Friday, November 27, 2015

Finding Your Purpose

Since my husband, Paul, died I have had moments of wondering why on earth Heavenly Father kept me here and took him. In all honesty, I always saw him as the better parent. He was better at so many things. Maybe that is why he was called home and I get to stay here—or maybe I am still here because that was just a part of our plan—my plan.

It has taken me some time, but I have come to realize I am still here for a purpose. I have things to do and people to help. I can be an instrument in God’s hands.

I can remember the times that I have wanted so desperately to be back with my Paul. Yes, I have prayed for death…that I would go to sleep and not wake up. Or maybe I would just happen to wander off the road and hit something hard enough that my girls and I would be reunited with my love. They were fleeting thoughts, but they did enter into my mind because the loss I was feeling hurt so deeply.

The other day, I was reading in Philippians 1 and these verses stood out to me:
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

As I read these verses, I was thinking about how the Apostle Paul wrote this while he was imprisoned. He had a desire for death so he could be with the Savior, yet he knew that he had a purpose here. It was more needful for him to be here and serve Christ because his ministry was not finished. There were others here who still needed his help.

As a widow, like the Apostle Paul, I have experienced competing desires. It would be amazing to return to live with my Savior and my husband, yet I know that I have a purpose here. My work is not finished. I have beautiful children to raise and an amazing opportunity to serve Christ.

The Apostle Paul was literally being held captive. As a widow, I have felt captive figuratively. It has been hard and so excruciatingly painful. At times, it really has felt like a prison sentence with little to no relief.

The Apostle Paul recognized positive consequences that occurred as a result of his imprisonment. In Philippians 1:12 we read, “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.” And as we read in verse 14, “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear,” he also recognized because of his example, other church members were able to be more bold and speak with confidence.

Just as what transpired with the Apostle Paul, I have come to the realization that it is during those moments where we are imprisoned, we are also able to have the most impact and help others. God is able to utilize us to a greater capacity. Others are strengthened by our example. Others are lifted because we can show them compassion and empathy—they feel of our understanding because of what we have endured. No matter what your trial is, you have the ability to help others. You have a purpose.

It is hard to find purpose when you are struggling to make it through the day and your heart is full of sorrow.  Oh how well I understand. But it can be done--and needs to be done. When you find your purpose you find your peace.

Finding our purpose requires action. It takes more than just thinking and pondering.  It is in the doing that we discover our purpose.

I discovered my purpose when I quit asking God questions such as, “Why did this happen to me?” or “What did I do to deserve this—was I not good enough?” and started asking, “What am I supposed to learn from all this and what is my purpose”?  In essence, it was when I developed a greater relationship with God that I started to heal and find purpose in my life again.  God helped me to remember what I was passionate about and then start to DO those things...I have even discovered new things with His help.

Purpose is something that is plural in meaning.  Most likely you have many things you can do.  You don't have to just look for that "one thing" to give you purpose.  Or maybe you only find "one thing" that gives you purpose and that is great too.  

So often we think that if we aren't able to impact a lot of people's lives for the better, we have no purpose. In our minds, little impact means big failure. Wrong! Having purpose doesn't mean it is your job to change the world--it simply means that you are living and not just existing.  Having purpose can be something simple. You don't have to go looking for the grand when the small will suffice.

Purpose is also something that is not stagnant--it can change and most likely will.  We should always be seeking our purpose!  I ask God daily to help me find my purpose for that day.

When I REMEMBER my purpose I find my peace. Yep, occasionally I forget my purpose…lose my peace...and then God reminds me again.  I pray that you will find your purpose and find your peace. While seeking for your individual purpose, remember we all have a universal purpose. That purpose is to just BE.

BE aware of God’s love for you.
BE full of love for yourself and others. 
BE in the present moment.  
BE you! YOU have specific gifts that only YOU can share!


Questions to ponder:
  1. What is your individual purpose for today?
  2. If you don't know your individual purpose, what are you going to do to discover it?
  3. How has recognizing your purpose brought much needed peace into your life?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How come I didn't see it?

Yes, I miss my parents.  It is a different kind of missing and longing than my husband. At one time in my life my parents were the ones who helped me and provided the things I needed.  But then, I got married.  My husband became my North Star—the one constant who guided my path and kept me on course. He fulfilled all my needs.  I am currently working on developing a deeper relationship with God so that He is my North Star…but that is for a different discussion.

I have missed the companionship of my husband so deeply.  I miss him holding my hand; playing with my hair; the conversations; the reassuring love; the compliments; my best friend.

I have been on my knees praying more times than I can count.  I have cried out to God letting Him know that I hurt and I don’t want to feel this emotional pain anymore.  I have asked Him for help.  I have let God know that I am angry because I feel like He is not listening to me…

And then the other day, after a conversation with a friend I had an “aha” moment.  I realized that God has been answering me. He has answered my prayers through a sweet little 5-year-old child in the Sunday School class I teach.  Last Sunday she sat by me and played with my hair.  It felt so amazing to have someone just play with my hair like my husband used to do. 

God has answered my prayers through my daughter.  Each night she comes and lays by me on my bed and asks to hold my hand.  I love holding her sweet little hand.  It brings me comfort and peace.  He has also answered my prayers through friends that encourage me, listen to me and offer support.

Yes, God has been answering me and trying to share beautiful gifts with me, only I did not see it.

Do you ever tell your kids to get something only to have them tell you they can't find it?  Then you go and look for it and it was sitting right in front of their face the whole time.  Why is that?  Why didn't they see it?

Sometimes in life God is trying to give us something beautiful...only we don't see it.  We are too busy looking everywhere, but right in front of our face. Maybe we are looking back at what we once had.  Maybe we are looking over at each side of us to see what is happening around us—wondering if there is something better that might come along. Maybe we are looking down at the things we did wrong. Maybe we are too busy holding on to grief or regrets.

Or maybe he is trying to give us a beautiful gift…only we don’t get past the wrapping to see what is inside…because it doesn’t look like we thought it should or would.  If we take time to unwrap it…we will find the gift He is trying to share with us.

In my case, I think I didn’t open the gifts He was trying to give me because…let’s be honest here… subconsciously I wanted my husband back. (Yeah, I know an unrealistic expectation!) And in my mind, anything less was not an answer to my prayer. 

Whatever the case may be, I imagine God is often shaking his head.  But, He patiently waits and continues to guide us.  He knows what He has to offer us and He is trying to lead us to it.  Trust Him.

Do I feel the completeness I felt with my husband because of the gifts I now recognize?  Honestly, no. I still hurt and I still miss him. But I do feel an added strength. I feel better. Stronger. I see that God’s gifts help us and it is those gifts He gives us along the way that help us to survive.

I do believe the more we recognize the gifts God is sharing with us, the more we receive.  The first step is recognizing the gifts and then showing gratitude.  There is power in gratitude. I have seen it improve my life and the lives of my children.

I also believe a time will come when all will be made right and I will feel the completeness I once felt. And the same goes for you. We have to believe that God will make it right—because He will.  It takes patience, trust, and a whole lot of faith and hope!  We’ve got this!

Questions to ponder:

Is God trying to give you something beautiful and you just don’t see it?

How do you learn to recognize the gifts God is giving you?

What gifts are you grateful for?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Trying to Be Strong and Have Courage...

Today, I was really missing the sound of Paul's voice. I was just missing him. As I watched a video of him today, it felt strange. The longer time passes the less I remember his voice--even his presence in general. That scares me. I don't ever want to forget him...sometimes it all just seems like a dream that turned into a bad times my heart literally aches to see him, to touch him, to hear his voice. I crave him.
I still wait to hear him drive up from work. It is still hard to know that he is not coming home. Ever.
I am sick today.  I feel like I am coughing up a lung. I am one of those lucky ones who always gets bronchitis or pneumonia from a common cold.  Such is life.

It is hard to not have someone to care for you when you are sick or at the very least take care of the kids.  When I am sick it triggers longing. I long to have him here to stroke my hair and just let me know he cares.  As the kids scream at me asking me what's for dinner...I realize how hard this is...I just don't have the energy...he could help me with the girls.  He could go with the kids to the soccer game tomorrow morning.  He could bring me soup in bed and just sit by my side and talk to me.  Heck, I don't even need the soup...I just need him.  

Sometimes you just don't know how you can do it all...

Then you pray with all you have that God will help you to endure this burden.  You simply pray for strength and courage to make it through another day.  And you do.  Somehow.  Someway.  God helps you through it.  

We were blessed to get video footage of Paul before he passed away on Feb. 25, 2013 from stomach cancer. This video helps us to remember him and that it was as hard on him to leave us as it was for us to have him leave. Oh how I miss this amazing man!
I have posted this video on a previous blog post, but figured I'd post it here since I referenced it in this post. These are video clips of Paul taken in Dec. 2009....then taken Feb. 13, 2013 & Feb. 21, 2013.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Faith to Weather the Storm

Have you ever experienced things in your life you just don’t understand?  I’m sure it is safe to say most, if not all of us, have experienced those moments. Those moments where you want to ask God “why” and “how come”?  Those moments where there is very little peace and understanding in your soul.  Those moments where you are in the middle of a dark and looming storm!   

I wish I could say that I am the one who does not ever feel these things.  But that would be a lie.  I have been having many heart-to-hearts with God lately…trying to understand some trials that have been plaguing me.

Yesterday, my friend sent me a text telling me to listen to a talk by Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lessons from Liberty Jail”.  She knew that I have read and listened to this talk several times before.  In fact, it is one of my favorite speeches.  But, she also knows that we can read something numerous times and learn something new each time. And this time was no different.

While reading this speech, I noticed a couple of things I had not pondered before.  One of those things is from this statement, “And they will remind you that God often ‘moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.’  As I looked at the footnote it referenced a hymn called, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.”

This morning as I was looking over Facebook, I discovered an inspiring short new video about a woman who survived the Oklahoma tornado in May, 2013.  It is called,  “After the Storms”.  In this video there was also a reference to this same song.  I have never even noticed or sung this song before that I can recall.  So I decided I had better look the song up.  Here are the lyrics:

                                                       God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

As I read the lyrics to this song, I started to think about a post I did called Trusting God.  At times, it is so hard to trust Him when everything is so bleak…especially in the middle of our storms.  In that post I shared the following story: 

“The great prophet Moses was visited by angels and invited to come to heaven.  While there he noticed God giving orders to some of his angels.  Curious, Moses asked if he could accompany an angel on his mission.  The Lord was reluctant at first to send Moses, claiming that he would not be able to understand what the angels had been sent to do, but with further pleading he finally consented, with a condition.  Moses must promise not to question the things he would see.  To this Moses agreed and soon found himself flying with the angel down to earth.

They first flew over the water until they came to a small fishing boat upon which seven poor fishermen were trying to catch their daily sustenance.  As they flew nearer, the angel looked upon them and waved his arm.  Immediately the ship broke in half and all seven of the humble fishermen drowned.  Moses was stunned at this and began questioning the angel. The angel reprimanded Moses, reminding him of his promise, and they flew on in silence.

The second circumstance found them flying over the desert near a small village.  Walking down a dusty path was a young boy of about ten.  As they flew by, the angel once again waved his arm and the young boy dropped dead on the path.  Moses was again astonished at the irrational behavior of the angel and began to protest loudly until the angel again silenced him by reminding him of his promise to the Lord.  A quiet but angry Moses continued on the journey with the angel, confused that the Lord would send an angel to work such destruction and sorrow upon innocent people.

The third episode involved a small family living on the outskirts of a large city.  Along the caravan road entering the city lived a poor widow and her only son.  They were desperately poor and lived solely upon the meager harvest of a small garden scratched into the dust of their backyard.  The garden was alongside an old stone wall erected to separate the home from the caravan route into the city.  As Moses and the angel flew by, he once again waved his arm, and the stone fence fell into the widows garden, destroying all the produce.  At this unexpected turn of events, Moses could no longer be silent in his protesting and the angel took him back to heaven and to the Lord.

Moses asked the Lord why he would do such things, and the Lord reminded him of the warning that he would not be able to understand the workings of God.  After further protests, the Lord decided the only way to teach Moses would be to send his again with the angel, this time to see things he had not seen before.

Once again Moses and the angel flew over the water where the fishermen had perished.  Debris and wreckage still floated on the surface of the water.  As Moses watched, he saw something that he could not see the first time.  Far over the horizon, just barely in view he noticed another boat.  The angel allowed Moses to see what would have been had he not been sent of God.  The other boat was full of pirates, and Moses knew that the fishermen would have been captured, tortured, and sold into slavery had the Lord not in his mercy chose to bring them home.

They then passed the young Arab, still lifeless along the desert path.  Moses was allowed to see that later that same afternoon this young boy would have accidentally killed his brother.  According to the custom of the village, he would have been disowned by his family and made an outcast in the town, being forced to make his living begging in the streets until death from disease freed him from his misery.

Finally, they flew over the widow’s garden, where the woman and her son were struggling to salvage something from the chaos that was once their garden.  As the young boy dug away the earth under a large rock, he noticed a small cache.  Investigating further he found a small chest.  He called to his mother, and they looked inside and found a treasure trove of jewels and riches enough to provide a comfortable living for them for the remainder of their lives.

With a smile Moses flew back to heaven with the angel.  He finally understood what the Lord had been trying to tell him.

As we consider the legend, the words of Isaiah come to mind: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith 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 I thought of that story, it made me realize that we do not, nor can we fully, understand why things happen the way they do, but God always knows.  He knows us individually and He knows our plans.  We MUST trust Him!

The way to weather the storms is to trust God. We have to trust Him and remember we are a team. Let Him be by our side at the helm while we are navigating the sea of life.  Yes, He has the ability to calm the storm, but if that is not the plan, He has the ability to calm us during the storm. We just have to remember to ask and then believe we will survive the storm with God's help!

“When we experience those things in life that we just don’t understand, we have to choose whether or not we’re going to trust God.

It’s not being optimistically foolish to trust God no matter what; it’s what we call faith. It’s in that in between when we don’t have all the answers, and we don’t know if everything will turn out okay that we come to know what real faith is.

Real faith isn’t a hopeful wish. Real faith is making the decision that no matter the outcome, we’ll choose to see it as God’s perfect answer.

Through the good, through the not so good, and even through the down right awful we will trust God. Now this doesn’t mean we won’t cry and express hurt. It does mean we’ve decided it’s better to have lived trying to take leaps of faith with God, than to walk away from Him.”- Lysa TerKeurst, Proverbs 31 Ministry