Grace in Crisis

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Life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns in the story, always an ebb and flow to the pattern.  I’ve been thinking on crisis situations… our sweet elderly neighbor recently found out she has rapidly spreading and aggressive lung and breast cancer.  She went from being normal, living out her everyday life, fostering sweet greyhounds in her home next to us, going about her business… to sudden hospice care.  A retired police officer herself, she was a strong cornerstone for me… in the midst of feeling helpless against the growing hatred and misunderstanding society, she was such a rock.  Such a beautiful, strong woman. I feel overwhelmed and heartbroken in letting her go.  She loved us so much.  😥

Her granddaughter has come down from another state, and has been helping wrap up all the details of her house and affairs, basically providing the hospice care herself.  She described her grandmother as a “hoot!”  And she still is even in her last days here.  A few weeks ago, when she was in the hospital having fluid drained off her lung, the nurses wouldn’t let her have a cookie.  “You have diabetes…” they said.

“I don’t think cancer cares, honey!”

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I was reminded by a friend this week, when it all just seemed a bit much, that things come in seasons.  Apparently, when things get difficult, I try too often to “save the world.”  It sounds all good in intention, but it comes with a heap of responsibility – trying to take control over things I have no power (or business) in controlling.  Maybe you understand this, too?

I can’t stop people from dying.  I can’t be everywhere all of the time.  I can’t change a person’s attitude or pride.  I can’t “make” someone like me by being kinder, sweeter, or more gentle if they have their heart set in shame and blame.

I’m not talented enough, smart enough, or mature enough to affect any of those situations on my own.  None of us probably are, and that’s why we desperately need God’s grace in order to have grace ourselves in crisis.  All we can do is walk in God’s glory, allowing Him to shine through us – through our pain – to carry us when we are weak, and to hold us when we are overwhelmed.  Repair us when we are heartbroken.

In the word’s of one of the wisest women to walk this earth, the late Elisabeth Elliot,

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Elisabeth Elliot was a woman who understood what it meant to have powerful grace in crisis situations.  Losing her beloved Jim to the violent and rage-filled unreached population of the Auca Indians, whom Jim was passionate about reaching with God’s love and compassion.  Any normal woman would be outraged, lose it, be vengeful even, if she witnessed this play out – and she was there in the missionary camp, with their 10 month old daughter, very intimately involved with Jim’s ideas and plans.  Jim didn’t even get to see their daughter reach 1 year old.  The heartache, pain, and sense of overwhelming sadness in this crisis would be enough to shatter any woman.

But Elisabeth was so different.

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In her godly maturity, she was able to offer grace to her husband’s murderers.  She stayed with the Indian population, continuing to help them even in her overwhelming grief.  She even lived with the tribe, among her husband’s murderers, for two years.

Some of her husband’s killers were so affected by her display of grace and love while living among the tribe in Ecuador, that they converted to Christianity.  Seeing her grace in heartache moved them, broke their own hearts, and allowed God’s love to penetrate deeply.

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If you aren’t going through something difficult now, you either have or will be in the future, but carry Elisabeth’s words with you in your heart… reminding you to let go of interfering in God’s business.  To walk this road of life, one step at a time, to keep obeying God in the daily monotonous tasks, being faithful.

And to trust that God will give us the strength and maturity we need when it’s our time to face crisis, and that we can face it with grace.

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My Grandma’s Garden

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Yesterday we spent Easter at my Grandma’s old house.  Really it belonged to my Great-Grandparents, and the house itself is nearing it’s 100th birthday.  It’s architecture style, the way the front and backyard is lined out, tell a story of long ago; it’s both mysterious and inviting.  Many family memories have been made there, my own mother’s memories, my Grandfather’s memories of being raised as a boy there with 3 sisters, not to mention my memories of being there with my own Grandparents!  It’s a generational house, passed down again and again.

In the backyard there is a secret place, a concrete slab that is easily hidden by grass and leaves that reveals the little handprints of my Grandpa and his sisters’ when they were young.  So much history is there.

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My Great Grandmother had a beautiful rose garden, she was English and they love their roses.  When she passed away, my Grandma took it over and made it her own.  I’m just not a rose bush girl… the thorns always seem to get me one way or another, no matter if I’m careful and wearing gloves, there always seems to be one thorn that is skilled in cutting through.  My favorite flowers (that look like roses) are Gardenias – the beautiful white, satiny petals, the rose-like shape, but the gentleness and friendliness of being thornless.

They are the “perfect rose” to me, perfumed with a heavenly scent, equipped with an ethereal beauty, and no danger of drawing blood.

But my family has loved roses, and they are so beautiful.

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In the midst of a bustling city, very close to the heart of our downtown, it is still a strange oasis – time stops when you’re wandering in their garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGenerations of Beauty.

Avoiding a Victim Mentality & Pursuing Joy

I’ve been wondering for awhile what makes some people fall into a Victim Mentality, what makes them acquire a personality that truly believes that their life and what happens to them, is out of their control (and sometimes, the control of God).

I love taking my son over to spend time with his grandparents, I get time to talk to my dad about life, ideas, and just enjoy his and my mom’s presence.  Maybe its being 6 months pregnant, but its nice to be able to go over there, and relax and be taken care of with my mom creating homemade sodas for us, slushies with her margarita machine, ordering pizzas, or the latest new treat this last weekend… White Chocolate Covered Popcorn (so amazingly delicious). 

I wanted to ask my dad his thoughts on why a person might fall into a victim mentality way of thinking, we’ve both seen horrible things happen in our family and even in our own circumstances, but even in facing certain horrible life situations where we both at that time, were a victims, neither of us have fallen into victimization.  My dad emits a usually positive and joyful attitude, he has his faults too of course, but overall he takes life’s phases and trials with a grain of salt.

He also has a progressive bone disease that he found out about when I was 9 called osteoporosis, where he has to be extremely careful – any slip or minor fall could end him up in a wheel chair for the rest of his life.  His attitude in the midst of this is choosing positivity. Aside from avoiding truly dangerous situations (water parks), he doesn’t let this hold him back.  He goes to our beautiful downtown riverwalk and power walks super fast – enjoying the beautiful view and the broken and diseased body that he can still do many things with.  His walking efforts have even paid off, his bone density has actually increased (which is something not usually seen with osteoporosis).  Its amazing what the mind can achieve over the body when it truly embraces the joy of being alive, and of understanding that we have more control over how we decide to live than we would think to imagine.

He told me when talking this last weekend, about another person who had a major accident that resulted in them having to live life differently.  This man’s accident left him having excruciating pain in his body for the rest of his life, to make matters worse, the doctors told him that he had to be very careful, or any sudden movement could be the end for him.

He finally went to a doctor that really looked at his spine… he found that it was fused together, and had very little to no chance of breaking suddenly.  The doctor’s attitude was matter of fact,

“Well you can decide that you can live with this, or you can decide that you can’t….”

He gave him the permission to do as much as he could do physically, in tolerating the pain… exercising, being active, and getting out were allowed.  This simple attitude of “Well… its your choice how you deal with this,”  changed this man immediately, awakening his consciousness of his control over his own life.  He had slowly hobbled in to the office, walking crippled and bent over – afraid that any step might be the end of his fragile spine… but he literally ran, leaping out of this doctor’s office, his pain momentarily suspended in the pure joy he felt in realizing he was free.

 

My dad reiterated that “some people make it, and some people just don’t.”  Not everyone is capable of finding joy in their pain or hardships.  It is unnatural and goes against what even our brain chemicals would have us do (be overcome in depression).  But having joy in hardships is biblical, we are called to it… Jesus even said at one point, that all the things he was saying to us was SO THAT we could have a joy like His (John 15:11).  I’m in a great Bible study this fall that has breeched the beautiful topic of having joy amidst our hardships or crises.

 

I want to be known as someone who has a lot of joy… to me, if I can leave that impression on others as a “legacy,” I’ll feel like my life was lived well… I’ll feel like I achieved the greatest success.

Got Problems? You’re in Good Company

“Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure.

  Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. 

It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and physically.”1

Life is hard, sometimes unfair, and often very much full of little & big problems that everyone eventually will face in different circumstances, and to different degrees.  Both my parents loved The Road Less Traveled, by Scott Peck, so growing up, whenever I faced problems, they had this approach to face your problems, to meet them with discipline, to know that “With total discipline, we can solve all problems.”1

That always confused me… to solve all problems… with just discipline?  I believe it now.  I’ve tested it now.  I still experience it, everyday through the choices I make to either keep problems manageable or at bay (taking care of necessary duties, chores, health, and running a household while still having a life outside it), or to let problems overtake me through general lack of discipline.

When I was working, solving problems was a wonderful part of my job – a part I truly enjoyed contributing to and actually miss everyday.  Usually all the problems that we met were not particularly huge or complicated, it was simply that they took a great amount of time to solve or complete… it truly came down to discipline.  Was I able to stay the course, keep at a dauntingly mundane, yet absolutely necessary task?  Was I able to keep coming at the same problem in efforts to view it in new and different ways in order to come up with a creative solution?

Discipline is hard because it’s painful – either emotionally (sticking to your budget by saying no to unnecessary wants…  or sitting there, doing a mundane task for hours), or physically (forcing yourself to walk or exercise, even when you know you’d rather be doing something else).  Discipline is hard to put into action, but unless you want a life full of needless problems, it is one of those things that must be accepted in life.

Some things I’ve found to be true about problems:

  • The reason why we can’t seem to solve a particular problem is usually related to not spending the necessary time needed to figure out the solution
  • We are more likely to look for an escape from our problems than to actually suffer through them in order to grow spiritually and emotionally.
  • Everyone has problems, but not everyone has the discipline to do something constructive to solve them.
  • As we age, problems certainly don’t go away, but the encouraging thing is that with each new problem, we get a new chance to alter our perspective, to learn to welcome problems as the chance to grow.

 

1 – The Road Less Traveled, A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth, by M. Scott Peck, 1978.