unpacked the boxes, I will put on those cleaning gloves, roll up my sleeves, and make space for God's light to expand into the dusty spaces of my life.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
What is your favorite part of moving? What do you learn about yourself in the process?
Something to Consider the Next Time You Snap
I never felt more human than I did right then while my six-year old aped-back my own discipline tactic. We had scuffled over her homework. She was whining, complaining, and dragging out the process. Supper needed to happen soon. I kept looking at the clock and the tension built. Then snapped.
She had only complained that her pencil wasn’t sharp enough, but she might as well have committed an act of terror. The forceful words were out of my mouth and I couldn’t take them back.
Adela’s face crumpled. She said, “That was very unkind, Mommy.” (Yeah, that’s what I usually say to her.)
I apologized. Tears continued to stream down her face. “I think you need timeout, Mommy.”
I was caught in a million memories. I wanted to simply repeat what I heard growing up, that I was the adult. That I was right. That she shouldn’t argue. She was wrong.
But, she wasn’t. She was an exhausted six-year old trying to get through forty-five minutes of homework while her four-year old sister enjoyed TV. She was frustrated. So was I. But I had taken my frustration to the next level. I did need time out. I need to calm down, to reconnect with God, to breathe.
I don’t do this enough. I don’t give myself space or a margin for error. I try to handle everything and be on the go all the time.
I need more timeouts. I’d like to say that I can get through the girls’ wakeful hours and refill my soul when they are asleep, but I just can’t. Perhaps my soul "gas-mileage" has decreased with all the extra needs of my family. However, if my soul was a vehicle, I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere if I was out of fuel.
We all need balance between our times of action and our moments of reflection. I am thankful for Adela’s compassion to tell me to take some time away from the situation. I pray that I never ignore God’s reminders to take time with Him.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
Have you ever paid attention to the moments when you are spiritually exhausted? Have you learned to go to God before you snap?
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"...and God was already there with me."