When It’s Hard To Be Thankful

 

It isn’t always easy to be thankful, is it? When physical or emotional pain and/or losses overwhelm us, it can be hard to see through our tears or focus our minds on blessings right in front of us. 

Hagar was an alien and a slave. When her mistress found herself barren, she was given to Abraham to bear a child for her. But dissension escalated, especially after Sarah birthed a child herself. Sarah no longer wanted Hagar’s son around her son Isaac.

Hagar and Ishmael were rejected and sent away to wander in the hot and dry desert with only some water in a skin and some food to sustain them. But the water emptied…

She couldn’t bear to see her son suffer and die of thirst, so she put him under one of the bushes and distanced herself.

Dehydrated and devastated of hope, she sat down and sobbed. Did no one hear her and her son? Did no one care?

“What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.” Hope heralded in by an Angel of God.

Someone did care. She wasn’t alone. God heard Ishmael’s cries. He heard Hagar’s cries. He hears the cries of the needy.

“For He will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.”
Psalm 72:12

God lifted her drooping head and opened her tear-swollen eyes to see it. A well. Right in front of her.

Hagar got up, filled her water skin, and gave her son a drink.

We, too, may sometimes feel empty and hopeless. Spiritually parched. Physically exhausted. Blinded by the tears of our grief over the losses and struggles in our lives. How can we ever be thankful?

If we look into our discouraged hearts or at our bleak circumstances (or that of others), we will surely despair of hope. We won’t see the well of blessings God has placed in front of us. We won’t see that God really is good and is full of love and compassion towards us. We won’t see that He actually is for us, not against us.

God longs to be gracious to us. He tenderly lifts our weary hearts to see His bottomless well of love. He invites us to drink, long and freely.

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him!”
Isaiah 30:18

Jesus’ love and compassion will never empty. They will always be more than enough for us. No matter what. He heard Hagar’s and Ishmael’s cries, and He will hear our cries. He didn’t forget them, and He won’t forget us.

Precious Lord, You know the heart of every person. You know the heavy burdens weighing us down. Please lift us and carry us through this Thanksgiving season and always. Open the eyes of our hearts to Your never-emptying well of love and empower us to drink from it. Send fullness in spite of empty places we feel and strength and peace amid the struggles of this life. Please help us to truly believe You are good, You are love, and You are for us. Thank You for Your patience with us and for never condemning us. Help us to express our gratitude to You by releasing our burdens into Your hands and trusting Your plan for us. Open our eyes, too, to see all that we still have and still are able to do. Thank You so much for Your unconditional love, Your endless patience with us, and Your ever-flowing and over-flowing grace!

“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
by Chris Tomlin

A Flight of Hope for the Broken-Hearted

Do you ever feel trapped by all the bad things that happened in your life? Weighted down with grief over all the losses that left you feeling so devastated? Are you brokenhearted and crushed in spirit?

I had heard about “Flight of Hope” where loved ones are honored in the releasing of butterflies, but I had never experienced it. In the summer of 2011, a radio station announced this yearly event was taking place that afternoon. On a whim, an hour before it started, I decided to go.

My daughter-in-law and four grandkids picked me up and we were just going to observe, but I ended up purchasing one of their extra butterflies.

I told them my parents’ names, but in my heart I was also thinking how much I wanted to let go of the bad things in my life. Let go of all the pain but also the hidden grudges I have in my heart against those who have hurt me, whether through abuse or slander or lack of support, etc. That deep-seated bitterness I may not even be aware I have. That sense of betrayal that builds walls against meaningful relationships. That false shame that holds me back from feeling the freedom there is in Jesus.

Inspirational singing, stories, and Bible references resonated under the dome in Sertoma Park. As I held the wax envelope that confined the wings of my Monarch butterfly, we wondered, “Is he even alive?” Then music started and he began to move his wings and two front legs like he was pleading, “Let me out, let me out, let me out…”

I felt such a kinship with that butterfly and my heart ached to free him to fly. A deep yearning cried out in my soul, “Please free me, Lord, and let me fly free for YOU!”

I marveled how God in His grace freed my mom and dad through His salvation and then by taking them to Himself. Nothing fetters them anymore. Jesus, You have paid the price for them. Help me to let go of any clinging hurts and dwell only on the good memories You have given because of their presence in my life.

When their names were called, I carefully opened my envelope and let the butterfly crawl into my hand, but it flew away so quickly that the photo showed empty hands and mouthed “ohs.”

Then some gals from the sponsors saw us and let my grandkids hold a couple of extra butterflies. My heart rejoiced to see their awe and delight!

Those memories still linger in my heart. My faithful God’s blessings to a doubting soul like me just keep on multiplying.

My heart lifted with hope that day, but events like these don’t always immediately dissipate our pain. However, they can help us to take the next step in the healing process.

We all go through the grieving process in different ways.
What works for one may not always work for another.
Still, we all need to go through it in order to heal or cope.
What works for you?

AseraCare Hospice sponsors these events as a way to recognize and help families of patients with their grieving process. They chose the butterfly as a symbol of hope and transition.

Flight of Hope 2016

LORD, please wrap all hurting souls in Your love.
Please help us through the grieving process.

Even when our losses are not known to people
or are known but not understood by others,
You know and understand every pain in our hearts.
You care so much and You cry with us!
You have invited all who are broken to find
healing in Your arms of unconditional love.
Thank You, Lord, for Your willingness to
faithfully lead us through the grieving process.

When We Hide Our Stories, We Hide Who God Created Us to Be

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I was standing at the kitchen counter mixing up a batch of chocolate chip cookies when I heard it:

“Well, everybody’s got a story to tell
And everybody’s got a wound to be healed.”

I stopped, stood by the radio, and sobbed. This song – “Need You Now” by Plumb – always touches a deep place in my heart. A wounded place. A place I don’t like to open because it hurts too much. A place I often protect because I’m afraid I won’t be believed, I’ll be hurt again, or my thoughts don’t matter.

I don’t know why I cringe in fear whenever I tell my story. Fear of letting out my innermost heart. Perhaps it’s because I’m afraid I’ll be looked at differently. Sometimes I hear these voices of those who say, “Get over it already. The past is past” or “Why do you have to talk about it? Rehashing the pain just makes you feel worse.” And sometimes I do feel more vulnerable and depressed afterward. But you know what? Those are the times when eventually, as I cry out my need to God, I am taught the deepest lessons of His powerful grace.

Not everyone understands that it’s my past story that has molded my today’s story. Silence except to a select few just doesn’t work for me anymore. It’s time for me to take the leap to speaking out more and trusting God will give strength. If anyone hurts me with words or with silence, God will make me stronger through it. God is making it more impossible for me to keep silent with a smile pasted on my face while inwardly my heart is crying every. single. word. of this song:

“I want to believe there’s beauty here
‘Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on
I can’t let go, I can’t move on
I want to believe there’s meaning here

How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this”?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.

Standing on a road I didn’t plan
Wondering how I got to where I am
I’m trying to hear that still small voice
I’m trying to hear above the noise

How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this”?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.

Though I walk,
Though I walk through the shadows
And I, I am so afraid
Please stay, please stay right beside me
With every single step I take

How many times have you heard me cry out?
And how many times have you given me strength?

How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this”?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.

I need you now
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.
I need you now
I need you now.”

(By Plumb)

pennyparkerbutterfly2

What is my story today?
It’s this desperate need.
I can’t go one. single. step.
Without Jesus and His love,
Because without Him
I gasp for air
And I cannot live on.

When some days
My heart fills with fear
And can’t find peace,
I am so, so weary
Of myself,
Of my failure to rise above
Troubles in my life,
When memory triggers
Cripple my soul,
When illness and fatigue
Shatter plans,
When depression
Sucks me into darkness.

But still…
I will keep trying to hear
His still small voice
Above all the noise.
I will desperately seek
The presence of my Jesus,
My Savior and My Friend
So Faithful and True.
I will cling to His hand
And let Him lead me
No matter what happens,
Because without Him
I cannot breathe.

I will trust Him
And His purposes for me.
He has called me
To proclaim
Hope for the broken,
Healing for the wounded,
Freedom for the captives.
Perhaps He can use me more
As a broken soul.

I will remember
The times of joy,
No matter how fleeting.
I will remember
The precious blessings
He has yet given me.
And when the sad times come,
I will remember
My God still brings
Beauty out of ashes
And He never grows weary
Of His beloved
Needing Him.

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It’s always been easier to write than to speak my true feelings, but often I struggle to start a post. I know insecurity remains a giant roadblock. I have to force myself to write even when I’m downhearted, leaning into Jesus Who alone is my strength. But I believe there are some in cyberspace who feel alone and misunderstood, and my passion is to reach them. If you are reading this, know you are not alone. I’m here because I care so deeply about you. Above all, Jesus loves you so, so much. He understands you even when no one else does. He mingles His tears with yours.

What is your story? God cares, and so do I. Your story matters. As I open up myself more to others, I am learning it is healing to tell our stories because then we are actually being who we really are. When we hide our stories, we hide who we’re created to be. When we tell our stories, we are telling significant parts of HIStory – God’s Greater Story. So tell your story, my friend.

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