Blessings In The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

I love when other people are happy.

Well….

Most of the time. 😊

Young people celebrating  their marriage…

Their first home together…

Their first child…

People celebrating their new jobs…

First car…

Our parents celebrating their milestone anniversaries…

their grandchilren….

Their children’s successful careers and successful lives..

Friends are thankful for benign tumors and many years of good health…

And somewhere along the way, most will say something about how blessed they have been.

And they ABSOLUTELY  have been that!

However, there is also no doubt that all people have seen some form of pain or trouble, too.

Often, people will exclaim that “God is so good” during those times of ease in all kinds of different ways.

Why is this so common?

Because…

Why not???

I mean, it’s EASY!

It’s as easy as breathing to be thankful when your life is going just the way you’d planned, or better.

And honestly, we SHOULD be thankful then.

We SHOULD be thankful to not have to go through something excruciating.

We should ALWAYS be thankful for that!

But that’s not what makes a blessing (the result of being blessed) so beautiful.

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3-10

These verses rip at my heart a little everytime I read them, and I’ll show you why. Here’s what I see when I read it…

I see what causes a person to be “poor in spirit”…

What causes a person to “mourn”…

What causes a person to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”…

What causes a person to become “merciful “…

And so on…

Why would anyone who is poor in their spirit ever be blessed???

Because Jesus promises them the Kingdom of heaven.

Perhaps no one ever really fed you with life-giving affirmations, or all you ever received from the people who were supposed to love you was anything BUT!

But because of Jesus, that is not the end of your story! You may have always been found flat-broke when it comes to being loved, being KNOWN, or being SEEN.

But yours truly is a rags-to-riches story! And someday soon,  you will be SO VERY VERY RICH.

You are very blessed!

And why in the world would you ever be blessed if you have hungered and thirsted  for JUSTICE?

Because the Word promises YOU WILL BE FILLED!

This word “filled” in the Greek translation means “to be fulfilled, to complete, filled up, be accomplished, to be made right.”

This is so beautiful,  because I know of whole RACES and ethnicities who are simply STARVING for justice. Their dried and cracked lips are so very parched for a taste of things to be made right.”

And Jesus promises fulfillment,

Satisfaction,

And even COMPLETION!

And how could one who mourns ever be blessed?

He promises comfort for those who grieve. In Exodus 33, there is the story of Moses, who had the unique opportunity to “see the back of God”.

No one else could ever say that, but those who have had to face the sorrow of losing a loved one can ALSO know the intimacy of God drawing near to us, and one day… 

Wiping away our tears with His own Hand! (Rev. 21)

A well known worship leader once said, ” In order to obtain the peace that passes all understanding, you’ll need to be put in situations where you don’t understand.”

I think that way of thinking is so often true of the most eternally good things for which we pray and hope.

Why would we ever want comfort unless we were in pain?

Why would we ever desire the riches of Glory unless we had been without it for as long as we could remember?

Why would we ever desire COMPLETION, WHOLENESS, EQUALITY, unless it had always been denied to us?

Listen.

Life on earth is simply not fair.

Unfair things befall ALL of us, eventually.

Being blessed,

Or FEELING blessed really shouldn’t be reserved for those whose families are whole or whose bodies are healthy, or who have not been egregiously wronged.

Personally, I find it’s often very challenging to consistently remind myself how blessed I am even when I feel all alone…

Even when I’ve been wronged by others…

Even though my body doesn’t always cooperate.

But these verses promise me

Comfort,

Vindication,

Fulfillment,

And an eternity filled with

God’s glorious riches!!

How could I ever despise even the worst of circumstances, especially if what it brings me

Is

Him?

Handle Me

Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

Luke 24: 36-39
The disciples were a wreck.

These guys were reeling from guilt….

For leaving Jesus in His ULTIMATE time of need…

For sleeping while Jesus was sweating blood…

For so many things.

On top of that, they were devastated with the death of their Friend.

Upon hearing the news trickle in about Jesus being spotted, ALIVE, they obviously had their doubts.

This band of brothers had one thing in common now….

They each had a broken heart.

Jesus loves them so very much, these men who abandoned Him, that He invites them to just…

Touch Him…

To trace His scars with their fingers…

To remember that He is the same Jesus who probably sang campfire songs with them after a good meal, and laughed at all of the inside jokes I’m sure that they had. 😊

Sometimes we need to be invited to “touch” Jesus…

To remember who He was during the sun,

So that we remember who He is in the dark.

Jesus told His disciples to handle Him…

“Touch these wounds of mine. Put your hand in that cavity in my side where I was speared.”

“Let me PROVE who I am to you!!”
He gently relieved their doubts.
And when they departed from His presence, they were strengthened.
I’ve had my moments, this past year, of “handling” Jesus.

You see, I couldn’t understand why I had to go from challenge to challenge,

From trauma to trauma, for such a long time.

And this last tragedy was and is JUST AWFUL.

I thought I knew what it was like to live with a broken heart before this.

But I had NO IDEA of the amount of pain a person could live with.

That I could actually SURVIVE under the weight of this…

Was just insane!
I had QUESTIONS.
I had DOUBTS.
But this verse encouraged me to KEEP TALKING TO HIM.

Friends,
This is a HUGE thing!! Please don’t miss it!
When you stop talking to Jesus,

Especially when you are in your darkest moments,

You can quickly create a chasm between you and God.
A GREAT DIVIDE.
And I knew enough to know I had to keep my line of communication open with Him.
I was invited to HANDLE Jesus.
And handle Him, I did.

In fact, I might have “man-handled” God, just a little bit. 😊
But I searched His scars…
I hunted to find the trail of His tears...
I “GROPED” at God, feeling for all the wounds of my Savior.
Why?
Because His wounds comfort me in the midst of MY wounds.

I understood in no uncertain terms that if Jesus experienced incomparable pain in His life,

I’d better be ready to experience great heartbreak, too.

If you have questions for God,

If you can’t see His goodness in the middle of your pain,

Remember that He is a God who wants to invite you IN!

Jesus is holy, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t get what it’s like to be human.

He cried to His Father to release Him from what He ultimately came to do, so He understands.

He wants to take you on a journey that leads you to a place of NOT needing answers to your questions…

A place where there are no doubts.

Jesus is asking ALL of us to lay our hands on Him.

To HANDLE Him…

And then…

To come away…

Whole.

ALWAYS A Bride

My wedding day was nothing short of exactly what I wanted it to be.

It was beautiful… it was romantic.

It was in the lower room of a restaurant and looked like a cave, with rustic sconces on the walls, which provided just enough light to see.

It was a dark place with a little light.

I had no idea just how REAL of a metaphor that would be for the rest of my marriage.

But anyhow, it started off as a beautiful day.

A beautiful start to a marriage.

He looked at me with such love, that he was a magnet pulling me closer and closer to him down that little aisle, clinging to my dad’s arm.

I could have tried to resist, but it wouldn’t have ever worked for me. I would have always ended up loving him. He drew me to him with some kind of magical force.

That was the day I was most adored by my husband.

The day that I was a bride.

Most of the days after that, I was simply a wife.

I wasn’t really ever a bride again.

Not to him, at least.

And I thought that after Jeremy passed away I was certainly not a bride, and I was not a wife anymore, either.

On our wedding day, I was soaked in compliments, and I felt beautiful that day.

He adored me, and I was adorned with beautiful jewelry, with a beautiful dress,

And I felt beautiful.

But I am still a bride.

Still fully adored and still fully adorned.

I gave you expensive clothing of fine linen and silk, beautifully embroidered, and sandals made of fine goatskin leather. I gave you lovely jewelry, bracelets come beautiful necklaces, a ring for your nose, earrings for your ears, and a lovely crown for your head. And so you were adorned with gold and silver. Your clothes were made of fine linen and were beautifully embroidered. You ate the finest foods – choice flour, honey, and olive oil – and became more beautiful than ever. You looked like a Queen, and so you were!

Ezekiel 16:10-13 NLT

But this Groom is different.

He adores me every day.

And I am always adorned in his grace and mercy.

I am always a bride and I am always a wife.

As with any bride and groom there is still conflict.

There is still heartbreak.

And there is still pain.

Marriages start off simply being about love, but when the rubber meets the road, it becomes ALL ABOUT COMMITMENT.

It becomes all about commitment once pain is involved.

The pain happens when expectations are not met. In my opinion that is where most pain and disappointment in ANY relationship finds its root.

In unmet expectations.

I could never perfectly meet my earthly husband’s expectations.

Neither could he meet mine.

NO HUMAN CAN!!

But, after praying for miraculous changes in my husband’s life, making necessary spiritual changes in MINE…

My OTHER Husband did something I wasn’t expecting.

He permitted Jeremy to die a catastrophic death, instead of changing his heart.

NOW, I am very well aware of how much that one act was probably the ONLY way I would still be alive today.

That’s almost too sobering and scary for me to think about, so I try to push that out of my mind, but it is still true.

If relationships are all about commitment, maybe you can try to imagine how that kind of “hit” to my heart caused such deep disappointment in me towards God, my truest Husband.

It caused a huge rift between us, because of unmet expectations.

I expected a specific type of miracle.
And He GAVE me one!

But it didnt look the way I wanted it to.

I wanted Jeremy CHANGED.

Changed, but still ALIVE.

But God knows the ENTIRE story!

Why??

Because He wrote it!!

He knew what was coming, and gave me HIS VERY BEST!!

I realize all of that now.

But it took the better part of a year to accept this, and to figuratively say “yes” to THIS.

But it was a very rocky year for God and me.

In my first round of Griefshare(I am going through the process again, because the grief was too raw the first time around), there was a clip from a video that stuck out to me.

It addresses all the questions we have for God when He permits someone essential in our life to die.

It was specifically talking about the love relationship between us and our “Groom”.
One of authors said that she felt like God asked her each morning during this tough time….

“Do you still love me?”

“Are you going to walk away from me?”

“Please. Let’s stay together”.

ULTIMATE challenge of commitment!

These are lyrics to a song by J.J. Heller, that she must have unknowingly written just for me.

When you can’t feel a thing
After too many stings
When you forget about grace
The world is a lonely place

Stay with me, you’ll be surprised
There’s a world of color beyond black and white
Open your eyes, let in the light
You’ll see when you stay with me

When you can’t hear a thing
There are no words to sing
You keep your heart where it’s safe
But the world is a silent place

Stay with me and you’ll be surprised
There’s a world of color beyond black and white
Open your eyes, let in the light
You’ll see when you stay with me

Hold on
Be strong
Believe in love

Stay with me, you’ll be surprised
There’s a world of color beyond black and white
Open your eyes, let in the light
You’ll see when you stay with me

There’s a world of color beyond black and white
Open your eyes, let in the light
You’ll see when you stay with me.

So, I haven’t “arrived” yet, at any place of closure or complete healing.

That might take alot of years.

But I’m committed to THIS Groom…

I’m trusting His plan for our family.

I’m trusting He’s always given His very best to me….

And has INCREDIBLE plans for my life!!!!

And I’m not going

ANYWHERE.

I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;

His mercies begin afresh each morning .

I say to myself, the Lord is my inheritance;

Therefore, I will hope in Him!
Lamentations 3:20-24

The “Beige” Book of Ruth

Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!”

Ruth 2:20

Lesson for today:

NEVER DISCOUNT A BOOK OF THE BIBLE!!

Yes.

Some are pretty short.

Some of them are about women. (Oh no!!😲😂)

Some are insanely LONG,

And some are kind of complicated!

It’s funny how some of the books kind of fly under the radar…

Like Ruth.

I mean,

It’s no Genesis…

A page turner from creation to that crazy flood!

AND it’s no Exodus, with the Red Sea action packed thriller!

It’s also no Joshua, Daniel, the four Gospels, Acts, or Revelation!

In the book of Ruth, there are no huge miracles to be found.

No water turned to wine…

No feeding of 5,000 with the equivalent of a box of lunchables and a juice box…

Nothing really noteworthy happens here.

Until….

You take a closer look.

Naomi was a widow who lost more than most of us can even fathom.

A husband and her two precious sons.

Her given name meant “pleasant”.

Back then, your name meant EVERYTHING.

It defined who you were, and who you would become.

After she lost her husband and sons, she surrendered to the pain,

And gave herself

A new name…

Mara….

Which meant Bitterness.

First of all, let me just say…

We don’t get to choose our name!

Just as we don’t get to choose our stories!

GOD decides who we are,

And only HE chooses our narrative.

I’ve been so disappointed with His answer to all my prayers…

They felt like one giant”NO!”

But that wasn’t the case.

It wasn’t a “Wow!” kind of yes.

It wasn’t an eye-catching purple yes, or a bright fuscia yes.

Honestly , it was a tan or beige yes.

One of the lingering symptoms of my stroke is that I cannot see any neutral colors really well.

I can’t see the beige miracles, either.

But, friends, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

There is beauty in the basics.

There’s MAGIC in the mundane.

Provision in the midst of poverty.

There’s even hope in the hapless.

Don’t let your imagination define a miracle.

Naomi told her friends that she left her hometown “full”, but she was returning

“Empty.

But she didn’t see that Ruth

REMAINED!

Do you know what the name Ruth means??

It means

Friend.

She may have lost everybody else, but she still had a friend!

A decidedly beige miracle.

Ruth had a beige miracle, too.

Yes, she found a husband in Naomi’s town.

Beige.😊

But nice.

But she also became an integral part of the lineage to

Jesus Christ!!!

So.

Definitely ….

FUSCIA!!!!!!

There’s nothing beige about that.

Just as there is nothing run-of-the-mill

About Ruth.

There is nothing “beige” about what He is doing in each of our lives.

He has some AMAZING plans up His sleeve!

And I can’t wait to see what He will do with our beige little lives.

Vicki is my awesome older sister, by two years.

She was the first one to go to middle school,

First to suffer through high school (😊),

First to get a job,

And the first to get married.

I was never EVER jealous of her,

Because I would never want to be the “first” to try anything.

I have this pretty funny t-shirt that says,

” I’m a leader, NOT a follower. Except if we’re in a dark place….then screw it! You’re going first.”

😂😂😂

We are so blessed by those who have already BEEN to the place where we now find ourselves.

Sometimes these places are incredibly scary,

And often,

Just plain heartbreaking.

Two years ago, my church began implementing Griefshare.

It’s basically a support group for those who’ve lost a loved one through death.

I HATE going, initially.

Arms crossed, I pouted and sulked in my little chair for the first couple times.

And at first, I wasn’t sure why I felt that way…

But I guess I really didn’t want THIS to be my story.

Mother’s Day, Without Their Daddy

I didn’t really expect this.

Tomorrow’s supposed to be “my day”.

I don’t have to be sad at EVERY holiday, do I???

I try.

I really do.

I try to think of how AMAZING my children are.

They totally are!

Macy and Micah are super compassionate kids, and both have a knack for sarcasm, for which I’d like to take credit.

And they both really and truly LOVE me.

Almost as much as I love them. It’s a huge competition around here…

“Who loves who more?”.

If I could let it stay right there, I’d be fine.

I could THINK about Mother’s Day without crying….

If I could….

If I could think about tomorrow WITHOUT thinking about one of the main reasons why I’m a mom in the FIRST PLACE….

If I could think about Mother’s day without thinking of their daddy,

That would be great.

But I can’t.

When I was in labor with Macy, he was my partner. His was the hand I squeezed through every contraction.

His was the face I saw, with tears flowing down his cheeks,

When he carried her over to my face so I could see my daughter for the very first time.

He said Macy had “strong legs”, because Jeremy noticed she was kicking wildly when they pulled her out of me.

He said she had fire.

And he was right.❤

I can’t think about Mother’s day without remembering how fast the contractions started to come immediately after church that Sunday, with our second child.

On the way home, Jeremy knew this baby was COMING!

And he said to me, a fellow “foodie “, “If we’re going right to the hospital, you KNOW they won’t let you eat.

….,Do you wanna get a sandwich?” 😂😂😂😂

I love that memory.❤

You didn’t mess with either one of us, when it came to food.

Well, just a few hours later, Jeremy was holding his brand new son.

He had so much joy that day.

He thanked me for the gift of his children.

I thanked him, too.

Every Mother’s day since my kids were born, Jeremy went

ALL OUT!!

He wrote letters to me, telling me I was a great mom, and how much he loved me.

He never failed to deliver on Mother’s day.

I wish I could stay in bed tomorrow….

I wish I didn’t have to feel the absence of his love tomorrow…

Or ANY day, really.

But I have to get out of bed..

I have two kids depending entirely on me to do so!

They will have gifts and letters…

And I will love them, as always.

But it will never be the same.

And that’s GOT to be okay with me.

Jeremy is gone.

But he left me with the VERY BEST PIECES OF HIS HEART!!

Macy and Micah.

And I will truly treasure his most extravagant gifts EVER!!

On this day, and on every day we have together..,

The three of us.

We might be sad tomorrow, but we will ALWAYS be grateful.

And we will ALWAYS be

Blessed.

For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.” So they worshiped the Lord there.

1 Samuel 1:27,28

On Purpose

My kids are professional button pushers.

I mean, they are phenomenally good at it!

Macy can push her brother to the edge of sanity in two seconds flat.

Just the other day, she pulled out a verbal slap to Micah’s face.

( I have NO idea where she got that from.)

Well, there was nothing verbal about Micah’s response!

He didn’t waste any time, but just smacked her, and walked away.

My daughter came running to me, very dramatically (Again, I have no idea who she takes after.😉),

She told me Micah smacked her…

Then she paused for a second, eyes wide open, and kind of whispered,

“On PURPOSE!!”

It’s clear that Macy feels that when somebody hurts her, that it is much worse when they do it intentionally than if it had been an accident.

I guess I feel that way, too.

About PEOPLE.

When it comes to God….

I don’t ever want to think that God allowed me to go through something

ON ACCIDENT.

“Oops, Pami!

That one wasn’t meant for you.

My bad.”

That would be just awful. And I would never trust Him again.

But that’s not my God.

He makes no mistakes.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8,9

As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

Psalm 18:30

Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.

Proverbs 30:5

Every loss,

Every tragedy,

Every trauma,

Every horrible thing that happens to us…

He ALLOWS,

He permits…

On purpose.

When God was just casually having a conversation with Satan, GOD BRINGS UP JOB!

God seemed to have given the idea to the enemy to test a man to which God knew He could entrust great and terrible pain.

Job trusted Him!

That doesn’t mean he didn’t have questions for God.

It doesn’t mean it was a walk in the park!

He was almost destroyed by the magnitude of his suffering.

But Job was comforted by the fact that God was in charge of EVERYTHING, and that even if Job didn’t understand the why’s or the how”s of his pain…

He could trust that God makes

NO MISTAKES.

Listen, these last few months have been…..

Terrible.

I’ve never been this sad,

Angry,

Exhausted,

Empty,

Lonely.

I felt myself these last couple of days…

Just kind of unravelling,

Spiraling away….

But this word came to me while reading the book of Job…

That what has happened all throughout my little insignificant life…

All the scary stuff,

All the painful stuff,

All the incredibly sad stuff….

It was all given to me, or permitted to me, by my Father.

He’s perfect, by the way.

He can’t mess this up!!

If He wanted to mess up my life, all He would have to do is put ME in charge!

I’d be over and done with in about a minute.

He decided which experiences I would have to walk through, and He sort of put a stamp of approval on the “final plans”.

GOD leaves nothing to chance, because

THERE IS NO SUCH THING.

There is a kind of peace that I have when I am aware that God has allowed all of these crazy things to happen in my life.

Scary things.

Sad things.

He wasn’t asleep when my husband died on that icy road.

He wasn’t distracted when we lost a baby on Christmas Day.

He wasn’t busy with something else when I was laying, paralyzed on my living room floor from a massive stroke.

They happened,

The same way ANYTHING happens to ANY of us.

God never stopped paying attention to us when the bad stuff took place.

He didn’t doze off during the worst moments of your life!

It happened….

ALL of it…….

Every last painful bit of it…..

ON PURPOSE.

Because…..

He KNOWS what He’s doing.

Guided Through Grief

In my family, there were three girls.

I was the the middle child…which explains ALOT!😊

But the oldest is Vicki.

You know what?

I was never jealous of her, I don’t think.

She was the first to experience switching from grade school to middle school.

She was the first to start high school.

She was the first to move away from home.

Vicki was the first to get married, too.

I never WANTED to be first, when it came to any of those experiences.

I was nervous and scared, but I could look to her to get a “lay of the land”.

I never entered anything scary without some tiny tidbits of info from my awesome big sister.

Having those who have already walked the painful road you find yourself on….

It’s priceless.

I have this t-shirt someone gave me recently.

These words are on the front:

“I’m a LEADER, NOT A FOLLOWER..

Unless it’s a dark place, then screw it. YOU’RE going first.”

You see, I’m definitely not the first.

Not the first to be in this horribly

dark,

lonely,

painful place.

You won’t make it through your time on this earth without having front row seats to the worst day of your life.

That dreaded front row at funerals.

Jeremy’s was at the building we use for church services.

Every Sunday, I am reminded, when I look out at everyone from the front of the room…

I’m reminded of the seat I had to sit in with my two babies next to me.

There is a woman who sits in that spot, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop this bit of sadness that creeps in every Sunday and Wednesday,

Each time I steal a glance at that chair.

It’s a pain unlike any I’ve ever known.

My husband’s death has set me on a CRAZY journey!

A journey filled with heartbreak,

Filled with questions that I feel I need answered…

Filled with anger…

Filled with fear of holding my family together on my own…

I would be very lost without a special group of people…

People who have lost what I’ve lost.

These special brothers and sisters come in the form of Griefshare.

This is a program available at many churches, and we began implementing it a few years ago.

Honestly, I don’t like going.

The first few weeks, it was torture!

I was the petulant toddler, pouting with her arms folded…

As if to say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m here, but I’m not going to like it!”

I just really didn’t want THIS STORY.

I didn’t want to face that my husband, and the father of my children,

Was dead.

But…

My heart opened when I heard others’ stories.

They were so much like mine.

The group leaders have also walked this road, and their guidance…

Their constant reassurance that every crazy thing a person says they are feeling, is NORMAL….

Is so NECESSARY!!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:3,4

In Griefshare, we are directed primarily to the Word of God for direction,

For comfort,

For understanding,

And for TRUTH.

I am not alone.

Sadly, there is plenty of pain for

ALL OF US.

But I’m so grateful that I have this group of family members, who encourage one another,

Who cry with one another,

Who pray with one another.

It truly is the Word of God, that mystically transforms into the hands and feet of Jesus.

I’m so grateful for Jesus’s

Hands,

His feet,

And His arms that hold me…

Through people who have felt

His arms, too.