Joy: My Cup Runneth Over
During my book signing events for Grain of Hope, I have made two significant observations: people are vessels and people hold pain. They may have bright shining smiles, but sometimes they have no joy in their hearts. The smile is not real or everlasting without the joy. The Bible teaches us that the “joy of the Lord is our strength.” And it is. Pain, grief, sorrow, and even loneliness amongst a few dark emotions are similar to filling your vessel with an eight-ounce glass—or maybe even a twenty-four-ounce glass—of bitter vinegar. Wouldn’t you rather have a cold glass of water or your favorite beverage?
Well, that is what dark emotions are—a tall glass of vinegar. If your glass is full to the brim with vinegar, then it cannot accommodate water or anything better. The vinegar must be emptied out before you can refill the glass with something you can drink. Vinegar and water cannot share the same glass or same vessel. Don’t drink the vinegar! Let God pour you a fresh glass of cold water.
Most hurt folks already drank the vinegar. If you have bitterness in you, it is never too late to be rid of it. God can overflow your vessel with His everlasting stream of living water until it replaces all that nasty bitterness. Allow Him to saturate you with His joy until all the dark emotions are gone.
Talking About Death
There is a certain aura or taboo lingering over the topic of death like a dark cloud. I believe one reason it seems taboo is because death is an unsolved mystery. It is a scary ghost creeping in and out of life. It certainly is not a topic to bring up at a social event. No one wants to die. We are hardwired to fight to live and avoid death at all costs. In our minds, life is better than death no matter what condition our lives are in. I hope we find out in the end that we are wrong.
What happens when we take our last breath? Is there a heaven, or worse, a hell? Or, do we just die? I have never visited either, so I can’t be absolutely, positively sure they exist. I will say that my spiritual belief and what I embrace resolves my doubts of what is going to happen to me and others who embrace the same belief. However, we do not all believe the same.
Death is not a well-researched course that is taught in school. Parents do not speak on the subject either. I believe we think if we don’t think about death or talk about it we can somehow prevent it from happening to us. Talking about death is not a lure; death will come to all sooner or later.
It is time to invite conversation about death. We all know no one lives forever, so why wait until the end of life? The end is too late. Death is a reason for preparation. Understanding death is just as important as understanding birth and life. We teach and share stories on the latter two.
I have closely experienced death in the passing of four children and my husband. I define death in two ways. First, the taking of life, and second, simply dying of natural causes. Quite naturally, the taking of life by unexpected illness, accident, suicide or murder, and even sudden death is most shocking. There is no emotional preparation for these deaths, just pure shock and hysteria. Dying of expected causes appears more tranquil and natural and in many circumstances, more accepting. People tend to hold up better and be more emotionally prepared when they anticipate death, especially when it ends severe suffering. It is very difficult to watch a loved one endure painful and debilitating effects from an illness such as cancer. Death can be welcomed. Many times, dying of natural causes allows loved ones to say goodbye, unlike sudden death.
All in all, death is final; there is definitely no coming back. Can death be made easier to bear? That requires an individual answer. Let’s start the conversation.
Don't Let Your Thoughts Fool You
No one person can destroy the dreams and hopes of another. It may seem like doom and gloom, but what you believe makes the real difference. Hope always finds the good in the bad. Hope must be directed in the right direction. If we dwell on defeat and hopelessness, then that is what we will get. On the other hand, if we believe in winning and hope then that is what we will get. Hope is one path, hopelessness the opposite path.
There is a fifty-fifty chance that things will work out positively or work out negatively—the choice is individual. Nothing has more power than the power of hope or the power of hopelessness. They both impact our lives for the good or for the bad. If we believe problems will never change, they won’t. If we believe problems will be resolved, they will. The answer is no further than our thoughts and beliefs. Good ideas have changed the world—the lack of them stagnates a country.
The human experience follows the path of belief. What do you believe? Hope is water to a wilted flower; hopelessness is draught. Even though days seem weary, hope says they are bright.
As a man thinks, so it is. Think big!
Family In Crisis
The entire family is affected by a death, crisis, or tragedy. A family suffers individually and all together. Pain can never be measured. Suffering is as unique to the sufferer as the fingerprint is to every individual. Pain is not shared or spoken. It is bore in the individual heart and mind and seldom reaches the lips. How can one describe emotional pain? There is nothing you can see or touch. Pain is spiritual.
Pain and suffering is almost impossible for people to deal with themselves, and rarely does one try to think about others in the family who are in pain. Since it is a silent event, it is not possible to always understand what other family members are really feeling or thinking—much less how it will affect everyone later.
In a time of crisis or death, parents lose focus of the family as a unit. The crisis or death becomes the focus. A crisis is not fair, and maybe you might feel death isn’t either. It strikes faster than the brain can conceive, and it may take a lifetime to adapt to what has happened. It may not be diagnosed as such, but this can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Be aware of how your family is missing from your life as well as well as how you are missing from the family.
A father represents strength and security to his children. When he is weak, his children are weak. When he is strong and secure, the children are upright and confident. When he dies, a child can weaken and become insecure. It is the responsibility of each child to build on the father’s strength for itself. When a father dies, a wise child will learn by good example and continue their father’s legacy.
There are families who stop being a family when the mother dies. Maybe the siblings forget how to relate to one another when their mother dies; she kept them together, the glue that bonded them. Struck with illness, the glue started weakening and so did the family. Once she passed away, the bond broke and took the family with it. Mothers are the beautiful centerpieces of the family, but it is the family’s responsibility to maintain her beauty after she is gone.
Siblings are the precious chain link of gold worn proudly around the neck of the parents. When there is harmony, all is well with the family. When there is discord, the chain link loses its golden shine and siblings are only as good as tin. Siblings grow up and some grow apart. The link is never missed until it’s time to put it on and you find it is broken. A broken chain cannot be worn. It is the responsibility of parents and children to keep golden links together or there won’t be a precious chain to wear.
Don’t lose your entire family because of a loss. We must learn to prepare our hearts and minds for these human experiences and not let them overcome us. It is most important to regain your life as soon as possible because a family unit will not stay a unit if you don’t.
Love After Death
The heart has the ability to love many times. We are able to experience many different kinds of love, from the romantic love with our significant others, to the affectionate love we have for our family and friends.
If you lose a loved one, whether it be a spouse, a friend, a sibling, or a child, don’t close your heart off to love again. Life is complicated. There are no exact answers to how and why different circumstances occur in life. Bad news can stop you in your tracks and shock your mind. Some days it is too difficult to move on and past the hurt. Unfortunately, some people even stay suspended in time after a tragedy, holding on to what ifs, replaying memories, and reflecting on future plans that will never come to fruition. Mourning prevents grievers from emotionally moving from that point. Their vision of the world around them has become the spot where they stand. All dreams and aspirations for tomorrow are lost.
Does it help to know that what is happening to you is normal?
But staying that way is not normal. I have been a widow for almost eight years, but I found it in my heart to love again. Love truly does make the world go around. If you seal off your ability to love, you seal off your world. There is always someone out there waiting for you to love them, and they are waiting to love you back. Though it can be easy to do, you mustn’t let yourself give in to the pain.
You must give it your all. Take one day at a time and let yourself know it’s okay to live again. Keep pushing yourself. Don’t let guilt or anger deprive you of your life. One life may have ended, but yours has not. Unfortunate circumstances—tragedies—are not your fault. They happen to everyone. You help nothing by mourning and feeling sad for the rest of your life, closing yourself off to love and new opportunities. In honor of your loved one, you must love again and be loved in return; your happiness is their desire for you.
Many of you have heard the popular movie quote, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” And it’s true. I hope you decide to help make the world go around.
“A mother has hope more than most; she has a basket full of dreams waiting to come true.”
As we approach Mother’s Day, it is time for us to think about all the things our mothers have done for us. Most mothers have carried you within their body for as long as nine months. A mother is most likely the only person that will deceive herself into thinking that you could never do anything wrong. Her life is unselfishly lived hoping and praying for only the best for you. Next to your heavenly Father, you have an earthly mother who loves you unconditionally without wavering. Why does a mother feel so emotional about her child? God has given her a special portion of His love to share so that you can experience a small glimpse of how He loves you here on earth. You were perfectly created in every way. The tiniest bit of sin will rob you of peace inside. Do you wonder why you toil with your conscience when you think or want to do things out of God’s will? He created you in his image, and He is determined to help you live up to that image. What is God telling us? It’s not difficult to answer that question. He is telling you He loves you and that His thoughts about you are good. He expects you to live out your life sharing His love with others. He has given you the perfect illustration of that, a mother. A mother is love. She loves you in good times and loves you in bad times. She loves you if you don’t show her your love, and when you do show her your love, she loves you even more. Her love grows, watered with the tears of time. She has pondered in her heart all the hopes and dreams that she desires for you. On Mother’s Day, show how grateful you are that she is your mother. Share a special gift or time with your mother or someone who is like a mother.