Patiently Grow

Someone once said, “I never want how I write to interfere with the message God has given me to write.”

So true.

When Norman began cancer treatments in 2006, a friend introduced me to “CaringBridge“, an amazing site designed for families to keep friends and relatives informed through times of severe illness.  I found my near daily writings, and the comments received to be cathartic.  I could relate my thoughts and emotions as well as updates on Norman’s health to those I loved without the discomfort of being face to face. Those who read my posts often commented how much they appreciated being able to stay informed without having to ask me face to face and risk causing pain.  When we’d meet, they already knew, and so we could have “normal” conversation. CaringBridge was an amazing gift.

I carried on writing to my small following for about a year after Norman’s death, then had my site printed into a book, which I cherish to this day.  I don’t read it often, but in the back of my mind, I know it’s there, waiting should I wish to remember all God did during those months.  During this time, many commented on how much they enjoyed my writing, and encouraged me to pursue writing my story.

I wrongly thought when I finally began writing, because I was gifted, I was ready.

Babies are infused with all that is needed to grow and become adults, but it takes time and a lot of hard work to prepare them for what they were born to do – become fully functioning adults. I look back over my earlier blog posts and notice many imperfection. Mistakes today I try to avoid.

I’m growing.  Growing takes time.  For all of us.

I’m grateful for the many professional bloggers who share what they know through webinars and training material, giving me the ability to grow as a writer.

Jonathan Milligan, “Blogging Your Passion” (I find his material outstanding.)

Ruth Soukup “Elite Blog Academy” (A blogging friend highly recommends her material.)

Both offer free webinar training from time to time, as well as courses you can purchase to take you from beginning blogger to one who is able to monetize (have an income through blogging). Also, you may wish to look at the book I recommend in “Resources”.

Compel Training” by Proverbs 31 ministries is an online Christian writer’s guild, with a monthly fee to participate. I highly recommend them, as I gained immensely from my time as a member. They have a closed, limited membership with open enrollments throughout the year. They do this in order to maintain quality of service among their members. The fee for membership is about 25.00 a month, and covers member forums, weekly training in all aspects of writing, as well as opportunities to hear from published authors on a variety of topics. I went to the site recently, and they currently offer a free download, “Winning the Battle of Discouragement, 31 Lessons from Writers” for adding your name and email to their waiting list.

I chuckled when I read the title.

Write, and write, and learn from others.  Journal, write letters, blog – even when you are discouraged. Learn and grow. Never assume You’ve arrived.

And remember, God will use even babes, with all of their mistakes, as long as they are yielding to his process.

God has given us a gift and a calling as writers, but we must be willing to take the time needed to grow up.

While growing, we must also trust the God who called us to write will also complete the work he’s begun – bringing us to the place he has for us as writers.

My job is to persevere and not give up.  His way, his time.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

With love and prayers,

Robin <3

p.s. You may also wish to read the first two posts in this series:

“Encouragement for a Weary Christian Blogger” and “Write for an Audience of One”

 

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10 Tips to Help Work Through Grief

When I was living the worst of grief, there were several things that really helped me through.  All of us are unique, and so I don’t assume every suggestion will help.  Feel free to scan the list, and read only those portions that pertain to you.

  1. Be very careful with the use of medication and alcohol.  Grief doesn’t allow us to think most clearly, and so things we would normally never do, could become a problem.  One area I had to be particularly careful of was help in getting to sleep. Three to four times a week, I’d have a glass of wine to help me relax so I could more easily fall asleep.  I chose not to use alcohol nightly because I was afraid it could become a habit I’d later have to deal with.  I have heard of others becoming addicted to sleeping medication during this time. Talk with your doctor, but please don’t quietly self-medicate.
  2. Choose what fills your mind.  I had the radio tuned to my favorite Christian station almost 24 hours a day, playing softly in the background.  The words and soothing music kept me focused on truth, and helped me refocus more easily away from thoughts that could otherwise have plagued me.  Also, on many occasion, the Lord orchestrated a particular song to be played at just the right moment, embracing me with his love.20150626_203124
  3. Train your mind and “heart” to turn to Christ and his promises when panic about the future assails.  When fear and panic about the future would begin to plague my mind (usually at night or first thing in the morning), I would remind myself that I didn’t need to think about it right then. I would literally turn my thoughts and heart to focus on Jesus alone.  Forcing the thoughts of the future to take second place to facing Jesus Christ. It took time to train my brain to remain focused, and avoid the panic.  Tomorrow, I will share some verses that may help.
  4. Learn your body’s indicators of being over-stressed.  When I began to notice feelings of being unsettled and anxious, I eventually learned these were often indicators that I was spending too much time in activity in order to avoid grief. Learn your indicators.  If you aren’t certain, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show you your personal indicators of a need to stop running and rest.20150626_210108-01
  5. Set aside time to rest. Resting is so much harder while grieving, because it gives our minds time to think.  Thinking causes pain, so we avoid resting.  Yet, our bodies need rest. They need down time to heal from the trauma caused by the grief. Also, so many of us have had a space of time prior to our loved one’s death where we were busy caring for them.  Our bodies, minds, and souls need time to rest and restore.
  6. Set aside time to grieve. This may seem obvious, but it isn’t.  We don’t want to feel pain, so we avoid grieving.  However, I am learning now, almost 9 years later – we will grieve.  If we avoid taking time to grieve now, the emotions will come out one way or another – and they may not come out in ways constructive to us or others if we refuse their release.  I’m not saying we can always choose the place or time we release emotions, that isn’t possible. But, I have found it helpful to ask God to orchestrate down time when I could grieve before him.  This became especially important when I began feeling as though I was becoming unsettled and anxious because of over-busyness.  Those God-orchestrated moments were special moments between us where I would wail and voice my pain, the tears washing and cleansing me on the inside.  A sense of release and relief always followed.20150701_202353-02
  7. Don’t rush the grieving process.  I have read it isn’t wise to make any major life decisions for at least a year. Our brains aren’t able to think clearly enough.  Even though the numbness, for me, lasted about 6 months, the second year was the hardest. Everyone’s timetable for grieving is different – so don’t assume another person’s timetable for yourself. However, I’d add, if you are several years into grief, and aren’t any closer to healing than the day of your loved one’s death – please consider professional counseling.  Getting stuck in grief isn’t what God want’s for your life!
  8. Don’t rush getting rid of your loved one’s belongings until you are ready (unless extenuating circumstances require it). This shouldn’t be decided by friends or family.  When I was ready (about 6-8 months into grief), it helped me to purposely choose organizations that would appreciate my husband’s things.  I took photos of his “collections” which made it easier to release them.  I also chose to keep several mementos, and gave away items to special friends and family members for them to remember him by, making this stage memorable and less difficult.  However, if it has been years since your loved one’s death, and you are still unable to get rid of their belongings, this may indicate you are stuck in grief and may need professional counseling to help you heal.20150701_185956-01
  9. Make use of local resources.  Hospice often has local grief groups.  I’ve mentioned GriefShare.  Also, a book that greatly helped me was “A Sacred Sorrow“, by Michael Card.  It taught me the gift of being able to “lament” or grieve openly before God, and his loving response to those who grieve.
  10. Finally, cling to Jesus and his people.  If you aren’t in a loving, supportive church home, find one.  My church family’s love and support during this time helped more than I can say.  Stay in his Word – even if you can only read a verse or two a day – the Psalms are wonderful.  A good devotion for this period of time for me was “Streams In The Desert“, as the daily readings were collected by Mrs. Charles Cowman, a woman acquainted with grief.

You may also wish to read:  “Happy Anniversary Dear“, “White Picket Fences

I have received no compensation of any kind for my recommendations. I am not a licensed counselor, so my recommendations are from experience alone, and not intended to be professional in any way.

I would love to know what has helped you work through grief.  Also, if you would like to share any prayer requests, or wish to talk, the form below allows you to contact me confidentially.

With love and prayers,

Robin <3

How Do I Deal With Grief?

I’m in a bit of a mood this week, saddened by the death of my friend.  Praying much for the family, grieving with them as friends.  And remembering……the time I was where they are now.

Really, it can’t help but bring back memories.  And it can’t help but cause my heart to want to pour out all I would long to tell them, if I could.  All I would long to tell their closest friends.

“This is what grief looks like from the inside – no matter what it looks like from the outside.”

“This is what you may experience.  You may feel like you are going crazy, but no, you aren’t crazy.  It’s just grief.”

Yes, things will come back to a new, beautiful normal, in time, because of Jesus.”

“Friends and family – this is how you can help. This is what they may need you to understand.”

So, dear ones.  Please join me this week as I tackle pieces of my own story – and how God has taught me to deal with grief.  I may get teary eyed a bit, and so may you.  Especially if you’ve been there.  As the week progresses, if something tugs at your heart – share it.  If you disagree with something I say, or have a differing viewpoint – we all come at grief from differing personalities, and vastly varying experiences. So please share.  If you find these posts beneficial and know of someone going through it right now – please share with them.

Finally, if this brings up your own story of grief, I would love to share your sorrow.  I would love to pray.  Feel free to let me know.  The contact form below if for those moments when privacy is desired, but total isolation is not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… Isaiah 53:4

With love and prayers,

Robin <3

Keeping Beauty In Its Rightful Place

When I choose to live within the lavish love of God, outward beauty begins to take its rightful place in my heart and mind.

I don’t always see my self as God sees me.  Sometimes I forget whose I am, and long for acceptance and approval by others. (Isn’t that truly the root of most feverish attempts to make ourselves beautiful?)

Jesus did everything needed to make me beautiful.  I need to dwell in the truth of it.

The easiest time for me to forget how God sees me, is when life is hard.  The enemy of my soul loves to take any weakness and expand upon it.  He does that with all of us, and so we need to prepare ourselves for his attacks.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are. 

10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. I Peter 5:8-10 (NLT)

My outward appearance is no more than a piece of who I am. I don’t need to use it to receive acceptance and validation, but rather I have the opportunity to express Christ’s lavish love for me by the way I appear.

Over the years, I’ve learned some practical tips in aiding this goal:

  1. I try to spend time early in the day with Jesus in his Word and prayer.  This gives me the ability to see myself through his eyes rather than the eyes of the world.  If this is a new concept, the book of Ephesians is a wonderful place to begin. (Clue:  Look for all the times it says, “In Him…” and record what we are given or who we are.)  As you read, ask the Holy Spirit to make these truths real to your heart and mind.
  2. I try to dress in the styles I enjoy, not to please others, but to honor God and express unashamedly how he made me.  How would that look for you?
  3. How I dress does affect me.  Even if I’m not going out, I dress so that when I look in the mirror, I’m pleased.  I’m not an avid make-up wearer, but I enjoy wearing pretty jewelry and pretty blouses – whether or not anyone else sees me. How would this change your daily view when you look in the mirror?
  4. There are times when the Holy Spirit will convict me of something I’m wearing. If my appearance objectifies my body or causes men (other than my husband) to focus on my body, I’m devaluing the way Christ made me to honor and express him.

The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7b (NLT)

As I grow in seeing my appearance as an opportunity to shine as one deeply loved by Jesus, I become even more beautiful!  I also more clearly reflect that love to the world.

How are we outwardly expressing Jesus’ lavish love for us, beautiful ones?

With love,

Robin <3

Practical Ideas for Facing Daunting Tasks

Advent Week 2, Day 4 – Practical Ideas for Facing Daunting Tasks

After Norman passed, I learned something real quick – if something in the future makes me panic, I don’t have to think about it right now.

Usually it was something that didn’t have to be dealt with right away.  So I’d pray and ask God that when I really did need to deal with it, he’d give me the strength to do so wisely and calmly.  He did.  Always. Eventually.

The biggest area of panic for me was thinking about how large my house was just for me, and what would I do with all the accumulated stuff of 25 years of marriage. I knew I’d be selling and downsizing, but it all looked very daunting.   It took 3 years to gain the strength to tackle my stuff.  I wasn’t in a hurry anyway.

I started off by asking a friend over to help me begin.  She was there only a couple of hours, but her tenacity to ask the hard question “do you really need that?” was difficult but helpful.  Sometimes I said “yes”, and other times I acquiesced to her look. Just that short amount of time got me started.

In getting rid of Norman’s clothes, I took pictures and laughed at his collection of sweater vests, dress shirts, and ties.  He loved clothes!

God was gracious.  He gave me the idea to make getting rid of things a game.  How many boxes could I collect for donation?  And how many pieces of furniture could I give away? My tally was eventually around 100 boxes and 14 pieces of furniture!  I even had a good laugh one afternoon with the Salvation Army pick up person when I explained that I had 50 boxes to be picked up.  He asked me for a date – I graciously declined.

During this time of uncertainty, what do you need to shelve for a time when God is ready to give you the ability to tackle something hard?  If that time is now, pray for one practical idea to make the task or decision easier.  Jesus is good at hearing us and answering as we trust in him.

Ideas:

Schedule a date with a friend to help you tackle that project that looms

Take one small step this week toward facing that giant

Make time daily to pray for wisdom, direction, and strength

If you are in the middle of tackling giants, make certain you take a break to have some fun or to rest

Find a prayer partner – someone you can call on to say “pray now”

Stay in fellowship with God’s people and with God through his Word – lone sheep are the easiest to pick off

Make a schedule of one thing you could easily accomplish each day for a week – keep it simple (no long diatribes), and check that one thing off as you do it.  Be kind to yourself

With love and prayers,

Robin <3

Uncertainty is Part of Life, But Fear Doesn’t Have to Be

Advent Week 2, Day 3 – Uncertainty Is Part of Life, But Fear Doesn’t Have to Be

1 John 4:16-19

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first. (NLT, emphasis mine)

Uncertainty breeds fear like rabbits.  I know, as it has been my companion for far too long. I’m beginning to realize that it doesn’t need to be.

Uncertainty is part of life, but fear doesn’t have to be

because of the promises contained in the above verse and others like it.

So, what do I do to expel fear?  The verse gives the key, “we have put our trust in his love”.

As I grow in trusting God’s love, I am finding that fear lessens its grip.

Praise God.  This song really ministered to my heart this morning as I deal with my own fears and uncertainties.

No More Slaves, Bethel Music

You unravel me, with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance, from my enemies
Till all my fears are gone
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my mothers womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again, into your family
Your blood flows through my veins

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
All my fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
So I could stand and sing
I am child of God
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/bethel-music/no-longer-slaves-lyrics/#S0sDkyEWmxL5aBgo.99

Are these posts bringing life to you this holiday season?  I’d certainly appreciate your comments and encouragement.  These posts are birthed from my heart to yours because I’ve been there, and am still at times, and so want to share with you where I’ve found light and hope.

With love and prayers,

Robin <3

Grace for Today’s Uncertainties

Advent, Week 2, Day 2 – Grace For Today’s Uncertainties

Matthew 6:34

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (NIV)

2 Corinthians 12:9

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (NLT)

My pastor once told me as I bawled my eyes out hysterically as I told him the proposed cancer treatment alone could kill my husband,

“God’s grace is for today. So we won’t receive grace for today until it is today. Worrying about tomorrow won’t work because the grace for then hasn’t come yet.”

Wise words, that kept me through cancer wards, ICU, panic attacks, death, uncertainty, and change.  Any time I began to think ahead, and began to panic, the Lord would remind me of those words, and I knew I could forgo those thoughts for another time when I was more prepared.

Do I always remember to do this now?  No, I too need a lot of reminders as I face new challenges and uncertainties.  You have my permission to remind me when you see I need it! Please!

Where do you need to wait for the grace to fill “today”?  In Jesus’ nail-scarred embrace.

God offers us his grace to face today’s uncertainties, but not tomorrow’s worries

With love and prayers,

Robin <3