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Master Your Emotions

Do you have negative, unwanted emotions that keep you from being able to create the experiences and relationships you desire?

Do you feel like your emotions hijack your life?

Or hold you hostage to your circumstances and relationships?

Do you wish you could keep your cool more? Or stop yelling at your kids?

I can remember a time in my life when I felt these ways too.

Managing our emotions is an important skill in life. Yet too often this important topic doesn’t get talked about. It can be uncomfortable and make us feel ashamed that we struggle in these ways, after all, who likes to admit that they just lost their s**t on their kids yet again. Or left another conversation knowing you let them ‘get under your skin’ in ways that you wish they couldn’t. Or maybe you, once again, felt like a little child caught stealing candy during a recent family gathering and you hate how every time you get with family, you seem to be unable to show up in a powerful way.

I am excited to tell you about a FREE online web series called Master Your Emotions: How to respond powerfully to any situation so you get what you want from your life and relationships.

Click here to get access: http://bit.ly/MYE-DenaJohnson

This series is hosted by my colleague, Sarah Hanna, and in it myself and other knowledgeable, skilled, down to earth, easy to understand experts discuss how to change unwanted, negative emotions by implementing proven and practical skills that enable you to respond powerfully to your situations and relationships.

You’ll learn tools and tips to help you manage your emotional reactions, thereby creating an opportunity for you to consciously choose how you want to respond.

You’ll learn the best way to interrupt yourself when you find yourself suddenly overwhelmed by knee-jerk reaction.

You’ll also learn what you can do to prevent those knee-jerk reactions from happening to begin with.

You’ll hear experts speak into the pain that out of control emotional reactions bring and offer hope, and understanding, by discussing why managing your emotions can often be so difficult and what you can do to change that.

I have your seat saved to attend. You can register by using this link: http://bit.ly/MYE-DenaJohnson

This series is an awesome opportunity to gain relief from emotional overwhelm and begin to create the life, and have the kind of relationships, that you long for. I’m thrilled this information is available to my tribe and I was able to be a part of such an important series.

Register for the Master Your Emotions series now and reserve your spot in order to hear these amazing interviews.

Link again: http://bit.ly/MYE-DenaJohnson

Join today and get ready to change your story.

Many blessings on your emotional mastery journey.

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Faith, fatherless, Grace, Hope, promises

True Redemption

Redemption: the act, process or instance of making a bad or unpleasant thing or person better or more acceptable

It’s Easter Sunday as I write this blog post. I have no idea when it will be posted to my blog, but I know my heart is full. Overwhelmed. Filled with gratitude.

All week, I’ve attempted to focus my mind on the Savior, on the amazing gift of His life given for my sins. I’ve tried to focus on the beauty of the resurrection, the promise that no death (literal or figurative) is the end of the story when we walk with God. I’ve tried to prepare my heart to celebrate the resurrection of my Savior.

Truthfully, I’ve been a miserable failure at preparing my heart. Much like Martha, I’ve been distracted by so many things. Career decisions. Issues at school. Painful anniversaries. Seizures (yes, my daughter had another one just when we had begun to think they had subsided). My mind has been everywhere except where I truly wanted it to be.

This morning, though, I stood in church surrounded by my children. On my right, with his arm around my waist lovingly pulling me close, was my boyfriend (affectionately known as my Royfriend).

There I stood, overwhelmed by the goodness of my Father. There I stood, tears stinging my eyes as I reflected on the faithfulness of my Savior. There I stood, a living portrait of God’s redeeming power.

On Easter Sunday, my sweet family was a living testimony of resurrection, of redemption, of the very work Christians around the world were celebrating.

For the first time, I fully understood the meaning of redemption.

Redemption means all things have been made new.

My ugly, painful past still exists, but I have been blessed with a brand new life. I have a beautiful new relationship with a man who truly loves me as Christ loves the church. It’s a love I have never known before. My children have a man who loves them as a father should. Just when their father was taken from this earth, God saw fit to bless them with a man who has been an incredible substitute. He will never fully replace their dad, but I promise he has supported them and been there for them in ways they had only dreamed.

We have a beautiful new future which is truly redeeming our past pain.

Redemption is a picture of Christ in our lives.

When Christ came and died on the cross in our place, taking our sin and shame upon Himself, he redeemed us, purchased us, took away the old and gave us new.

As I stood in church, I was overwhelmed with how Roy has been the portrait of Christ to me and to my children. He has pursued me relentlessly for over seven years, just as Christ pursues us relentlessly. He has fought tirelessly for my affections, just as Christ fights for our hearts. He has been faithful to me even when I rejected him repeatedly, just as Christ is faithful even when we are faithless. He has been my defender and a father to my fatherless children, just as God is the Defender of widows and Father to the fatherless.

Redemption means beauty comes from the ashes.

And it’s not just Roy. My redemption—our redemption—is so much more. As I look at so many blessings in my life, I’m overcome with emotion.

What Satan meant for evil, God has truly used for good! I never dreamed when I was walking through the darkest days of my life that divorce would become a platform from which God could get the glory, a place where I could shine brightest for Him. And yet, that’s exactly what it has become. Divorce has become the opportunity to meet and minister to so many hurting people, to share His love and His faithfulness to carry us through the pain of this life with people around the world. Every person who has been touched by my story is part of my redemption. Everyone who has ever read my blog is part of my redemption.

The joy I have in sharing my story, in using my pain to point others to the Savior is not only my passion but also one of my greatest joys. It is the purpose for my life, the beauty that has risen from the ashes of my pain.

Redemption means God repays two blessings for every pain.

Had you told me eight years ago that I would consider divorce a great blessing, I might have slapped you. But today? The blessings abound!

Honestly, I can’t even remember the pain any more. Sometimes I can conjure up the feelings, the memories. I can remember the moments that robbed me of my very breath. But for the most part, the pain has passed into the deepest recesses of my mind, buried under a growing mountain of blessings. I have been blessed to experience the Father in deeper ways than I have ever dreamed. I’ve seen His hand take my circumstances and open doors no one could conceive. I’ve seen Him provide for me and my children as only the Almighty Creator of the Universe could provide. I’ve seen my capacity to love expand. I’ve seen my faith grow greater than I ever imagined.

I wish I could recount for you every blessing. Truthfully, I could never come close. What I know is that the blessings continue to pour in, even in the deepest pain. Perhaps part of redemption is learning to see from God’s perspective rather than our own.

Redemption does not mean the pain goes away, but it does mean we are no longer controlled by it.

The pain will always be part of my past, but it is fading into nothing more than scars. And even as the scars fade and lighten with time, it has had a profound effect on every aspect of my life.

But it no longer controls me.

I am proud of my scars, of the story they tell. I am proud that I have come through the battle, possibly weary but a survivor. The battles have made me who I am, changed me, made me so much stronger in so many ways. I will always bear the scars, but never will they hold me back from a beautiful future.

Redemption is seeing that even the pain can be used to make you better.

This week has been amazing as I am overcome by the goodness of my Father. I feel as if He allowed me to see the redemption on Easter morning, and each day just gets sweeter.

Maybe you aren’t at redemption yet. Maybe you are still in the throes of the pain, wondering if you will ever make it to the light at the other end of the tunnel. Maybe the shock has worn off and you are in the daily grind of trying to figure out how to live this new life, to return to some sense of normalcy. Maybe you are in the waiting stage, wondering when God will come through with the many promises He has made for you.

No matter where you are, I hope you can take hope from my story. You see, I’ve been there. It’s been nearly eight long years since my life crumbled (maybe nine depending on where you start counting). But finally, I see it! I see the long awaited redemption He promised!

And His redemption is worth the wait.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5b

Faith, Grace, Hope

Resurrection Power

“Resurrection is the central tenet of the Christian faith. And it isn’t something we just celebrate on Easter. Resurrection is something we celebrate every day in every way. Prayer has the power to resurrect dead dreams and give them new life—eternal life.” Mark Batterson (The Circle Maker, 41)

Have you ever really thought about the resurrection?

Here we are, Holy Week 2017. Walking through the days leading up to Good Friday and Resurrection Day. Reflecting once again on the sacrifice Jesus made for us, for our sins. Remembering how He took our sins on Himself, on that cross, so that we could have forgiveness and live with Him in glory.

And Sunday, we will join together in a chorus of, “Hallelujah! He is risen!” We will celebrate the stone being rolled away from the tomb, the resurrection of our Savior! We will remember His victory over death, a victory only the Promised Messiah could accomplish through the power of the Omnipotent God of the Universe.

Every year, Christians come together around the world and celebrate!

But what does the resurrection mean personally? How does it impact our daily lives? What difference does it make on how we live, on how we approach everyday life?

Yes, we all know the resurrection means we have the right to eternal life. It means forgiveness. It means Jesus is the Messiah. But how do we live in light of the resurrection?

I recently asked this very question, and here are some of the answers:

“We must embrace the fact that death must first occur before resurrection can occur. We often try to sidestep necessary pain and by doing so we miss the power of resurrection after death.”

How insightful! Without the death of Jesus Christ, we never would have seen the power of God to raise the dead back to life! But how often we forget that in our daily lives. When we experience tremendous loss, we focus on the loss and fail to see how it might be more of a set up for God to show His mighty power.

Just as Christ’s death on the cross was not final, neither is any loss we suffer in this life. It is only a place to pause, collect our thoughts, and turn our faith to the One who has power to resurrect from the dead.

“He gives me a second chance to be, to live, to seek. He fills me up with new life and dreams while rearranging the old dreams and life I had.”

Along the same line of thinking, resurrection means we have the opportunity to start over. Just as His death was the conduit of forgiveness of sins, it is also a conduit of newness, of fresh starts. Because of the resurrection, we can look at each day with fresh eyes, knowing there’s always more to the story. We have a second chance.

“The miracle-working power which raised Jesus from the grave is alive and working in me, both as an internal, transforming power and in this world, healing and raising others.”

As Ephesians 3:20 says, the power that is able to do far more than we could ever ask, think, or imagine, that mind-boggling, death-defying power is at work in you and in me! It’s available to us for the asking! It’s not a power that was only for Bible days, only for those who have the most extraordinary faith. It is ours!

Think about what that means: with Him at work in us, nothing is impossible. Absolutely nothing.

“A new life with the only person who will love unconditionally and for all eternity.”

Unconditional, unending love. What a beautiful portrait of who God is, of how He loves us. We are His, forever and always, and nothing—absolutely nothing—can separate us.

“Death has been conquered and I have been given the opportunity by choosing Him to experience eternal life with Him! And, while here on earth, I can live in victory and joy instead of fear and anxiety. Wouldn’t trade that peace of mind and heart for anything.”

There is no reason to fear death. There is hope for tomorrow. There is a promise of eternal life to those who love Him, who choose Him. We will be with Him one day in eternity. But, until that day, we are free to live on this earth with joy and peace that only comes from Him.

Isaiah 26:3 has become a favorite of mine. You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! When we keep our thoughts fixed on Him, His all-surpassing peace that flows from the cross straight to us keeps us safe and sound.

“Regardless of the situation, God is in control. No matter how bad it looks, He has it handled. I just need to remember that during the anxious moments.”

“No matter what I am facing, there’s always hope. God can bring new life out of even the most hopeless situations.”

Yes! There is always hope! There’s never a reason to worry and fret because we can be assured that nothing takes Him by surprise. Even when it seems the world around us is spinning out of control, when we can’t catch a breath, there’s peace in knowing not even death can keep our Savior down.

He. Is. In. Control.

“Ultimate victory over death, evil, sin, the enemy…everything. Surpassing victory planned just for us to walk in. We are victorious because of Jesus.”

Ultimate victory. Nothing can stop us. We have won the victory in a war waging in the heavenlies. But we have nothing to fear because the victory is secured.

“It’s all true! He IS who He says He is, and that heaven is our home with Him. Right now is just the long way home.”

“His victory over death is the evidence that Jesus has the ability to grant us eternal life. Without the resurrection, there is no Christianity.”

“It means His Word is true! It means He’s alive and intercedes for me.”

Yes! The resurrection is what sets Christianity apart from the rest of the world religions. What other religion can point to a dead person coming back to life? What other religion claims that kind of power?

The resurrection truly is the central tenet of our faith. It is the entire crux. Without it, Christianity falls apart.

“Everything changed! ABSOLUTELY everything!”

No greater summation. The resurrection changed everything.

Lord Jesus, as we celebrate your death and resurrection this weekend, I pray you would help us to remember that it’s not just something that happened in the past. Make us mindful that it changes everything—everything about our lives. Keep the resurrection at the forefront of our minds every single day that we might live our ordinary lives in light of what it means to us. Help us to remember it changes everything, even in our daily lives.

 

Faith, Hope, Spiritual Growth

The Legacy of an Unnamed Child

Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”

“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves. John 6:5-13

The feeding of 5000. It’s a story everyone has heard. It’s a story of how God multiplies what we give, of how the disciples learned an incredible lesson about God’s economy. It’s a story of God’s ability to take a little and bless it and multiply it beyond anything we could ever imagine.

But there’s a figure in the story that has always intrigued me: the boy whose lunch was used to feed the multitudes.

We don’t know much about him. We don’t know his age or why he was there. We don’t know where his lunch came from. We don’t know if that’s all he had or if he had been munching on it throughout the day.

As a mom, I can imagine how some of it came about. Indulge me for a few minutes as we use our sanctified imagination at the beginning of that day…

“Mom,” the ten-year-old boy exclaimed. “He’s coming! He’s coming to town today! Can I go?”

“Who is coming?” the mom asks, trying to understand her son’s excitement.

“Jesus! Jesus from Nazareth! The whole town is talking about it. He’s here, and I want to go. Can I please? I’ll get my older brothers to go with me! Please?!?!”

“If your brothers go with you, I guess it will be fine. Just make sure you stay close to them. And let me pack a lunch for you to take.”

“Thanks, Mom! You’re the best!”

As the mom packed a lunch for her boys, she never imagined she was about to be a small part of a huge miracle, a miracle that has lived on forever. She was only doing what any good mom would do.

So off the boys went, the youngest talking excitedly along the way. He had heard so much about this Jesus, and now he gets to see it all for himself.

The boys arrive where the crowd is gathering, growing. They are a small part of the crowd nearing 20,000 people (when you include women and children). They find a shady spot on the hill where they can see everything, hear the words spilling from Jesus’ mouth. They listen throughout the day, amazed at the wisdom of this young prophet.

As they listened, they pulled out the lunch and munched on it, satiating their hunger. They noticed no one else had food. They were thankful for the forethought of their mother.

Then, the disciples began walking through the crowd, asking if anyone had bread. The older boys tried to stash away their lunch, hoping the disciples wouldn’t see it, wouldn’t ask them to share. After all, what would their small lunch do for a crowd this size?

But little brother, always eager, jumps up and shouts at the disciples, “We have bread! Peter, over here! We have five loaves of bread!”

The disciples approached the brothers. “Jesus is asking for bread,” Peter says. “Will you share your bread with the Master?”

The older brothers begin to hedge, trying to find a way out of the mess little brother was getting them into. At least the disciples are only asking for bread, they thought. Maybe we can at least hide the fish.

“Oh!” the little boy exclaims. “You can have all of our bread! Five loaves! And we have two fish, too! Take them all to Jesus!”

The disciples gathered up the lunch, lovingly packed by the boys’ mother and took it to Jesus.

And that is what Jesus used to feed a crowd of 5000 men.

As I read this story in my quiet time this morning, my mind flashed to the young boy. I hope I have the same faith as this boy! Here’s what I see in the unnamed hero of this story:

He was willing to give up “mine” for Jesus. The boy didn’t have to give up his lunch. He could have held tight, clinging to the small amount he had. After all, what would five loaves and two fish do for a crowd this size?

But instead, the boy had a generosity mind-set. He wasn’t greedy, wasn’t selfish. If Jesus asked, he was willing to give and see what Jesus would do with his small offering.

He gave more than Jesus asked. Jesus never said anything about fish. Jesus only asked about bread (v 5; see also Mark 6). And yet, this young boy offered up more than what Jesus asked for. He not only offered up his bread, but he also offered his fish.

Isn’t that what God wants? Isn’t that what God honors? He wants hearts that are fully devoted, fully yielded. He wants followers who give above and beyond what He asks. He wants lives that are sold out, all in.

He made a difference with his offering. I think so often we think our small gifts are worthless, that we don’t have enough to make a difference. But in reality, it was his small gift Jesus used to bless thousands!

Think about it. If that was the only food in the crowd and the boy had not given it to Jesus, what would have happened? Wouldn’t it have changed the entire story? Rather than multiplying what we have, Jesus might have made food materialize out of nowhere. The disciples would not have had the blessing of seeing the food multiply as they passed it out. I have no doubt Jesus could have and would have met the needs of the people, but it was the sacrifice of a pure heart that was the set up for one of the greatest miracles of all time.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be more like this young boy. I want my faith to be so firm, my heart so pure, that I give everything. I want to be the one who hears God tell me to give one, and instead I give two. I want to be so excited about my Savior, about hearing His voice, that I jump at the opportunity to sacrifice for Him. I want to have the faith of a child, of this child.

Lord Jesus, thank you for this young boy who so willingly gave everything he had, more than you asked. Thank you for the example he is to us of what you can do through one who is fully devoted, fully committed, fully trusting. I pray you would help my heart to be as pure, as generous, as this young boy. I pray you would take my offerings, my gifts, and multiply them as you did his. Show me how to let go of all worldly possessions, all things, and hold only to you. You are my only desire. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

 

 

Faith, Grace, Hope, parenting, Uncategorized

Does Godly Parenting Produce Godly Children?

Today, I have a special guest post by my friend and fellow BLAST participant Robin Patchen. Be sure to check out her blog!

 

I have a confession to make: I have three teenagers, and all of them have rebelled to one degree or another. In fact, one rebelled so thoroughly, he spent what should have been his senior year of high school in rehab. I promise you, when he was a little baby, all smiles and giggles, I never imagined that. When I was reading Goodnight Moon to that boy for the thousandth time, you couldn’t have convinced me he’d ever struggle with addiction. When I homeschooled him, taught him to read, took him to church, rehab never entered my mind.

So what went wrong?

When my kids were preschoolers, my husband and I attended a parenting conference. One of the classes was taught by a man I respected greatly. He made a lot of points in that class, but one stuck with me.

He suggested that some of the “great” men in the Bible weren’t all that great as fathers. He mentioned Eli, whose sons were called “scoundrels” (1 Samuel 2:12). He talked about David. One of his sons, Amnon, raped his own sister (2 Samuel 13). Another of his sons, Absolom, started a revolution (2 Samuel 15). This Bible teacher’s point was clear: If your children misbehave, then you must be a bad parent.

Some evidence for that idea can be found in the Bible. Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (NKJV).

Way back when I had preschool children, I savored that idea like I would the best Swiss chocolate. I believed I had that much power, that if I just did my job right, my children would obey me, walk with God, and be blessed. I was convinced that if I could just be good enough, then my kids could skip that pesky rebellious stage and slide effortlessly into adulthood.

What a nice thought, that great parenting plus solid Bible teaching equals perfect kids.

A decade later, I can testify to one thing—that’s a total crock.

Don’t get me wrong, friends. It is essential that we parents do our very best. We must discipline our children consistently. We must teach them the Word. We must expose them to truth and encourage them to do right. It’s essential that we love our children and spend time with them. We have to monitor their viewing and Internet activity. There’s all that stuff, and there’s mountains more we need to do to ensure our children have the best chance in life.

But do our efforts guarantee results? If we do all of that, will we then have godly, obedient children?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Let’s go back to that often-memorized scripture, Proverbs 22:6. It is one of my favorites. If you read it closely, you’ll see it doesn’t promise that your children will never depart from the way you taught them to go. It says that “when he is old, he will not depart.”

What about the time between today and “when he is old”? Will he not depart from the correct way at all, ever? How does that fit in with the idea that “all have sinned and fall short…” (Romans 3:23)? Doesn’t everybody disobey? Other Scriptures warn us that children do rebel against their parents, even perfect parents.

“Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth!     This is what the Lord says: ‘The children I raised and cared for     have rebelled against me.’” Isaiah 2:1

If our perfect God can’t raise perfect children, how can we, as imperfect as we are? And do we truly believe that our children are simply blank slates, or are they, like us, born with a sin nature? Why do we believe we can outsmart sin with rules and guidelines?

It’s a lovely idea. Or perhaps, it’s an insidiously evil idea. Because if I believe I can control my children’s futures with perfect parenting, where does God fit in? If I believe that Bible teaching and Scripture memorization will make my kids into perfect little Christian soldiers, what room have I left for grace? And when my children fail to be perfect—which they are guaranteed to do—who do I blame? Myself, for all the times I failed? God, whom I was trying so hard to obey? Or my children for not living up to my expectations?

I thank God that over the years of parenting, He taught me that, ultimately, I have very little control over their choices. The older they get, the less control I have and the more freedom they have to make good choices or to mess up their lives.

When my oldest chose drugs over our family, my husband and I let him walk away. But we didn’t forget him—not for a moment. No, we prayed and begged God to bring him home. At one point when I was praying, I felt the Lord’s words in my ears. “Do you trust me with your son?”

Did I trust him? Too many young people, many children of godly parents, get lost to drugs and alcohol—or simply lost to their own foolish choices. Some kids end up in prison, others end up homeless. Some run away and aren’t heard from for years. And some end up in the grave. There are no guarantees for any of us. Trusting God meant facing that my son could be lost to us for a time, or for good. But I knew I couldn’t fix it, and I believed God could. I was out of options.

I decided at that moment that I did trust Him with all my children. It was either trust Him or go mad with grief and fear.

My first-born’s story has been a testimony to God’s provision. He brought my son home. He went to rehab, he got clean, and now he’s studying to be a missionary with Youth with a Mission.

God’s plan for my son was not my plan for him. He rejected us and rejected God, but God never rejected him. God wooed him back, pulled him through, and turned him into this amazing, Spirit-filled young man with a burning passion for Christ. None of that would have happened apart from the rebellion that started it all.

So are we failures as parents, because our son landed in rehab? Or, are we good parents, because now he’s walking with God? Or, are we merely imperfect parents, doing our best—all anyone can be asked to do? God knows our faults and shortcomings, and He blessed us with these young people anyway. How they turn out is ultimately in His hands. No matter what happens, I will continue to trust Him with my children.

 

 

 

Robin Patchen is an award winning multi-published author, but only because she can’t pursue her other dream.

If time and money were no object, Robin would spend her life traveling. Her goal is to visit every place in the entire world–twice. She longs to meet everybody and see everything and spread the good news of Christ. Alas, time is short and money is scarce, and her husband and three teenagers don’t want to traipse all around the world with her, so Robin does the next best thing: she writes. In the tales she creates, she can illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.

Find out more at Robin’s website, and connect with her on Facebook.

 

Twisted Lies: Hidden Truth Series Book #2

She thought they’d never find her.  And then her daughter vanished.

Marisa Vega’s life as an adoptive mom in a tiny Mexican village isn’t what she’d dreamed while growing up in New York, but as the target of a man who’s convinced she stole millions of dollars from his financial firm, Marisa believes hiding is her only way to stay alive. When her daughter is snatched and held for ransom, Marisa must discover who really stole the money in order to rescue her.

Months after being kidnapped, tortured, and left with PTSD, Nate Boyle is ready to live a quiet life in rural New Hampshire. When the source of his breakout newspaper article—and the woman who haunts his dreams—begs for help, he gets pulled into a riddle that’s proved unsolvable for nearly a decade.

Can Nate and Marisa unravel the years-old mystery and bring her daughter home?

 

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2kotGFL

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/twisted-lies-4

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/twisted-lies/id1198420662?ls=1&mt=11

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twisted-lies-robin-patchen/1125532419?ean=2940157409418

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33984490-twisted-lies

 

Dating, Faith, Hope, Pain and suffering

Of Loss and Love

“My [loved one] passed away last week. … Now that I’m older and have traversed this experience I just walk around wondering have the flood gates now opened? Who’s next? What sudden tragedy will happen around the corner?”

Loss and fear seem to go hand-in-hand. We lose someone important and suddenly we fear losing those we love the most.

Many of us have walked through the pain of death or divorce. Although different, both are huge losses, losses that leave us reeling, wondering how to put our lives back together.

For me personally, I didn’t trust anyone (especially men) after my divorce. The thought of trusting my heart to a man left me terrified, fearful he would also betray me. My heart was too tender, too raw to open up to anyone. I shut down with so many people.

Now that I’ve taken time to heal, I’m ready for a relationship (and have been blessed with a great guy by my side)! I don’t fear he will betray me. His character and integrity are sparkling! But, now I find myself wondering if he will die before me, leaving me widowed. It may seem like a strange concern, but when your grandparents lived well into their 90s, you want to find someone whose genetics lend themselves to the same type of longevity! Truth is, none of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

I’m also seeing fear of loss in my kids since their dad passed away unexpectedly last year. It’s so heart-breaking to see them grapple with loss, with fear, with emotions no teenager should have to experience.

I recently threw out a question about fear and loss on Facebook. Take a look at some of the responses I received:

“Even though I would like to meet someone, the thought of going through the process makes me nauseous. I’ve gotten to a scary point of being alone being more comfortable than going thru the nauseating hell of dating at this point in life.” (Loss to divorce)

“I didn’t think that I was fearful of loving and losing again when I got remarried, after my first husband died, but I fight to control and protect me and my kids. Two people fighting to control and protect themselves from more hurt obviously causes problems. … No matter what, I think it takes serious being connected to Jesus-ness- at least for me.” (Loss of husband to sudden death)

“At first, yes [I feared loss], but as time has gone by (8 years now) the Lord has proven Himself in so many circumstances … that it’s really a matter of trusting Him rather than that person. People will always let us down, but God never will.” (Loss to divorce)

“For the first 8 months I feared to love again because the thought of someone leaving me again. I have grown tremendously since then, and I am in the middle of getting to know a lady right now. This time, I know where I am grounded on and the lady I am getting to know is very grounded in her faith. It is a beautiful thing to be getting to know someone and to pray together and for each other.” (Loss to divorce)

“I would have to be pretty sure that the new guy’s focus and desire was more on the giving and not as much on the getting. I would want him to consider it his ministry from the Lord to add blessing and value to my life. It’s the only way I can see that a relationship can excel and glorify God, and that is what I would want most of all.” (Loss to death after 34 years)

“I was married and divorced to my high school sweetheart. I did have a few trust issues when I started dating again but had to remind myself that who I was dating wasn’t the one who divorced me and to keep the blame in the right place, on the ex as opposed to women in general.” (Lost second wife to cancer)

“I’m not in a place to be ready for that yet but even thinking about the possibility of moving forward brings fears and anxiety to me. To make myself love and be vulnerable does not appeal to me at this time but at the same time I don’t want to be alone forever and I’m open to what God has for my life.” (Loss to sudden death)

Can’t you hear it? The words drip with fear of loss, fear of being vulnerable again. Hearts have been shattered by some of the most painful losses our human experience can hand us. The hurt and the pain linger long after the loss, permanently altering lives and even the outlook on life. Our lives will never be the same.

And yet, I hear words of hope, words of wisdom. Wisdom that only comes from walking through the trials of this life. Wisdom that comes from walking with the Lord, seeing Him faithfully meet every need. Wisdom that comes from knowing the Savior, from learning to trust Him as He carries them through the most difficult times.

As I read through the comments and messages I received, I saw several key points I want you to consider as you face your fear of loss.

Wait. Over and over, I read stories of those who jumped back into dating soon after their loss. The outcome is rarely good. More pain. More betrayal. Used and abused. A broken heart unable to discern a safe person, simply longing for love and companionship to numb the pain.

I know I was guilty. I just wanted to have someone to hold me, to let me know I was loveable. And I got hurt.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Wait. Wait for healing. Wait until you are healthy. Wait until it’s God’s timing not your own.

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Trust. Over and over, I hear the same refrain: My God has been so faithful. I have learned to trust Him completely. He has never failed me, and He won’t fail me now.

As you walk this path of loss and you let God heal you, learn to abandon your life to Him. Trust Him to guide you every single day into the future He has for you. Trust Him with your heart.

I love how my one friend put it: It takes serious being connected to Jesus-ness.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

Be picky. I could have had a number of different men over the last seven years, but I wasn’t willing to settle. I didn’t just want a warm body, someone to take away my loneliness. I wanted a man who loved God, loved me, loved my kids. Nothing less would do.

I have a friend who went through a divorce a little over a year ago. She’s dated several different men. All nice guys, but I always feared she was settling. She recently broke off a relationship telling me she just wants more. She doesn’t want to walk through the pain of another bad marriage, and she was fearful that’s where they would end up. Why? Because he didn’t share the same love for God, and she knows that without Him at the center, they don’t have a fighting chance.

I’ve said for several years, I will never trust a man again. However, I will trust God in a man. As my friend above said, “It’s really a matter of trusting Him rather than that person. People will always let us down, but God never will.”

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33

Ultimately, we must remember that God commands us not to fear, but to be strong and courageous. If we are living in fear, paralyzed by fear, we are living in sin. We must find a way to fight through the pain, to fight through the loss, to find the peace that comes from walking with our Savior.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

There is healing, hope, a beautiful future. There is victory over fear, over loss. If you aren’t there, just keep fighting, moving forward. There is nothing better, nothing richer than seeing God put your life back together.

Lord Jesus, life hurts. Death. Divorce. Losses of all kinds. They leave us hurting and broken. But I am so glad to have a Savior who is a Healer, the One who can put our lives back together. I’m so thankful that you delight in taking  our broken lives and making us whole again. For those of us moving forward after loss, I ask you to take our fears, our doubts, and use them to make us stronger. Give us wisdom to see your perspective, your will, and to walk forward in faith. Give us the victory. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Faith, Grace, Hope

The Long Walk

Have I told you about my son’s pigs?

For the second year, my son has chosen as an extra-curricular activity pigs. Yes, live, eating, drinking, pooping, smelly pigs.

Cole decided to join Future Farmers of America (FFA) last year, and he is absolutely excelling! He shows pigs. He judges livestock. And he is surrounded by some amazing people—other students and their families. He is gaining leadership experience, learning responsibility, and growing immensely.

But it comes at a cost.

Did I mention that pigs are smelly? The barn where he keeps his pigs is absolutely horrendous. I might have been caught plugging my nose as I walked into one of his shows…and been the subject of many jokes thereafter. Every time you walk in the barn, you have to shower and wash your clothes. Doesn’t matter if you were in there 30 seconds or 30 minutes. Your clothes and hair simply absorb the smell. No escape. It follows you. In your car. In your room. Ugh!

Today, I went to the final show of the season. It was held at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds, and kids gathered from around the state. They came with their pig feed and water troughs, their whips and their shavings. More kids and pigs (and sheep, goats, and cattle) than you can imagine!

These kids have spent the last five months feeding their pigs. They’ve cleaned the pens. They’ve taught the pigs to walk just right, heads held high to flatten out their backs. They’ve clipped their pigs. They’ve weighed their pigs. They’ve worked to put weight on their pigs and they’ve worked to take the weight off their pigs. They’ve learned what the judges look for in a show pig.

And they’ve loved their pigs. Cole’s pigs were so tiny when he got them in November. So cute! We’ve watched as they’ve grown into powerful animals, yet with a gentle spirit.

So today, Cole walked his pig to the ring, eagerly anticipating the judge’s critique. Would he be sifted (sent away without winning) or would he be penned (place in his class)?

His pig has been fed plenty in the last few weeks. He had to gain 25 pounds to make the 230 pound minimum weight. This morning, he weighed in at exactly 230 pounds! One hurdle crossed.

He entered the first ring where a judge sent him directly to the big ring! No sifting! He entered the second ring, marching his pig expertly in front of the judge. The judge was impressed and sent him to a pen!

In the end, Cole placed 7th in his class. Not bad when you consider the number of pigs he was competing against.

And then, it was over.

You see, at the end of the season, you sell your pig that you have cared for so carefully. The pig that you have poured your heart and soul into. The pig that you have loved.

After you show your pig the final time, you walk your pig through the pens, down the long, lonely aisle where a truck waits. The pig that you’ve poured so much time and energy into is loaded onto a truck and driven away…to his death.

For many of us, the walk is hard. The entire concept of raising a pig to send him to his death is more than I personally can handle. But walking him for the final time? Knowing you are sending him away forever? Knowing the ultimate outcome?

Some of the pigs almost seem to sense what’s happening. They don’t want to walk down that long, lonely aisle, through that final door. They get upset, cry out, try to run the opposite direction. They don’t want to give their all.

Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:36-38

As I reflected on the morning, my mind flashed to the crucifixion. Maybe in some small way, I felt what God Himself felt as He sent His very own son on that long walk. You see, He poured His everything into His son. He loved Him and cared for Him.

And yet, He knew from the very beginning the final outcome. He knew from the beginning that Jesus would walk that long, lonely, final walk. He knew that Jesus’ final destination was death, death on a cross.

And Jesus? Just as those pigs seemed to sense what was happening, Jesus was very well aware what was on the other side of the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew the final outcome would involve excruciating pain and incredible suffering. He knew death was his final destination.

His soul was crushed with grief to the point of death.

He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by.  “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Mark 14:35-36

Just as those pigs fought against walking through the final door, Jesus cried out to escape the suffering. If at all possible. Just hold me close. Keep me from walking these final steps. Take this cup from me.

Yet, He chose to go through the door. He chose to be obedient to His Father, even to death on a cross. He chose to take that long, final walk.

It was a choice He made for me. It was a choice He made for you. It was a choice He made because His love for us, His desire to walk in complete obedience to the Father, was greater—oh, so much greater—than His desire to avoid the pain and the suffering.

And so He walked through that final door, straight into the arms of death.

As we know, death didn’t get the final word when Christ went to the cross. Instead, He claimed the victory when He walked out of that tomb, forever winning the war over death and giving us the hope of eternal life. Oh, what a Savior!

Father, thank you for showing me in some very small way what you went through when you sent your Son, your beloved Son, to earth to die for me, for my sins. I am forever humbled and grateful for the gift, for the incredible sacrifice given for me on that cross. May I never take for granted what you went through. Thank you for claiming victory over death, for promising eternal life, forgiveness of sins. Thank you for giving your all. May I always live in such a way that reflects my gratitude for the incredible sacrifice given all those years ago.