God in grief

Yesterday afternoon my mom called me and told me that a close family friend, the son of my dad’s childhood best friend, had been in  a car accident and was on life support. He apparently took an exit ramp too quickly and rolled his car off of it. I’m still in shock a little bit and I still don’t quite know what to do. We used to see Brad and Sharon every summer as kids, they were like a second family. But once we all started graduating form high school (and various other life challenges, including teen pregnancy and the death of a loved one) we haven’t been very close in years. The last time I saw Brad was at his father’s wedding 3 years ago. so I have conflicting feelings about being so upset. I am upset because he has been a part of my life since before I was born, through the friendship that our dads share, but I didn’t know this Brad, so I feel like I shouldn’t be that upset for some reason. But I’m not going to concern myself with those feelings too much, I’m not going to let myself feel guilty for being upset, I’m not going to let myself feel guilty for going out to a movie with my mom and my brother and having fun. It’s still very hard to deal with, I almost broke down when I was talking to my boss this morning about how I’m going to need a day off this week because I’m going to have to go to a funeral in Detroit but I don’t know what day it’s going to be. I had to take a few minutes and leave my office because I started crying and couldn’t stop. I can’t eat because I’m so upset that no matter what I eat, it makes me sick. It’s just so hard to process this, I don’t know what to do with it. 

I do know that I am so thankful for my faith and my assurances from God about grief and death. My mom said yesterday that she didn’t know how people who don’t know God do it. I couldn’t imagine that. God’s promises are the only light spot I see in this horrible tragedy, I don’t know how people who don’t have faith don’t get swallowed up by all the darkness. While I am still working on growing my faith and my first reaction when I heard the news wasn’t to run to God, that’s what I’m doing now. I am trusting in the strong arms of my Heavenly Father to get me through this and to help me to be a strong support to Chris (Brad’s dad) and to Sharon (Brad’s sister) who is estranged from her father. We are believing that through this tragedy, their relationship will begin to repair and they will cling to each other for support through this awful time. 

I have been looking up verses to help me when I start to feel sad and can feel the tears starting to well up so that I can rest in God’s peace and in His promises.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you’ I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

“You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18:28

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Psalm 46:1-2

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” Psalm 119:50

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

This is a pain that I don’t even think a tattoo could come close to healing right now. My heart and my soul are hurting and I don’t know what to do about it. I am just waiting to hear about when we will be traveling up to Detroit. And buying good quality waterproof mascara.

Disnerd Alert!!!

So, I am your typical girl. I am obsessed with Disney Princesses. I haven’t seen all of the movies, but I want to! I do have a pretty impressive Disney movie collection, if I do say so myself. 

Last night I told my husband that I want my hair to look like Merida’s when I finally get it grown out, bright red and curls everywhere. He rolled his eyes and said no (even though he doesn’t really get a say). But I really love her hair! It’s wild and untamed and gorgeous! So I have decided that Merida and Anna (from Frozen) are my Disney Princess spirit animals. Seriously. Merida is so outgoing and opinionated but tried to please her mother for the majority of her life, she stands up for herself and she stayed true to herself. Anna grew up without any friends and with only her sibling for company, she stands up for what she believes in, she doesn’t let anybody walk all over her or push her around, she goes all out all the time, and she is unapologetically herself. These are things that I want to strive to be and things that I want my future kids to strive to be as well.

Merida is brave and true and loyal. Anna is loving and kind and charismatic. Belle is smart and a dreamer and not afraid to say no. Cinderella is a hard worker and doesn’t complain and believes in miracles. Mulan is strong and unafraid and willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family. Jasmine is an animal lover and doesn’t feel the need to be what other people expect her to be. Rapunzel chases her dreams and fights for what she wants. Elsa tries to protect her family and is sentimental and becomes unafraid to show her true self. Pocahontas didn’t judge people based on their skin color and she stood up to her father when she believed he was in the wrong. Pongo and Perdita risked their lives for their children. Copper protected his friend. Bambi grew strong despite devastating loss. Tiana never gave up on what she wanted, no matter how bad things looked. Marlin never gave up, no matter how far he had to go and how many scary things he had to face. Oliver never forgot the people who helped him when he was at his lowest. Tarzan never forgot where he came from. Hercules was willing to give up his everything for the one that he loved.

So many people are anti-Disney but I want my children to watch every Disney movie they can get their hands on. Sure, when you’re a kid they’re just fun cartoons. But as you get older they help to shape and define you. You see things in your favorite characters that you want to emulate. You want to be brave or a protector or a dreamer or unafraid. Disney helps you see how those things look and helps you achieve them. I know that I would not be the person that I am today without Disney movies. I am brave like Merida, I am unapologetically myself like Anna and found a man like Kristoff, I believe in miracles like Cinderella, I am smart like Belle, I am an animal lover like Jasmine, I have grown strong despite the horrors in my past like Bambi, I haven’t forgotten the people who were there to help me out of the hole like Oliver, I would willingly give anything for my love like Hercules, I am Disney. 

Disney movies give you something to hold onto when things look bleak. Disney gives you someone to laugh with when you’re on the mountaintop. Disney gives you things to aspire for and life lessons to learn. Disney helps you to stay young, no matter how old you get.

And it’s all because of a mouse.

 

Pick Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps

So I’m going to go on a mini rant about an opinion of mine that I’m sure is fairly unpopular, especially among religious/Christian people.

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So now that the weather’s warm and the sun is our more, I’ve been seeing a lot more of this. Sometimes I’ll even see it 3 or 4 times in a single trip! Now before you get all mad at me, I am not in any way judging these people for the situation that they are in. I don’t know their story about how they got there or anything like that. If I see people that are in need, I help them. But you also have to do a certain amount of helping yourself too. The way I look at it is this: if you have the ability to get yourself to that corner and stand there for multiple hours, and then continue to come back and do it again for multiple days, then you can get yourself to a job. Most of the time these people are standing on corners at the end of strip malls or on sidewalks in big shopping centers, so why don’t they spend their time walking to each and every store in the area and filling out applications? Yes, everyone is saying how horrible the economy is and how hard it is to find jobs. It’s hard to find good jobs for those people who have been laid off from higher management jobs and things like that. It isn’t hard to find a minimum wage job working retail or food service. I’m sure the most common complaint from people who are looking for a job is that they don’t want to work at McDonalds or another fast food place because it would be embarrassing if people that they knew came in while they were working. Which is more embarrassing and demoralizing, standing on a street corner begging for money or actively doing something about your situation and working a food service job so that you can start building your life back up?

I am always willing to help people that are in need, but I will not help people that won’t help themselves. One of my husband’s cousins is currently living with us because he moved to Lexington and had been couch surfing because he couldn’t afford an apartment on what he makes as a server. I help friends with food, I help family members with rides and gas money and buying presents for others that they can’t afford. I believe in serving others. But God expects us to do our part too, and so do I.

I may not be the most motivated person in the world, I may hate having to go to work every day when I would much rather spend my time hanging out with my dogs and sleeping, but I have never just sat around and expected others to provide everything for me (being a kid doesn’t count). Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get yourself together. Go get a job and get some food stamps. Set yourself a goal and work until you achieve it.Do something that you’ll be proud of, don’t just stand around on a street corner and beg for other people’s money that they have worked for. Go work for your own.

Humane or Cruel?

I came across this picture on Twitter this afternoon and it really struck a chord with me.

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People were saying “Retweet this to get these collars banned!” but to me, this is very upsetting. But I’m not upset for the reasons that you probably think. Yes, I am upset by the fact that a person let this poor dog get into this condition due to a collar; but I’m just as upset  that people are now trying to say that it’s the collar’s fault that this poor dog looks this way. I even had one girl get upset with me because in her opinion “These collars shouldn’t exist”

These collars are intended for use on large dogs who have very thick fur and/or lots of skin or fat around their neck. The prongs are not pointed, it is fully adjustable through removable links, and it does not choke the dog as long as it is sized correctly. Most large dogs are very strong and it is difficult for some people to control them when they are walking, and if you have ever walked a dog that pulls constantly then you know that it is not a fun experience. This collar is designed to help with that. The girl from Twitter’s reasoning for hating these collars is “That doesn’t mean there isn’t a possibility that it won’t hurt the dog. I speak from experience.” My response to that is that everything could possibly hurt a dog, and I speak from experience as well. Somebody could give a dog a grape, thinking that they were giving it a treat, and grapes are poisonous to dogs. A dog like my King could pull hard enough on a normal collar to damage himself without proper supervision. I read a report yesterday (which I kind of rolled my eyes at) saying that giving your dogs ice water is harmful because the severe cold of the water causes dangerous bloating. A dog could go out in the backyard and roll around in some weeds that you didn’t know were there and get covered in itchy bumps from an unknown source. A dog could swallow a piece off of a rawhide bone funny and get choked up. A dog can get startled and run into the corner of a wall and tear a nail off. I’ve had 4 of those things happen to my dogs.

Basically, anything and everything has the potential to be harmful and dangerous to your dogs. Their safety is part of your responsibility as the owner. It’s the same as a child, they don’t understand the world in the same way that we do so it is our job to take care of them and protect them. There is nothing wrong with using a prong collar, just like there’s nothing wrong with using a bark collar or an electric fence, both of which are more immediately physically harmful than a prong collar. There is nothing wrong with using whichever means of discipline that you choose, as long as you do so responsibly.

To me, that’s how everything should be. Eating a candy bar isn’t going to rot your teeth out, but not being responsible about how much sugar and candy you consume will rot your teeth as well as causing many other detrimental health issues. Using a prong collar when walking your dog, whether for your own comfort or to make it easier for your kids to walk the dog or whatever other need you have for it, isn’t a bad thing. It becomes a bad thing when you overuse the collar, use it incorrectly, or put it on a dog that it was not designed for. 

Basically, you just need to make sure that you are responsible, whatever you do with you dog. Being a pet owner is a big responsibility. You now have to feed it, provide for it, exercise it, and take care of it’s every need until the day it dies. If you cannot commit to that, you don’t deserve to have a dog. That dog is like your child, you need to take care of it in that manner.

Prong collars are not inhumane. People who use them incorrectly are.

Differences

Since I have gotten into the flow of this job, I’ve been reading a lot more blogs in my free time (it all started by finding Butler Party of 3 on Pinterest!) It’s really nice to be able to read about other people’s struggles and joys, things that they’ve tried and either failed at or succeeded at, and their opinions on various subjects. I think that it’s always a good thing to stretch your mind and your ways of thinking. But with all of these other opinions come many realizations that there are many people that were raised/are raising their kids very differently than I was raised or how I plan to raise my kids. And this is ok.

The trap that I’m finding myself having to avoid is comparison. Just because the blogs I read are written by Christian ladies doesn’t mean that I have to raise my kids or clean my house or live my life the exact way that they do to be a good Christian woman, wife, or mother. One blog that I read (courtesy of Butler Party of 3!) is called Always Learning (lorialexander.blogspot.com). I do enjoy her blog because she talks about many subjects that most people are too timid to address in our PC feminist equality society such as being a submissive wife, mothers should stay home, and things like that. One of her children married a close friend to the Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting TLC fame, so her family holds similar values to the Duggar family. As I read more posts from her (when I find a new blog that I like I tend to binge on it, keeping it as an open tab on my computer until I get all the way through the very first post that they ever wrote) I realize just how different her views are from mine, and it makes me wonder. If there are more people than just families like the Duggars who believe this, should I believe it too? Will I still be a good Christian example to my children if I don’t do that? I don’t know that I would ever be able to walk across my floor barefoot and not feel a crumb or clump of dirt because of my dogs, does that make me a bad wife? Questions like this cause a downward spiral of comparing myself to others and feeling like I don’t measure up.

This is a constant battle that I’ve had to fight for many years as I’ve become an adult. Now don’t get me wrong, my life is amazing. I have a wonderful husband, great dogs, and nice house, a good job, a good car, and a whole long list of other things that are great about my life. But before I got the job that I have now as office manager at my church I was very dissatisfied and unhappy in any job that I had for a few years. With the exception of a job that I quit right before we got married (I was a phlebotomist with the KY Blood Center and it was a job that was near and dear to my heart where I got to help people, but the hours and working conditions were brutal and I couldn’t handle it any longer. Quitting this job put us back quite a bit, so life lesson learned there!) I had never had any substantial jobs, I had only worked retail and fast food service. I dealt daily with feeling like I was being judged for not having a ‘big kid’ job or a job with an impressive title. I especially felt judged by Ross’ family, despite his constant reassurances that they didn’t care at all what kind of job I had. As we talk about what kind of house we would like to move into in a few years, I have to remind myself not to compare it to the house that I grew up in (which was a $300,000 house) and to not worry about the kind of houses that my other friends or family members have. When I see other people who’s pets are perfectly well behaved, I start to feel down on myself because my dogs get too excited to act like that in public and I tend to minimize or forget the fact that they used to not even sit on command and now they will sit and wait patiently to go outside and to eat. 

So while reading blogs and getting other people’s opinions on things is a good way to grow yourself and broaden your horizons, it IS ok if you aren’t in agreement with them. Lori talks about how she homeschooled her children because she wanted to give them a good Christian education but couldn’t afford a private Christian academy; it’s ok for me to want my children to go to public school so that they can enjoy the same social experiences that Ross and I did through sports and music. The Duggars don’t go to public beaches or swimming pools because of the immodesty and the temptation that comes along with that; it’s ok for me to want to live in a house that has a neighborhood pool within a few blocks so my children can spend their summers enjoying the pool and hopefully swimming for the swim team as I did for my whole childhood. I read how lots of women don’t watch TV at all and only play Christian worship music in their house; it’s ok for me to leave the TV on as background noise (with kid appropriate shows if the kids are around of course) and to enjoy listening to oldies music.

Ultimately, I believe that it comes down to what your convictions and your beliefs are. Yes, I do believe in teaching my children manners, and the importance of cleaning, and modesty, and my other Christian beliefs; but I do not believe that my children shouldn’t be exposed to the world, or that we should wear skirts that come below our knees and keep our hair long, or that you can’t do anything that isn’t Christian based/related. I believe that we need to be aware of the world around us and we need to stay grounded in Christ so that we can know how to combat the temptations of it. We are in the world but not of it. It is ok to have different views than other people who share your faith. It’s ok to strive to emulate others that have convictions or beliefs that you want. Focus on yourself, your family, and your relationship with God. He is the one that you have to answer to, not me or Lori or Danielle or Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore or Joel Osteen or anyone else. God should be your focus.

 

*side note! I actually learned the lesson about other people having different convictions than you when I was a lot younger. I love the show Dog The Bounty Hunter and I’ve watched it for many years, my family used to watch it together. I remember asking my mom once while we were watching an episode, how they can be Christians if they cuss so much, because I was confused by all the bleeped out words during a hunt then praying afterwards because we had been raised that we couldn’t even say Jeez because it was too close to Jesus. My mom told me that God is working on different things with different people, so maybe God isn’t working on that with them. I think that is a very important thing to remember when you judge people too, you don’t know what God is working on in their life or what they’ve gone through.*

Why I Am Still A Work In Progress

This week has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. Just like the kids book. I won’t even get into the laundry list of things that have all gone wrong in the span of 8 days because it’s just depressing to rehash it all. But it did make me think about myself and how I handle things when they go wrong. 

On one of my favorite blogs, www.butlerpartyof3.com, Danielle wrote a very good post over the weekend titled What Do You Believe About God that really got me thinking. (I only read about half of it because she is talking about how her faith has been tested and she has been re-examining her faith in the wake of her brother’s sudden death and I can’t just sit at my desk and bawl like I know I would, so I printed it out to read at home where I can cry in peace) Yes, I have the head knowledge of all of God’s promises to me and over me and my family, but do I really believe them? Do I really truly trust that He is at work and will make everything work out for good? Yes, I may post it in a Facebook status, but do the words that I say on an hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute basis reflect that? Do my thoughts reflect that? And the honest answer is no.

I do my best to always stay positive about everything that goes on, no matter what. I believe that there is always a positive somewhere, even if it’s only that you didn’t get in a car accident during your commute. I also know that our words have power to shape the world around us, because the enemy is always listening and searching for new ways to trip us up and move us off the path that God has for us. To most people, that’s extreme and they don’t believe that, but I do. I believe that if you claim the promises that God has given you in His Word and you truly believe them, they will come to pass in your life. But how do you do that when you feel like your entire world is crashing down around you and you feel so upset and attacked and depressed that all you want to do is lay in bed and cry? That was my test this past week and unfortunately I did not do so well.

“Every promise that I make is true, for I do not lie or change My mind.” – Numbers 23:19

I have experienced the whole spectrum of emotions this past week; from anger to fury to sadness to depression to resolve to vulnerability and back again. I let my emotions get the best of me on more than one occasion, despite my best efforts to keep them in check. At one point I was so emotionally drained and exhausted from the emotional roller coaster that I almost started crying in Pilates class because we were doing some new (to me) exercises and I was struggling with them. Now in hindsight, I know that if I would have just turned to God first and talked to Him about everything that was going on, I would have been able to process my emotions better and not have had to deal with the roller coaster because I would have had His peace to know that everything IS going to work out because He never lets anything happen to us that will not benefit us in the end. (Unless you’re having to deal with consequences from your own bad choices, because we do have free will after all and all decisions have consequences whether they’re good or bad. But that’s a whole different topic.) But God promises us His peace if we would just come to Him and lay our burdens at His feet. He promises that He takes care of His children and He knows everything that is going on. He promises that He will never forsake us, no matter how we feel or how bad things look from our current position.

One thing that Danielle said in her blog was this: “I would love to be able to say that my faith is strong enough to get me through because I know and believe that my God is BIG enough and CAPABLE enough…but do I TRUST the Lord enough to fully depend on Him alone? Do I believe He is really doing all things for good? He is always for me? Will never leave me nor forsake me? Hears my prayers?” That struck major chord with me. I DO know and believe all those things, but do I TRULY believe them? There is a difference between believing that something is true and trusting in that belief with your life. You can believe that a roller coaster is safe all you want with your feet safely on the ground, but do you trust that belief enough to get on the roller coaster? I have seen enough of the ways that God has changed my parents lives in the last 10 years, you would think that I would have no problem believing that God is big enough and strong enough and in charge enough to be able to take care of anything that comes into my life, but sometimes I don’t remember. It is so easy to get caught up in my own life and in my own head, with all the million different things that I have going in hundreds of different directions, but I need to make a more concentrated effort to always put God first and remember that He is always there with me and for me.

Danielle’s post has challenged me to take a good hard look at everything the I believe about God and really evaluate whether I truly believe it or if I’m just giving lip (and keyboard) service to it. The fact that God wants to be involved in every little detail of our lives, that he truly does care about every little thing, seems to be a very hard concept for us to grasp because it’s so hard to reconcile when you put that next to the enormity of God. But I always compare it to my Dad, no matter what he has always been there for me and he always wanted to know everything that was going on. So why wouldn’t our Heavenly Father want to know too? No matter what, no matter how big He is, no matter how many galaxies and universes He’s created, He still wants to be involved in my daily life. That is amazing to me. So if the amazing God of the entire universe and every universe that we have no idea about wants to be a part of my life, I need to make a better effort to keep Him in the loop.

Do I see how God is going to turn this horrible situation with our neighbors and going to court and the violation of our privacy into something good for us? No. But do I trust that He will? Yes. Do I see how God will provide for us to be able to get all the appliances fixed that have broken this past week? No. But do I trust that He will? Yes. Do I know how God is going to calm and comfort my dog who kept me up all night whining over a scratch on his leg? No. But do I trust that He has his hand on every living being in my house to bless them? Yes. Did I really think it was important enough to ask God to keep it from raining when we went to the dog park so we could enjoy one normal thing after such a horrible and defeating week? Not really, but I did anyways and He kept the rain away.

I am still a work in progress because I need to continue to grow my faith and work on trusting that God is ALWAYS looking out for me and ALWAYS has my best interests at heart. He always wants to be there for me and He always wants to take care of me. I need to do more than ‘like’ some posts from preachers and put some Christian song lyrics on my Facebook; I need to do more than print out a bunch of verses and put them up in my house; I need to do more than listen to Christian music in my car. I need to “pray without ceasing” and trust that God will “never leave you nor forsake you”. I need to start reading those verses out loud and claiming them over my life. I need to start putting on the full armor of God every day before I get out of bed. I need to start including God in my every day life and trusting that He will do what He says.

“Every word of every promise that I have made will come to pass.” – 1 Kings 8:56

“We know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 8:31

“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.” – Isaiah 54:17