Tag: Faith

When the words get lost because of complacency, when I’m looking for the extraordinary rather than finding gratitude in the routine of everyday life, it’s our community, the fellowship of the broken, who guide me.
 
Gratitude fills the empty spaces in our life. As our men demonstrate, we don’t have to have much to be grateful.
 
Some years, we’ve raised our Ebenezer and written words of gratitude on stones. We’ve built our small altar of thanks offering. 
 
We’ve written them on little cards pinned to the bulletin board. This year, we wrote them on pumpkins placed throughout the residence. 
 
But always, we share them in words and songs and the prayers of God’s people. 
Our broken hallelujahs are made holy morning by morning.
Great is God’s faithfulness.

faith hope recovery

I keep trying to know who I am. Now. In this part of life that is leaving me feeling stranded on a dirt road with nary a sign in sight.

Writing helps me process. It often reveals answers or offers a glimpse of possibility. In seeing the words spelled out, black on white, 14-point font, I may see answers, if only for today. But with retirement less than two years away, I want answers for the life ahead.

What will I do? Who will I be? I want to know with certainty, “I’m going to be an artist”. Something – anything.

I grew up in a Christian home with parents who had felt a calling to serve in full-time ministry. In my youth, I thought callings were only for pastors. I didn’t spend time praying that God would reveal specifics to me. Jobs opened up, and while I didn’t realize it until years later, God was always preparing the road ahead for me.

Life continued to unfold, and I followed.

Ten months after the first date with my now husband, Henry, we married. Thirteen months after our wedding, we had our first child. As we celebrated our daughter’s first birthday, I was pregnant with our second child. We hadn’t set out to live life at this breakneck pace, but we kept running.

I hope you’ll join me for the rest of my story at The PerennialGen blog today.

faith family hope

As parents and caretakers we urge children to try it; the broccoli, swim lessons, piano, and sleeping with the light off. We stand beside them, urging them through life. “Just give this a try, you never know”, we say.

As adults, when the urge to try something comes from outside sources, the resistance is still there. The stubborn woman that I am, I’m more willing to try something that’s my idea. Don’t force me, don’t push me and don’t make me. The old childish behavior speaks up with grown-up resistance.

I want to know the end result before I try something. I want to know that putting my face in the water won’t burn my eyes. I want to know the calamari will be delicious and that I’ll be pitch perfect in the church choir. Fear of failure pushes against trying the fullness of life.

I’m a mediocre swimmer. Putting my head underwater burns my nose and I just can’t get the breathing right. But I love how the water refreshes on hot summer days. I can back stroke across the pool and feel the joy of swimming.

Calamari is meh and I’ll never be the soloist of anything. Those won’t stop me from enjoying a good meal with friends or blasting my favorite music to drown out frustrations of traffic.

My mind keeps going to the verse that says ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’. Try it and see. Just a taste of God’s goodness and you’ll know that His ways are good. You’ll know his love is forever.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8

faith Five-Minute Friday hope

A relational breakdown starts slowly, almost imperceptibly. Something isn’t right but you can’t quite put your finger on what’s out of kilter.

A dark cloud drifts over the friendship and refuses to leave. A subtle shift emerges, its unspoken message rather clear. Idle words cut deep. Eye contact becomes non-existent. Texts go unanswered. Plans get cancelled with the wave of a hand and vague, hurtful excuses.

Something disquieting is floating in the wind and right before your very eyes, what has been so safe, strong, and comforting is morphing into a relationship you can’t even recognize.

Any conversations that do take place find you walking on eggshells, weighing your words, your eyes brimming. That wonderful easy freedom to fully be yourself has vanished and you feel, well … unsure, unsafe, unwanted. And oh so terrified.

You choke as you experience betrayal. Exclusion. Abandonment.

Blinded by loyalty or familiarity or fear of stepping up and speaking out, you stay silent. Left unspoken, all the accumulated hurt, frustration, and grief gather ’round your heart and clutch it tight.

You’re afraid to address the elephant in the room.

For who would you be without that person in your life?

The pathway of the broken-hearted is uneven and messy, strewn with tears …

Betrayal
Repeated disrespect, dishonesty, and disloyalty serve as warning signs that there are huge issues that must be addressed. Shattered trust is difficult to mend. It can be done, but only with a commitment to the value of the relationship, prayer, and honest, grace-filled communication.

Conversations where truth, love, and respect mingle are the only hope of salvaging a dying relationship. And forget about texting and email. These are dead ends that only lead to more misunderstanding. Don’t go there.

Denial
An inability for both friends to each own their own responsibility for where they find themselves leaves no future hope for the relationship. It takes two.

The continued refusal of one friend to acknowledge the other’s heartbreak and the stark reality of the deteriorating situation halts any kind of understanding and reconciliation.

Abandonment
Shattered trust, denial as to the damage done, and unwillingness to commit to the hard work of healing close the door to any kind of deep, authentic friendship.

Grieving
The death of a long time relationship is akin to a divorce, a death. This is a loss that deserves to be acknowledged and mourned.

Forgiveness
To wish the other person well, to allow her to move on without you in her life, is a beautiful gift you give to yourself. And to her. This most likely won’t happen quickly … and it doesn’t mean reconciliation.

But it does lead to peace.

Growth
Hitting bottom as you lose someone valuable allows you to focus on the only One who’ll never change like shifting shadows, who won’t forsake or abandon you. God is always inviting you to something deeper and more substantial. A renewed passion for your faith in Him is able to redeem all the heartache you’ve experienced along the way.

For He specializes in restoring our seasons of brokenness {Joel 2:25-26}.

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Let’s talk about how you’ve survived the death of a friendship and what you learned in the process …

 

 

 

Must Reads …
Necessary Endings
~ Henry Cloud

Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend
~ Irene Levine

The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing It, Stopping It, Surviving It
~ Leslie Vernick

Linda Stoll is a pastoral counselor to women in Cape Cod, Massachusetts where she lives in a little town tucked between the ever-changing bay and the ocean deep. Married for 41 years, she’s celebrating faithful friends, a decade of blogging, and the simplest daily joys. Her greatest claim to fame is her seven grandchildren, one who now lives in heaven.

She’d love for you to share this post with your social media tribe because she knows that everyone’s been wounded along the way. And she invites you to get to know her better right here.

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faith hope

Sometimes I have to pause and ask myself, “What’d you expect?”
Answer: I don’t know, but not this.
I never expected to be married at 20, our first baby at 21 and second at 23.
I never expected to find ourselves in full time ministry as, what I joke, was my husband’s mid-life crisis.
I never expected my parents to divorce or my mom to have Alzheimer’s.
But I did, we did, they did.
There were some hurts, anger, feelings of not knowing my way but also learning about God’s love in ways I never would have without these times in my life.
I try to keep expectations low, it’s safer that way. But they have a way of being invisible. You don’t know they’re there until you’re let down.
We’re facing a new time in our lives. As always, this husband who I could never have expected to be so what I need (aka wonderful!) is sailing through. But me, I didn’t expect this anxiety.
I didn’t expect the uncertainty. One moment I feel elated about the nearing future of retirement and what it promises. The next, I want to know the specifics. Now. I don’t want to wait. Are there hidden expectations waiting for me – again?
I realize I can expect to be overjoyed but that one doesn’t come natural to me. So I hold my breath a bit and overthink it all.
Until those words come that find a way of answering the fear:
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Eternal,
“plans for peace, not evil,
to give you a future and hope—never forget that.

faith Five-Minute Friday hope

What if this were my prayer?

Hudson Thanksgiving 2015

ARC chapel

prayer

2015 Thanksgiving

thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you………

………thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you…..

If this were my prayer? It would be enough.

faith family

Embrace today
the now
the unknown
uncertain

Embrace failure
new things
trying
the learning

Embrace making a mess
letting it go
reaching out
reaching for more

Embrace the parts of you that don’t fit
that are awkward and a singular beauty

Embrace grief
its loss that was full
full of hope
joy
promise

Embrace it because it moved you, stirred your inner being and filled you with life.
Embrace the sweet memories it brings.

Embrace faith
the invisible known
the unseen next step
His word, His call, His love, His grace

“Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:11

faith Five-Minute Friday grace

The organization we’re with has a purpose statement for the area we’re assigned to. We have an overall mission statement but in our singularly focused area of ministry, we also have a statement defining our purpose. It says, in part:

“The primary purpose of an Adult Rehabilitation Center is the spiritual regeneration and rehabilitation of men who have undergone a process of disaffiliation from those significant ties, which enable individuals to take advantage of the opportunities and cope with the tribulations of everyday life….The center affords them the opportunity to gain insights into their problems, while acquiring self-respect, and to develop moral and spiritual principles of conduct and habits of industry that will enable them to gain purpose and meaning in their lives.” The Purpose Statement of an Adult Rehabilitation Center of The Salvation Army

With purpose comes intention. Or should. In our efforts to provide care for the men who’ve come in our doors, we are intentional about the meals we serve them, about the activities we offer. We intentionally seek to show them their lives have purpose, even in a broken state.

Alumni Sunday

A friend of mine has recently developed a personal mission statement. Some have these for their blogs. Some groups and workshops recommend it. I can see the value it can provide for the writer and reader.

But I wonder about a purpose statement. I wonder if I’d be as inclined to be intentional with a personal purpose statement as we are with one for our mission?

If I look at my intentions, perhaps it will reveal a purpose I’ve not defined. One that is intent on offering encouragement to others. To be a good friend. To look for God in the every day ordinary. To point others to His grace and compassion.

I learn and hone my skills on purpose.

What would the world around us look like if we lived more with God’s purpose? His mission to love the least and the lost? Yes, let’s do that. On purpose.

faith Five-Minute Friday grace hope Salvation Army

I have a love-hate relationship with our local Target’s self-serve lines. They lure me with the no waiting temptation and then they frustrate me when they don’t register I’ve bagged something and the voice comes on and says:

Please wait for assistance

Everything stops. Sometimes the clerk is near and sometimes she’s busy with another customer. The frustration mounts that this stupid thing can’t register that I moved a bag and aggravation at myself that I fell for the lure of speed – again.

Today the clerk was busy elsewhere and the voice kept repeating ‘please wait for assistance’,‘please wait for assistance’,‘please wait for assistance’. The whole point of this line is that I don’t need help. I CAN DO IT MYSELF!

It’s a lie I’ve fallen for most of my life. I don’t need help carrying this box, I carried two babies for nine months, thank you. I had back labor that meds couldn’t touch, I think I can handle a surgical biopsy by myself. Just drop me off and pick me up later.

It’s not that we can’t do something on our own. We coordinate school, church and work schedules for our families like we invented the best organizational app out there. Waze….ha! We learned this part of the state carting kids to soccer and volleyball games when phones still had cords!

We’ve mastered avoiding fast-food dinner on game nights. Our sinks are dish free before we go to bed and speaking of beds, they’ll be made in the morning. Well, mine will and the kids….you have to have a little give to survive.

When the kids are grown and out of the house, I find other schedules and tasks to control. Did I say control? I meant to lead. On my own. I’ve got this.

Yes, we can do this ourselves.

There’s that voice again: Please wait for assistance

Suddenly, it was like I was in the Bruce Almighty movie. You know the part where he asks God for a sign. God sends him physical signs, blinking lights even, while Bruce continues to yell and demand from God while ignoring what’s in front of him.

 

Accepting assistance doesn’t mean we can’t do something. It means we’re willing to humble ourselves, to consider another person.

My son taught me that lesson when we were new in this recovery ministry. I thought the men needed to see a strong woman who could manage things on her own. What they needed was to be of help to someone. To have their kindness accepted. To be seen as more than someone broken by addiction.

Truth is, we were made to need each other. Interdependent, not independent.

Control is an illusion, a lie. It can lead to pride and arrogance. It can isolate us from finding community.

Doing it on your own is exhausting. And that may be what’s saving me.

i’m drawn to the allure of thinking I don’t need assistance. It seems so American and “I am woman hear me roar“. But it’s tiring.

I need my cousin on the other end of the email reminding me to breathe through my grief and frustrations. I need my husband to sit quietly while tears trickle down my face when a song takes me by surprise. I need men in a recovery program calling me Mom and offering help.

I need that voice coming through the register at Target reminding me to please wait for assistance.

I need to step back and let others help carry the sorrow and dance with me in the joy.

“I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10 the Voice

faith grace

 

It seems every town will have its moment of tragedy. We know them by name: Newtown, Columbine, VA Tech and now our town that lives in the shadow of Miami made headlines last week as a lone gunman opened fire in the baggage terminal of our airport.

Indy airport

Ten days before, we’d made several trips to that airport picking up family for the holidays. It’s a relatively small airport for the large area it services. The people were probably returning from holiday visits with family or heading on a cruise. Of the thirteen shot, 5 were killed by a man who appears to be mentally ill.

This has already faded from the national headlines and will soon fade from our local news outlets. The frequency of these tragedies is too many, we know. When I opened Facebook I had a notification saying a friend wanted to know if I was okay and I could click to mark “I’m Safe” to notify all my friends. I’m not sure what to think about this, so I sighed and clicked the button, thankful we were safe from this horror.

I was in Target a few hours later. A clerk came over to the one waiting on me with her phone in hand, “God is good. My brother was suppose to be at the airport today but changed his travel plans two days ago.” She was all smiles and I’m happy for her but was God not good for the five people who died that day?

We’ve all said things like that or thought it. God watched out for us, for our family. He protected us from ______. When hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans I heard people question if God didn’t aim at that city because of its sin. Not stupid people but people of faith that left me wondering if I really knew them. How could this even be a question? God’s wrath would be on us all.

I’m no theologian or even a good bible teacher. But I know this isn’t how God works.

At a distance, God appears as a vengeful god in the Old Testament. He sends a flood to cover the earth killing all its inhabitants except Noah and his family. His wrath is poured out on the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah because God says he can’t find one good person in those towns. Abraham even bargains with God pleading that if God finds 10 good people he will spare the cities. The cities were destroyed. (You can find this account in Genesis 18-19)

Then we see a dramatic change from the law of the Old Testament to grace in the New Testament. Jesus, the Son of God tells us to love our enemy. Jesus isn’t contradicting God. His is the physical embodiment of his Father. Jesus is the mediator between God and us. It’s through him we can love ourselves, our neighbor, our enemies. And Jesus tells us that God the Father, shines on everyone, the good and bad, nice and nasty.

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst….This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.” Matt. 5:44-47 MSG

But does God protect some from harm and not others?

If God is good when your family is spared what is he when they are not?

I know in these difficult times in my life, God feels silent. He feels absent. When mama’s dementia took her from us and us from her I questioned God. There would never be an answer to satisfy my why’s. Perhaps it’s my anger and frustration that drowns out God’s voice. Or maybe He’s waiting for me, like a patient father.

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT

The are no answers that will satisfy us for the why’s of tragedy or disease. Life has hard times for those who believe and those who don’t. Good will come to the good and the wicked.

I want to hold to the belief that God is good all the time. We say that with our men. Henry says, “God is good” and they reply “All the time”. Then he says “All the time” and they respond “God is good.”

I’ve cringed at that because not all times are good. If they were, these men would be living a better life, not in a Salvation Army rehab program. While times and circumstances and life is not always good, God is.

All the time.

faith hope Salvation Army