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The Beauty of Pain: It Turns Us to Love

quote-god-did-not-rescue-me-out-of-the-pain-he-rescued-me-through-the-pain-tullian-tchividjian-128-47-56
I listened to a play list of my favorite songs today.  Each song represented a season in my life. Some brought memories of reclaimed joy while others resonated with lyrics that held my emotions hostage to some of my deepest moments of pain.

Letting go of what no longer supports a healthy lifestyle or relationship can be painful. It may be a failed marriage, death of someone deeply loved, feelings of emotional abandonment or quitting an addiction. There are a plethora of reasons and life events that torment our body, soul and mind.

When we fail to seek the divine consult of God and pursue our own desires, there will be consequences. Make no mistake, our heavenly Father loves us deeply, but the outcome of our success requires obedience to HIS will and planned purpose for our life.

If you are like me, you will screw up and it will be a hot mess. But, there is beauty to be found in our pain. How can that be?

God stands ready at any given time to turn our pain into HIS love and take our ashes and replace them with garments of joy. Isn’t that so like God?

And so, as tears filled my eyes in remembrance of the painful times in my life, I remembered that I am a child of an Almighty God who will forever point my pain in the direction of HIS love. It is my heartache coupled with HIS unconditional love that has shaped me into the person I am today.

We all experience physical, emotional pain and challenges of life. The beauty behind that pain is Jesus. He can transform it into joy and love if we allow Him to actively engage in our heartbreaks, hurts, losses and grief.

There is beauty in pain when we give it all to Jesus! It brings to mind the lyrics of an Evie song:

Are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows?
Are you tired of spinning round and round?
Wrap up all the shattered dreams of your life
And at the feet of Jesus lay them down
(Chorus)
give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus
Shattered dreams, wounded hearts, broken toys,
Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus
And He will turn your sorrow’s into joy

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The TRUE Meaning of Pay It Forward

Picture1She reached out to embrace me with a heartfelt hug. As the softness of her cheek brushed against mine, I leaned in and gently kissed it. As I did, the elderly woman whispered in my ear, “I can’t thank you enough, this means so much to me. I’ve really needed help and didn’t know who to call or ask.”

I turned to watch my teenage grandson as he worked to clean, sort and organize Sarah’s kitchen pantry. Sarah has Parkinson’s and her hands tremble and shake uncontrolably. Some days are better than others, but this once vibrant member of our community now has limited use of her hands.

Sarah rarely complains about her condition. Things as simple as changing light bulbs, vacuuming the inside of her car and trimming back flower beds are no longer things she can do without help.  She had asked if I knew of a teen in our community that could help with chores. Sarah was willing to pay, but with limited funds, she couldn’t afford to hire a professional service.

I own a cleaning company and take care of Sarah’s house cleaning needs, but there are things not included as part of my business services so I asked my grandson if he wanted the opportunity to work.  It’s is a win-win situation. My grandson needs the cash and Sarah needs a trustworthy, affordable worker.

Pay It Forward endeavors and missions aren’t always glamorous and sometimes require more effort on our part than donating a bag of clothes or buying a cup of coffee for the person ahead of us in line. There are times when it means we must get our hands dirty or donate time we really don’t have. In the case of my grandson, it was cleaning up mouse droppings, crusted bird feeders and disposing of expired food product in a pantry.

It could be delivering a home cooked meal to someone who is home-bound, offering carpool services to a parent that can’t get kids to an event because of their work schedule or providing  your professional services or labor without charge.

In whatever way you choose to Pay It Forward let it be done  out of love, compassion and with a servant’s heart. Let it be done without a contrived effort to validate your own self-worth or to showcase your personal acts of goodness to others.

Benjamin Franklin loaned a man in need some money one time and he said,

“I do not pretend to give such a deed. I only lend it to you. When you meet with another honest man in similar distress as you, you must pay me by lending this sum to him.”

Although my grandson is getting paid to work, there may come a day when he is unable to do things for himself.  Should that happen, I hope he pays it forward and hires a vibrant, robust teen like himself who needs to earn spending money.

Passing on good deeds may seem like a novel, modern idea, but it is as old as the work God is doing with humanity. He has given us life and everything else we need to achieve our potential—eternal life in the family of God. Let’s take the good things God has done for us and do our part to embrace the TRUE meaning of pay it forward by being representatives of His never ending grace.

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Let Patience Prevail

patienceWhat a joy to spend Thanksgiving weekend with my Mama. I love her so much, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Back in the day, mom and I could tangle like no others. Looking back, we realize that so much of what we disliked about each other was a mirror image of ourselves.

Yesterday, I helped her purchase and set-up a new iPad, make holiday wreaths and spend time with the grandkids. I was taken aback when she turned to me and said, “Denise, you are so patient. “ Patience has never been one of my virtues (at least through my eyes). All I could say was, “Thank you”.

Mom’s comment prompted me to look up the Biblical definition of patience, mostly because, as a pastor’s daughter, God considers patience a virtue. OMG, had I actually acquired a virtue in this crazy life filled with so many failures, disappointments and setbacks?

What is virtue?

I define it as a desirable moral quality that makes the best of any difficult or unsatisfactory situation; from that pothole in the road that never seems to get fixed, to the child crying on your flight to wherever. The Bible defines it as conformity of life and conduct with the principles of morality or simply stated: moral excellence.

Where does patience fit into the mix?

Good question.

  • I believe our ability to be patience is often based upon the person (or persons) with whom we must be patient.
  • That family member or work associate that annoys us just might be God’s gift to build our patience.
  • We grow morally (in virtue) through the daily grind of life. We can either retard or increase our virtue based on our response to daily difficulties and life experiences.

What stunts our growth?

A bitter and resentful spirit can certainly hinder our moral growth; as does anger. An unwillingness to see another person’s perspective also exacerbates our level of impatience, as does the inability to have an empathetic understanding of other’s weaknesses.

The old saying you must walk a mile in someone’s shoes to understand what they are going through is true even today.

So, what’s the goal?

Hopefully, it is a desire to be mindful of how God is at work in the details of our daily life, even in the tiny annoyances we encounter (like the crying baby on the plane). I am convinced Jesus endured nuisance and annoyance from his disciples on numerous occasions, but His patience was remarkable. He knew what it was like to walk around in their shoes.

As Christians, every aspect of our life should be to profile Jesus. Our purpose is to bring us into closer conformity of His image; to see people, situations and life’s challenges through His eyes. At the end of the day, our goal is to look upward and rest in content that God is working all things for His good and purpose in our life.

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
Philippians 2:13

TODAY’S PRAYER:

Lord, some of Your people are hard to love. They can be moody, mean, difficult, and impossible to understand. They blame me for things I didn’t do and have expectations I can’t meet. Sometimes I wish You hadn’t put them in my life.

I need You to show me how much You love them. Reveal what You see under the surface, where they’re hurting, and tell me how to make a difference. Thank you for giving me your patience to be kind and compassionate when I don’t have my own and for loving me when I’m the one who’s difficult in someone else’s life.

 

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Are You a Taker or Giver?

I do plefbe106998c36bce9aa90503259d6015a--amen-so-truenty of community work. Trust me when I say that those who give the most are the least financially equipped. And no, I’m not talking about me; however, if any of you feel compelled to pay off my mortgage, it would be greatly appreciated.

The individuals and families I reference are those you may least expect.  Consider this comment recently shared with me:

“We continually give, because that’s what we do and who we are. Yet, in the giving of our time and non-monetary donations to local events, we have found ourselves in situations where a family member had to gift us money for groceries. We have our kids pack lunches to save on the $3 per child lunch fee, but even then, we fall short and not because we are extravagant.”

Linden Tribe this is an ongoing issue in our community.

There are takers and there are givers. We tend to pay attention to the takers because they have the louder voice; but what about those who don’t voice their need?

Sure, maybe they should, but it’s not who they are; and more likely, it’s not who their parents were either. Asking for a hand-out is difficult. These are families who are not afraid to work. For most, they are college-educated or skilled trade people who just can’t keep up with family expenses.

The list includes single moms/dads living on one pay check, individuals who have fallen on hard times due to health issues. Then there is the average household paying for multiple children in school sports, kids who outgrow clothes and shoes in a matter of months and still have to pay to get into community sporting events. Yes, I know, there are season passes, but really? How much do you save and why isn’t that part of the tax levied by the school district? Just sayin’!

My point

Take it for what it’s worth. The people I reference don’t qualify for food stamps, Obama Care (for what that is worth) or free school lunches. Oddly enough, these are the individuals who are first to volunteer to coach a community sports team or donate their resources to a charitable event.

They see their community as a working mission field and to not serve would be a dishonor.

Food for thought

What are you doing to serve your community? Are you sucking the live out of it and giving back nothing? Then shame on you! Mount your giddy-up horse and find ways to serve, donate, and share the blessings you have been gifted.

I can give you a list of people in our community who would greatly benefit from a grocery store gift certificate.

How are you Paying It Forward to the community where you live?

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The Catty Shack Club

cattyAre you a member? You might be and don’t even know it.

I’m not talking golf (caddy) here; I’m talking about running your mouth and being catty behind the scenes while on the surface you give all appearances of being the faithful friend, family member or co-worker. Yes, I’m talking about you, me and a host of others who are active members of this club.

The conversation:

“Isn’t he/she just so wonderful? They do so much for others through community & church donations, volunteering their time, energy and efforts – BUT…

It’s the BUT, DID YOU KNOW and DON’T TELL ANYONE that negates any positive comments previously shared. The moment you utter the words, you (and me) have enrolled in a ‘catty’ shack club membership.  We have deliberately made ourselves judge and jury as we indulged in comments that are hurtful and spiteful.

The why:

What compels us to share negative comments about those we love and care about? Good question.

Honestly, I believe it has more to do with acknowledging the success of someone we love and admire. It makes us more aware of our own weaknesses, limitations and failures to find gratification in life. God desires us to uplift, encourage and inspire others just as He does for us.

The outcome:

I can say with complete confidence that God doesn’t share any BUT, DID YOU KNOW and DON’T TELL ANYONE secrets about us with others. We should follow that same example.

To share tidbits and betray the confidence of others speaks volumes about us and the condition of our spiritual heart. Are we harboring envy or greed that needs to be reconciled? Maybe it’s jealousy or our own feelings of inadequacies.

Whatever, the reasons, we are not judge or jury to the decisions others make, the lifestyle they choose or the intents of their heart. That is God’s job. There will always be open enrollment to membership in the Catty Shack Club.

When the enemy of this world solicits you to engage in membership, remind yourself that it serves no purpose.  Our God-ordained purpose is to love at all costs.

“…but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

I think we have all heard: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it.” It’s applicable. If you want to share, then share with God in prayer.  Unlike us, He sees the whole picture, not just the conversation.

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Love Wins Every Time

love wins
Sorry! I just don’t see how posting your political venue on Facebook along with sarcastic comments, quotes and venom is going to change the heart and mind of those who oppose your views.

Yes, you are entitled to your viewpoint on all things political, but do you have to present your case on Facebook?

If you really want to make a difference, do something that requires more than copying and pasting political propaganda and opinions you find on the internet. It’s the lazy person’s way of broadcasting politics and requires little effort.

We are a nation that has to co-exist together regardless of our political views. To verbally or physically assault others who oppose our views achieves nothing. History pretty much confirms this truth.

In a perfect world, it would be nice to believe that after the November 6 elections, all political disparity would subside. Sadly, you and I both know that won’t happen. There will be a new barrage of online verbal attacks; some on a very personal level that will sever family and friendships.

My life is surrounded by friends and family members with differing political and religious views that are contrary to mine. That’s OK. What’s not OK is for me to take an offensive enemy position in an effort to persuade them to my point of view.

For the record, there is this thing called prayer. God is the judge and jury of all mankind (at least in my religious views). Even if your views should differ, the bottom line is this:

We were created for a purpose. Hopefully, you view your purpose as someone who embraces humanity with love, understanding and compassion.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

I encourage you to practice love. It wins every time.

There is clarity when we set aside our differences. The blinders of hate, political discord and allegiances to groups that seek to divide us are lifted. Love allows us to see people who may have opposing views as a group of individuals that truly want to find a way to bring unity without twitter feeds, media hypes and Facebook / Internet propaganda.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Heavenly Father, unite our nation. Unite our people. Let us look toward the greater cause and purpose of why we exist… faith, hope and love.

Amen.

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The Inspiration Behind the Dream

kindness winsAs the founder of the Linden Pay It Forward Project, this post is written from my heart.

Many years ago I became a part of the Linden community by marriage. Some of you know the person I married, others may not; that is not important. What IS important is, after the marriage ended, I felt abandoned in a community I did not know.

I had to find my way and it wasn’t easy. But God’s grace is sufficient in our time of need and that grace was more than I ever hoped for.

ROLL BACKWARDS

For whatever reason, I believed my self-worth was based on my martial partner. Hmm…. any of you been down that path of misconception? Now, at age 63, I can’t even imagine that I gifted that former spouse a digit on my scale of worth. But it happened.

ROLL FORWARD

My point of sharing is to enlighten you that WE create our future; WE reshape the circumstances that we thought would define our destiny.

I started to step outside my comfort zone. I joined a gym where I met some forever friends. I became active in my community through a Bunco group with friendships still shared to this day.

My daughter’s participation in sports throughout high school brought new friendships with parents in the community. When I started a home-based global business, I hired students from Linden High to help out. To this day, these gals are like daughters to me.

Bottom line, I choose to reshape my destiny. I went back to college, finished my degree and in the process recognized that I was worthy. I finally got it.

GOT WHAT?

I finally got that my faith, the love of family, friends and community is what really matters.  Some of you know my deepest struggles, some don’t. Again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the knowledge that whatever life throws at us, God’s grace and community friendships will see us through the pot holes of life.

FAST FORWARD

The community that once felt foreign to me is now my safety net, my fortress and my forever hometown.

PAY IT FORWARD

My reason for starting the Linden Pay It Forward Project had a dual purpose. It was inspired by an act of kindness by two high school boys within our community. On a more intimate level, it was a desire to make people feel like they belong. Perhaps, their life story differs from mine, but in the end, it’s all about a need to be accepted, appreciated and loved.

We all have stories of loss, personal heartache and remorse. I can think of no better way to recover, regroup and regain whatever it is we have lost than to reach out to others in their time of need.