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

My Mom, Depression, and Love

Depression often plagued our mom, and it sometimes blinded her to our own pain, but she still loved us so much. On February 18, it will be 12 years since we lost her, so I’m reposting a revised article from 5 years ago. I’m sure many of you haven’t read it yet.

“That’s where all the crazy people go!” blurted one of my fellow grade-school students as our bus drove past the Mental Health Institute on our way to a field trip of a museum and planetarium in Cherokee, Iowa. False shame reached out its grubby hands and strangled me as I stared out the window at that unfriendly brick building, my enemy. The razor-edged words sliced into my heart, slashing the scream begging to give voice, “My mom is NOT crazy!”

My mom often battled bouts of depression when I was growing up. She wanted to be there for us kids, but she couldn’t. Several times throughout my childhood she would have stays in various hospitals.

Sadly, shock treatments and pills were the norm in those days. She didn’t receive quality counseling to enable her to work through the deep-seated childhood rejection and emotional abuse that added to her depression. Inevitably her pain kept festering inside, ready to shove her into debilitating illness time and again.

What especially hurt her was that even the minister and elders of the church we attended at that time didn’t offer comfort. Whenever my mom was in the hospital, they wouldn’t even visit her, even after she came home. Their silence and lack of support pierced and twisted a knife into her heart and further stoked the fire of shame that undermined her self-worth.

Add to that shame… Fear. Raw fear. We often heard about hell, and we perceived God as a distant, furious Judge ready to punish us. We didn’t hear how the love of Jesus offers hope, how Jesus hurts when we hurt.

In spite of her periodical battles with depression, I still knew Mom loved us. But when she disappeared, emotionally and sometimes physically, it was so difficult to convince my child’s heart. Sometimes I felt so abandoned.  I’d see her crying or in hysterics, and it tore me up. Like many children, I somehow felt guilty for her illness. Why couldn’t I make Mom happy? What did I do wrong?  When she was suicidal, it devastated me. Weren’t we worth living for? When she was again taken to a hospital, I was lonely and afraid.

Subconsciously I began to believe it was my job to make everyone happy. I became a people pleaser to try to quiet my longstanding belief that I helped cause my mother’s depression. If anyone around me was unhappy or upset, I would try to “fix” it. If I couldn’t make someone feel better, my load of guilt became heavier. What is wrong with me that I always mess up people’s lives?

It took years before I worked through my guilt and feelings of desertion. But the more I healed, the more I realized what a wonderful mom I really had. Although depression sometimes snatched her away from us or plunged her into inescapable self-absorption, she loved us deeply. There was nothing she enjoyed more than to be surrounded by her family, and I believe she would have sacrificed her own life to save ours. In fact, she nearly did.

One day I was curled up with a book on the couch. My little brother was in the playpen in the kitchen next to the doorway leading to the living room. Mom was in the kitchen heating oil for french fries in an aluminum pan on the gas stove burner. When she lowered the basket of frozen fries into the hot oil, an explosion of light and a bone-chilling shriek shattered my serenity. I snapped out of my frozen-in-fear moment and raced to the kitchen to see fire climbing up the curtains next to the stove. Oblivious to the burning flesh on her hands, Mom screamed, “Get the baby out! Get the baby out! Get Dad!”

I grabbed my little brother and rushed out to the barn. Meanwhile, Mom worked feverishly to get the fire out; and if my memory serves me correctly, she succeeded before Dad arrived. But then the pain took over and consumed her, and Dad rushed her to the doctor.

The 2nd and 3rd degree burns on her hands took time to heal. But later on, it was those love-scarred hands that soothed my fevered brow and brought me tea and toast when I was sick and patted my back with encouragement to pursue interests I enjoyed.

Sometimes her loving hand became a safety belt. A sudden step on the brakes would spring her hand out to hold back the one in the passenger seat. We had some special moments when this continued even when I was an adult and we had seatbelts. As my mom became older and I was the driver, we chuckled when one day my hand sprang out.

How I loved my “crazy” mom! I’m so proud of how she broke the abuse cycle of possibly generations of moms. She had to battle the monster of depression and she couldn’t always protect us from harm, but she still managed to show us a mother’s love.

I am so grateful that in the later years of her life, Mom was blessed with a counselor who nurtured her and encouraged her to find her identity in Christ Jesus. She was finally able to experience Jesus loves her and know she has priceless value in His eyes. Her faith in a Savior who sacrificed His life for her grew and blossomed like a rose. Deep-seated thorns of insecurity and depression still tried to inhibit her from full bloom, but she was still, oh, so beautiful. Yes, depression often dominated her life, especially when we were growing up, but I still picture the deeper scars on one of her hands. Scars of love. Sacrificial love. Even when a spinal stroke paralyzed her and took away her freedom to hug us, she still wanted us to know we were loved. Fighting for breath, some of her last words were whispered in succession, “I love you, I love you, I love you!”

I wish I could go back in time to those kids on that school bus. I would stand up to them and proudly tell them how much my “crazy” mom loved us and how blessed I am that she was my mother. I am a better, more caring person today because of her. And I know she is now with Jesus where she can forever bloom perfectly. There is no more depression and no more pain!

“When God Has Another Plan”

 

New This Month: Links, Quotes, Books & More

whatsnew

cutecolorsplantline1

“My heart has heard You say,
“Come and talk with Me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.””
Psalm 27:8 NLT

“Speak Away”
Written by Taylor Agan & Hunter Leath
Sung by Maisen Smalley

cutecolorsbutterflyline

ccjesusloves

ABCs of Jesus’ Love

Visit this page anytime and let me know if you’d like to add to the words describing Jesus’ love along with a verse supporting it. Remember, there is also a print-out of the original list.

 This month I have added another “R” Word:

❤︎  Reconciling Love ❤︎
“But all these things are from God,
who reconciled us to Himself through Christ
[making us acceptable to Him]
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation
[so that by our example we might bring others to Him]

2 Corinthians 5:18 AMP

bearreadingbook

Books

I am not always able to keep up with the abundance of books that promote hope, healing, and freedom, so I haven’t always read every one I post here and on the Books Page. Though many are on my long wish list. 🙂 Many will be from recommendations of online friends. If you ever know of a book that is not listed and that supports this website’s mission, please let me know. 🙂


uninvitedUninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa Teurkerst

“The enemy wants us to feel rejected . . . left out, lonely, and less than. When we allow him to speak lies through our rejection, he pickpockets our purpose. Cripples our courage. Dismantles our dreams. And blinds us to the beauty of Christ’s powerful love.” (Amazon)

With gut-honest vulnerability, Lysa shares her own deeply personal experiences with rejection. She inspires us to give our hurts to Jesus and to live from a deep assurance that we are fully loved in Him.

I have really been blessed by this book. In case you missed it, here is my blog post that discusses it further: Rejection Hurts and Living Loved.

cutecolorsj7

Hope Harbor

Links That Inspire Hope and Healing 

 Perfectionism and Claiming Shame (Article by Brene Brown) – “Feeling shamed, judged, and blamed (and the fear of these feelings) are realities of the human experience. Perfectionism actually increases the odds that we’ll experience these painful emotions and often leads to self-blame: ‘It’s my fault. I’m feeling this way because I’m not good enough.’”

How Shame Contaminates Our Lives – and a Path Towards Healing (Article by John Amodeo) – “Whenever shame enters the picture, we inhibit the free expression of emotion, with the exception of anger … shame is the emotion most difficult to admit and to discharge.” – “As the saying goes, we can’t heal what we cannot feel. Healing shame begins by recognizing how it feels inside.”

 Leaving the Lies of Shame Behind – A hope-filled blog post by Terri Fullerton who grew up in a home riddled with domestic abuse – “Christ didn’t shame me. He knows why we are where we are. He reached out his hand to grab hold of me. Like the woman at the well, he called me to a place of honesty. For me, an important part of my healing has been naming the lies and replacing them with the truth.”

Nature Retreat

“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness.
God is the friend of silence.
See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence;
see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…
We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
~ Mother Teresa

fullsizeoutput_128c

fullsizeoutput_128d

fullsizeoutput_127b

fullsizeoutput_1281

fullsizeoutput_1280

fullsizeoutput_1298

50 Cute Baby Wild Animals – Video of adorable photos of baby animals

Lirralirra: The Magical Mystery of Birds -A gallery of intriguing images of wild, unbaited birds in natural light by Kim Wormald

Insects and Spiders Photo Galleries – Thousands of spectacular macro photos in various categories of insects and spiders by M Plonsky

cutecolorsplant1c

Quotes

❤︎ “God is too good to be unkind; He is too wise to be mistaken. When you cannot trace His hand, you can always trust His heart.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

❤︎ Courage means not allowing your limitations to eclipse God’s possibilities.” ~ Christine Caine

❤︎ “The presence of fear does not mean you have no faith. Fear visits everyone. But make your fear a visitor and not a resident.” ~ Max Lucado

cutecolorsbutterflyline

signature3cutecolorsplantline1