ENCOURAGEMENT, MOTIVATIONAL, RECOVERY

Don’t Give Up On Yourself

Quitting On Monday

I think that the easiest day to lose hope is Monday. When the week starts, it should be full of great possibilities, but the reality is that Monday is the day the cold hard truth usually slaps us in the face. It’s the day we are forced to stop pretending that everything is great. We often need to go back to work and leave our dreams behind again. It gets hard.

It isn’t just work though. The whole world will come against you sooner or later. Maybe it will set up a pattern all your life. Things and people that you count on will be snatched away from you. Just when you feel the most secure, something will happen that will set your world on tilt.

Don't Quit Your DayDream painting

Quitting On Tuesday

Maybe it’s Tuesday that makes you want to quit on yourself the most. The struggle to get through Monday has taken its toll, and you just don’t have anything left. Hard things happen, and you don’t feel like you are equipped to deal with them anymore, if you ever were.

At first, when the hard things happen, you may want to give up on God. It’s easy to throw the blame on the Almighty. He is ultimately in charge. But, when you think about it, you realize that God hasn’t failed you in any way. You may begin to ask yourself if you have failed God.

Being Angry With God

It’s hard to always stay positive in a negative world.  I get that. I really do. I’ve had my share (and more) of tragic circumstances. I have not handled much of it very well. I did not turn to God in my pain and loss like I should have. I turned away and blamed Him instead. At least I did for a while.

It was when I was the angriest at Him that I realized that I still believed in Him. Of course, believing isn’t enough. I also had to get to a place where I remembered that He was good and that He loved me. I had to realize that He still had a plan for my life, even though my own plans had crashed and burned. Coming to that point was the hardest after I buried my 16-year-old son. This kind of loss makes you question all that you have ever believed.

Perfectly Imperfect

During my trek through the chaos and confusion of the worst of my grief, I learned to see the world in a different way. What was ordinary to me before became extreme. Casual beauty became exquisite when I realized how temporary it all is. I learned to focus on the smiles of my children and to take in every breath that they breathe. I learned that the imperfections that I once saw as flaws are what makes something beautiful and unique. The world irrevocably changed for me, but it wasn’t all good.

What Our Children Face

I looked at our world and what we have made of it. Sin and ugliness have run rampant through our societies. The children that we bring into the world are forced to grow up in fear of what tomorrow will bring. If they are living unaware of the potential danger of the future, then they are ill-equipped to face it. On the other hand, to tell them what it may be like is a betrayal of their innocence. How do we know what to do? How do we tell them that the walls protecting them are made of glass?

The problems we face seem to be insurmountable at times. Human trafficking, the threat of war, and the divisiveness of our country due to political affiliation, religion, race, and economics to name a few. We get mixed messages from the media and don’t fully understand what the truth is and how to teach it to our children. Like my Mama always said, “Babies don’t come with blueprints stamped on their butts.” Do we protect them with the truth, or protect them from the truth? I don’t know.

Who Failed Who?

All I know is that God didn’t fail us. That leaves the obvious answer. If He didn’t fail us…. We failed Him. With that realization, hopelessness can start to creep up on you.

Depression. Anxiety. Feelings of worthlessness and fear. The idea that you can never get it right because you never have before. The overwhelming sensation that you are about to drown in your sorrow, anger, and helplessness.

I’ve been there more than once. If you have ever felt like that, you aren’t alone. Don’t give up on yourself.

A Life of Abundance

Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came so that we would have abundant life. An abundant life is a life full of meaning and joy. That is the kind of life that God intends for you to have. He didn’t say that you can only have this kind of life if you deserve it and never do anything wrong. He didn’t say that you’ve got to operate in a realm above the human realm to create and achieve this life for yourself. He simply said that He came so that you could have it.  

Your abundance is found in God through Jesus Christ. No matter what the world throws at you. No matter what Monday brings. It doesn’t even matter if you need to leave your own dreams behind. Whatever heartbreak you have faced has not changed the truth. Grief and loss can’t take away what Jesus came to give you. Your abundant life is in Him. Not in yourself! Not in your circumstances. Not in your loved ones, your dreams, your hopes. Abundant life is also not lost in the outcome of a failed plan or dream. What an eye-opening thing to finally learn!

The Freedom to Keep Trying

This doesn’t mean that you should quit trying to achieve anything on your own. It means just the opposite! Now you are free to pursue your hopes and dreams without the fear of failure because your worthiness and your abundance was never meant to be found in any of your personal accomplishments anyway. You are free to love with all your heart because death can’t steal your hope! You can dance in the rain because no storm can wash away the sacrifice already made for you.

Your Focus

Take your focus off yourself. That’s not what your life is supposed to be about. All you could ever hope to be can be found in your relationship with God. Yes, I said it. It’s not about you. You may be dangerously close to quitting on yourself. Don’t do that. The problem is relational. Pursue a relationship with God if you want to add meaning to your life.

 Matthew 6:33 says to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” If our focus is on Him, where it should be, and off ourselves, our lives will be full, and everything will fall into place just the way it’s supposed to. If our focus is on ourselves, we will always experience chaos and a feeling of off-centeredness because we were created for Him and by Him, and not to be self-serving.

The Truth

I believe that this is the truth that we should teach our children. If we want to equip them to be warriors in whatever battle comes their way, we must first introduce them to the source of their hope and life. We need to teach them as we learn ourselves that our identity should be first understood as a “child of God.” Whatever is next is not only secondary, but it’s also temporary.

Here’s what I believe to be the truth: the things you do for yourself on this earth are going to die with you anyway. The only things that you leave behind are what you do for other people.

The Prize

Knowing that my abundance is in Him is just the catalyst that I need to keep going, to keep plugging away and staying in the race even when it feels like I’m defeated. I can never be defeated if I’m running the right race—the one for His kingdom and in His design. It’s easy to fall back into the temptation of seeking to define my worth by earthly standards and how I feel, but the actual cold reality is none of that matters. The only thing that matters is that I keep my eyes on the prize.

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A railroad crossing with a stop sign on a misty morning.
RECOVERY

The Train Is Coming

Today I was reminded that I am not the only one who grieves.

I read a post on Facebook from someone I have known a very long time who has lost three sons, just like I have—two as infants, one not. That child got killed in a tragic train accident, and there was no way that anyone could have stopped the train or pushed him out of the way. It was not an accident that anyone could have predicted. Sometimes awful things happen, and we can’t make sense of them because we live in a broken world. My friend said that today he felt like a failure, and I tried to muster up the words that would somehow make him see himself as I see him, while at the same time understanding from my very soul exactly how that feels, because even though he was in no way to blame, he is a Daddy. A Daddy always feels responsible for his child, as does a Mama.

I say “Daddy” and “Mama” because that’s what we call our parents here in the South, and that’s what our children call us. Anyway, we love our babies and all their lives we believe it’s our responsibility to keep them safe. If something happens to them, we blame ourselves. It’s what parents do, right or wrong, and something did happen to our kids.

I call it a “Failure to Protect” as it relates to me, and of course I don’t see it the same when I look at my friend’s situation. It doesn’t matter if this is rational or not. When your child dies, rationality flies out the window, and only flies back in once in a while.

I wrote out a little bit of my story one October, and here that is:

It had rained so much that week that we were stuck at the house and I had just had surgery, so I wasn’t doing much anyway. We got tired of watching the trash float by so my husband set up a stuffed bear in the yard, and we sat on the front porch and took turns shooting his eyes out. It’s astonishing where the mind will take you when it needs some stimulation! Mikey walked back and forth, cooking steaks on the grill and shaking his head, muttering to himself about who was really crazy–us or him. He stopped a few times to take his own shot at the bear though, sometimes laughing and sometimes just handing the gun back with no expression after he made the “kill.” 


Those were the best steaks that I had ever had, and ever WILL have now. Mikey had a secret ingredient that he used in everything he cooked. I was pretty startled when I found out what that secret was. It didn’t always work out for the best, but it made a steak that day that my mouth still waters for—as do my eyes.


It’s hard to believe how much detail I can remember from that week and how little I remember from the next couple of years!

 We missed one Dr.’s appointment because of the rain, so we combined our appointments that day and went together. After I got out of my appointment, Mikey wanted to shop for a guitar. I didn’t have the money to buy one, but we decided to look anyway. We found a music store and right away Mikey spotted the Warlock. The cashier said that for that day only they would let us put it on layaway for $20. 


I had started out with money, but we had eaten, then I had bought Mikey a couple of green drinks—something energetic I think. I had $18 and he wanted the guitar so bad that I went to my truck and scraped up all my “gummy money” and gave the sticky mess to the sales girl who was very gracious about it and laughed with me. I’m pretty sure that Mikey was both embarrassed and relieved. He was so EXCITED about that guitar that I had to choke my tears back, because he hated it when I cried. 


The next day I went to get Mikey’s prescriptions filled, and this time he stayed home. He was agitated and angry and when I got home, we argued, but later he came into the house and lied down on the couch, because he just couldn’t keep his eyes open.

A lot more happened that day and that week that I have shared at times with others, but what I remember right now is the way it got cold overnight—much like the way it felt this morning when I woke up. Because it’s THAT week, and tomorrow is THAT day.

I got up that morning to get myself a blanket, and so I got Mikey one too. I had checked on him all night long, but when I threw the blanket over him, I accidentally brushed his back with my hand—and the horror that would become my life started when I realized that he was dead. I could not scream him awake, could not shake him awake, could not join him in that place to even simply ask him how he could leave ME like that. 


I cried and cursed and screamed to GOD that I had PRAYED, I had STAYED, I had done EVERYTHING that I thought He was asking me to do, so then “WHY did He take my CHILD—my —BABY, one of the reasons that I existed and found the courage to let my feet hit the floor each morning??” 


Sometimes there is no answer for things. I still don’t know, although God and I have made our peace and I do know that Mikey is safe in His Hands where we all long to be. But…I am only human, and at times I forget the GOODNESS of God, and only remember that He ALONE had the power to save Mikey yet chose not to do so. That’s when He reminds me that HE DID. Mikey was rescued from a world that he did not belong in, and taken to God’s Kingdom, where he never has to worry about being labeled this or that and can just be “Mikey.” 


I love my son, and I miss him, and no day goes by that I don’t still say a prayer for him. So now, as always, I whisper, “God, please take care of Nic, Tiff, and Mikey and keep them safe,” and He whispers back that He is….

So that’s my struggle, at least my biggest one. It’s the heartbreak of the thing that has led me finally to reach out to others in their loss and desperation. To embrace the semi-colon. To say that we will live to fight another day. To cry with those in the depths of their own sorrow and notice those who, just like Mikey once told me, are out there and just like him. The people on the outside–the fringes– the remnants–the ones left behind. It might be the guy sitting on the side of the road with a dog and a sign, the lady standing in line at Walmart with hollow eyes, the desperate addict with nowhere to turn, or the homeless and jobless person who everyone has given up on, but it’s always either someone seeking something but not knowing what it is, or someone who has long since given up the search but is still here.

I want to reach them because I know what some people didn’t know and couldn’t know—that the train is coming. The train is coming, and I have the responsibility to push as many people as I can out of the way before it gets here. Wouldn’t you do that if you could? I know someone who would have, but never got the chance. Today I am asking God to give that Daddy and Mama comfort and the peace of knowing that there is nothing bigger than God. Not even that train.

KCS Railroad Track Jefferson TX
It's Your Turn to Shine
ENCOURAGEMENT

When You Can’t Find Your Motivation (and How I Don’t Have the Answers)

It's Your Turn to Shine
Get Your Shine On

I absolutely get discouraged. Looking back over this journey we’ve taken over the last year, it would be easy to overlook all of our accomplishments and just focus on the failures. Today has been one of those days when it has been hard to stay on the positive side of things.

Yep, it’s more than discouraging sometimes. Looking back can be downright debilitating. If you focus on your missteps, or what you perceive them to be, you may find yourself motionless–staring at the wall in kind of a blurred-out unresponsive daze. Letting go of where you thought you were going to end up is so hard! Giving over to what is real rather than what you were expecting can break your heart if you let it. I can’t fix any of that.

What I can do, is look at the big picture. I know that each attempt to do something new comes with mistakes, if that’s what you want to call them. What I have learned is that a lot can be gained in finding out what not to do! Somewhere along the way, if you are paying attention, you can get some doses of clarity and start to put together a plan that is different than the original, but not lesser than. You may find that it was the plan you should have had all along!

A lot of the ideas that we had in the beginning were great, and we will save them to use them again later. Some of them will go in the trash can. I am glad to be done with them. Here are some bits and pieces that I have gathered along the way:

I’ve learned that I love taking broken things and showing other people how they are actually beautiful. I realize that I really want to spend time writing my book, designing and promoting my encouragement cards, making random things, painting lighthouses, and helping other people like me figure out exactly what they are meant to do so they can do it too! God gave each one of us a certain set of gifts and talents, and I believe that He gave us a love to do whatever it is we are called to do…..You can tell what your calling is by the way time passes for you. If you are working on something without noticing that 8 hours have gone by, that’s a good indicator that you are on the right track! Constantly watching the clock means that you probably need to find something new to do with your time.

I know that I have a lot to give and teach other people. I’m excited about getting the chance to do that. I’m eager to finish my book, if only for the ones who know about it now and are waiting to see how it all turns out! Oh and the cards are such an amazing blessing! I am so super-excited about having the time to develop and market these! They are turning out so wonderfully and they say things that people so badly need to hear. Things like, “Man, today sucked but we got through it,” and stuff like that. I don’t know about you, but I need to know that other people feel that same way sometimes. Like maybe today.