Work In Progress

5 Dec

I have learned so much in the past 10 years. 10 years ago today, I went to a tea at a non-denominational church. I began attending this church every week. Within a few months I bought my own bible for the first time AND I actually began to read it. 9 years ago today, I was re-baptized at that wonderful church.

You have to know this. I am still a work in progress. I have been studying His word for 10 years. I have been in deep relationship with him for about 8 of those years, or maybe 7. I am being changed and healed and softened and made stronger, every single day.  I submitted every nook and cranny to Him. And then, I pretty much forget and take it all back on my shoulders for a bit, then re-submit. It’s okay! That is our journey with Him. Not one part of us is perfect and we cannot perfect our selves. He can though. I am slowly being perfected. One day, when I get to heaven, I will be perfected. Not before then.

I say this often because I really struggled to grasp what Grace meant, what Jesus meant to me, for me. “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” Hebrew 5:8 NLT.   I had to learn that being a Christ follower has nothing to do with me. It is all about Him. I didn’t earn my way to heaven. You can’t earn it by being good. Heaven is about accepting that this Christmas birth was a gift! That Jesus came to show us what faith is. What God is seeking from us is to let go of our own ego’s and our need to earn; our own checks and balances way of living and just accept the gift.

Salvation is simply a life altering, mind blowing, ego balancing, rule crashing, insecurity killing acceptance of the greatest act of love ever.

I have learned that abusive people and unkind people, swindlers, manipulators and cruel people can actually have that mustard seed of faith and can also be saved. I have learned that really devout people have super big doubts sometimes. I have learned that it doesn’t matter what we do or who we are, salvation is not about us. It is about accepting Christ. In the same breath, I have accepted that God is not a punishing God. We don’t earn that either. We do suffer, but everyone suffer’s. Jesus did too and God as His Father, suffered for us, and Mary his mother, suffered. It’s our journey here. We suffer because of darkness, sin, because of brokenness. It’s important.

If you know me, I promised to be transparent every step of the way.  This former perfectionist put on a good front for the world. The need to be right enough and validated enough girl is now the self-proclaimed wishy washy Christian. I still sin, in my head, my words and in my heart. I am constantly learning and growing, I have a sense of confidence in Christ I have never had before.  God has changed so much in my heart, healed so much and filled the hole inside my heart.
I am also the girl that has a hard time with trust. Actually I believe that to be my biggest hurdle.  Probably for all of us, this is the biggest hurdle. Trusting when we can’t control or see the future. Trust is faith. Period. Trust when it all looks like it’s falling apart at the seams. Trust when our hearts our broken. Trust when we can’t understand.

No matter how far I swing away, no matter how close I walk; the words below are my reminder, and if I write it all on my heart, then I can constantly redirect my fears, my worries, my self reliance, my anger, my sorrow, my hopes and my desires of my heart. If we are seeking His will, we will have perfect peace, if we focus on our own plans, our own path; there is no peace.

They say “Leap of Faith” for a major reason! Faith is hard! It’s also an amazing journey full of amazing people. There is a deep joy that comes from hope in God. I have had deep doubts in Him, He was fine with that. He is steady, sure, unchanging and un-freaked out.
Isn’t it time to figure out what you really know about Him, what is truth to you? Based on learning who He really is? Not what you see a building of people being but what His word tells you about him?

Without Him I am nothing.

“My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart. If you do this, you will live many years, and your life will be satisfying.
Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
nothing you desire can compare with her (wisdom).”

Proverbs 3:1-6 NLT

A prayer

4 Dec

For all that are lonely, I pray for you.

For all that are missing someone, I pray for you.

For all that are caught up in a web of worry or stress, I pray for you.

For all that are feeling inadequate, I pray for you.

For all that are heavy with the world, I pray for you

For all that are sick, or waiting for a miracle, I pray for you

For all that are wanting, longing, I pray for you.

For those caught in shame, or feel God is mad at you, or punishing you, or like you blew it, that you aren’t good enough. I pray truth for you

My Heavenly Father answered me this morning as I was praying to look up and see Him.

I pray the Father, the healer God, lifts your chin back up too, to stand strong and firm. To see Him. To trust Him with the pieces. He is perfect peace when we find Him and trust Him. Whether you have walked a long time with Him or you just met Him and aren’t sure what He is to you- I pray you look at this beautiful child, you behold the miracle He is and let His love be all that you need. You are so loved. Even in your worst moment, even if you didn’t know Him, His sacrifice on the Cross was for you. That beheld and perfect child came into this world to give it all for you. To teach you, to show you the way, to set it all right again, to bring you to your knees in humble gratitude and awe at how amazing that is! To show you the way to hope, to peace, to wholeness.

He learned obedience through His suffering. I pray you see the world not through the eyes of rules, or perfection or trying to achieve goodness. I pray forbearance is yours. Grace!

We are not ever going to be perfect in this world. But we are incredibly loved, even if we mess it up, even if we think it’s not going the right way. Even when we don’t trust in Him, accept Him or even know Him.

I pray you ask Him to be the guide of your heart, the filler of loneliness, the hope for all your troubles, the peace maker of your soul. He IS enough. He has always been enough. He is still in control even when we feel like it’s out of control.

May you find Him today, and walk this season differently. May you shine with such peace and hope the world sees Him on your face, hope in your eyes . May He give you the miracle of your heart at peace exactly where you’re at.

I pray all of this over you today. Amen!

❤️

Re-done

2 Dec
If I were to come up with a description for the past decade it would be Re-Creation.
I went back to church 10 years ago this month. I remained unable to really connect the dots of faith to my why until July 2010. Entering this decade brokenhearted, lost and so unsure of my why; ‘Why was I here? What did I have to live for? ‘ These were some very overwhelming questions for me.
I often quote my friend Pastor Brent Knox.” I am either in a trial or between a trial.” Such truth!
Nothing lasts forever except The One who created it all. No trial, no moment. But, His love endures forever.
Isaiah 40:28 says “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”
Endings are as much a part of life as beginnings are. Grief and joy, peace and struggle, gain and loss…. Nothing is without meaning and value, but nothing is done without Him beside us and the Holy Spirit within us. He is sovereign. Always. We choose to trust in faith or struggle alone.
This is the hope I hang on to every day. He has it all figured out, and it’s all meant for my good and His glory.

There is perfect peace to be found in the bumpy journey, even when it all falls apart. I am so grateful to have found this joy. This life is so not easy, and it will only become more difficult as we grow older.

Joy isn’t happiness, joy isn’t laughter. Joy is deep. It is resting assured in faith that I don’t have to have the answers, that I am deeply cared for, loved beyond measure, I am not alone, and one day, this will all be new. I will live forever with Him.

Joy is pouring this truth into another life;Being able to be completely transparent, no longer having to pretend I have it all together. I don’t!

Joy is knowing that even if I made a huge mess of a thing, even if all the pieces make no sense; I don’t have to have the vision of the future. He does. I just need to be so in touch with Him, so patient, so steady.  He will not leave me, nor forsake me. Men may leave me. friends may, but not God. Joy is confidence in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The one truth remains, our lives are still so rich with blessings. Our trials become our lessons and the lessons become our testimony. When we give them all to Him, He uses our difficult testimonies to bless other’s.

This heart is so grateful, even for the hard, the goodbyes and the trials. This girl is glad for the decade of crazy, coming to a close. This girl is grateful for every mistake, every tear cried, every lesson, every sorrow. Without each of them I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t be where I am.

I love this re-creation of me. He is pretty smart!

Phillippians 1:6 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Eulogy

18 Nov

At 2:38pm on October 29, 2019, God plucked a beautiful flower from this world and brought her home to be with him for all eternity. The last few months, my mom and I would talk about what that day would look like, the day that she met her bridegroom; The day she entered heaven. We lovingly joked that we should have wedding cake and celebrate rather than have a funeral. She is there now, rejoicing. We miss her terribly.

We kids lovingly referred to our mom as the energizer bunny. She was blessed with a stubborn strength that was evident even in her last breath. She just kept going through all that life threw at her. And life threw more at her than most could have handled. If you knew her story, you were amazed by her strength. Our mom continued to pick herself up and keep moving through, taking care of what ever needed to be done. Through all of her trials and disappointments, she never became bitter, never lost her faith. She remained a gentle spirit, full of joy.

She worked several jobs, just to put food on our table. Teaching her children a work ethic that is evident even in her grandchildren. She kept the roof over our heads. She took care of her husband afflicted with Early Onset Alzheimer’, she struggled with a heart condition, breast cancer, later melanoma of the eye.  The past 3 years of her life were difficult. Her spine was collapsing causing excruciating pain. She learned to live with the pain, not complaining. Such a hero, our mother.

Our beautiful mom earned her master’s degree, she played the piano, taught herself to play the organ. Later in her life, she was blessed with a marriage to her best friend and a man that expanded her horizons. With him she learned to laugh and have fun. They rode bikes, she learned to play and love the game of golf, having accomplished 2 holes in one, she traveled, she danced and played cards. Her family grew to include not stepchildren but children she lovingly called “Bonus Children”.  

Of all her joys, her greatest and the core of her was her love for her grandchildren and her great grandchildren. She prayed for them daily, she loved hearing about their accomplishments, encouraging them and supporting them, and hurt for them through their trials.

Galatians 5 speaks to us about the Fruits of the Holy Spirit “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”.  We can say with confidence, the Holy Spirit lived gracefully within our mother’s heart. Her never ceasing prayer was that all of her offspring would come to know the Lord in the same way.  

We have lost our mother, our grandmother, great grandmother, our wife, our friend. Our loss will be felt forever.  We also rejoice with her; her suffering in this world is done. When she arrived in heaven, I am certain the words she heard from God’s lips were “well done my child”.

As our mother took her last breath, she spoke one word. “Amen”.  We say this with her. Amen mom, Amen.

 

Forgotten

2 Nov

As my mother slowly began to slip away from us, it became clear to us that it was time to draw close. To not leave her at all. She would speak to us a bit but would tire quickly. Everything had been said long before. Now it was just time for each of us to see to her comfort and to say our goodbyes.

It was an honor and a blessing to be beside as my mother crossed over to heaven. I thought of those that have gone before, my father, my uncles, my aunts, my friends. I began to reflect on her time the months prior. The trip we took to spend fun time with as much family as we could gather; the visits each of us took to be one on one with her while she was still able to enjoy our visits. Now, we prepare for her funeral, a family united by love of our mother.

I rested today. There was this nagging thought that would not leave my mind. Not of my mother, but of the countless men and women I see in the nursing homes and Veteran’s home, day after day in my work. So many of these people will die with no one holding their hand, praying over them, caring for them. (Yes this would be one more huge reason for Hospice at end of life!)

I recall the social media cry for people to attend the funeral of a veteran in Sarasota that had no family. It was touching. It was an event one could “check in” at, did you know this? You could let the world know you do good deeds.

What if your good deed went vaguely unnoticed by the world but made a huge impact on the life of a human being. Without knowing what the reasons are for living life in a nursing facility, without any family or friends to stop in, to check on you, I have to ask… Does it matter?

These facilities do religious services within those institutional walls, but then the crowd dies away and for the remaining 23 hours, with the exception of an aid or a nurse, your day is spent alone. Waiting to eat; Waiting in your chair, or your bed.

How lovely would it be if we began to “foster” the lonely nursing home patients? If the social media cry was to “rescue” an invalid or dementia patient; an ALS patient or Parkinson’s patient. Maybe your calling is to visit the veterans and visit with them, spend time letting them feel valued and seen?

We are a nation of “see me” and “look at what I did” and “listen to my opinions”; “Make me feel important”, “I am enough”. Can you imagine how completely important a selfless act of time and friendship would be to someone that is invisible, unseen, forgotten?

This is not the grief I anticipated, nor the sadness I thought I would process today on this beautiful Saturday.

My mom is no longer.here Her new life began on Tuesday, when she became a bride in heaven. She doesn’t need a funeral, we do, we need the closure. Her suffering has ended and she is rejoicing. I am rejoicing for her. There will be tears I am sure. She will be missed but she is no longer ever going to feel anything remotely close to suffering, regret,sorrow or loneliness.

Have you been lonely? I have been so lonely it took my strength away; being lonely is true suffering.

You don’t really live well until you love well and you don’t love well until you give it away selflessly to someone who can never repay you.

I encourage you to give this thoughtful consideration.

When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12:13

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10

And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God. Hebrews 13:16

 

A Case for Hospice

19 Oct

By Beckie Halaska

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No one wants to hear the word terminal.  We hang on to hope, we deny it, we ignore it, we avoid it.  I have this conversation with families that are not ready to process that word. Not ready to hear the word Hospice. These are very difficult words to process.  From a daughter’s perspective, let me say, I understand.

Some of us will be fortunate enough and slip away, gently in our sleep, some will leave us by accident. Most of us however, will face an illness that will eventually cause our demise.

The absolute truth is that we cannot escape death. We can however begin to embrace it and somehow do good in it. We can mourn it and celebrate the days left along with our loved one. We can talk about it; We can support one another through the journey; We can celebrate every day of life even more.

I work in Hospice, yet, Hospice still remained a difficult discussion for me, and with my family.  Hospice is a word that instills fear because it sounds like death. It does mean acceptance of the end. Truth is, when hospice is brought on board in a timely fashion, they can help you begin your end of life journey, living to the fullest with the time you have left. I strongly advocated for Hospice to be on-board as soon as possible, beginning the discussion as soon as we heard “Metastatic”.  It’s not easy being that person, but I know from my past history with hospice, what a blessing it can be.

From a daughter’s perspective, my mother lives 3 hours north of me. As she has become more frail the past couple years, I do my best to come see her frequently, to spend time with her.  Before Hospice, I didn’t come every weekend. I came when it was more convenient for me, I suppose. I was still able to take my mom for granted. Which is a place of comfort for most of us.

My greatest gift of hospice, so far has been no longer taking her for granted. I spend every weekend with her that my siblings are not having one on one time with her. My conversations with her have been more important. Sometimes, she simply just holds my hand and looks at my face as if memorizing it. Everything  has become more important.

Now we are slowly transitioning to the last days. She is weak, mostly sleeping. Now we watch her sleep. Waiting. Waiting for her to need something, or wake up and want to talk.  My stepdad and her sit holding hands and speaking gently to one another.

When I got the call yesterday, telling me I needed to come, driving the 3 hours through a tropical storm to get here, was just added stress. Seeing that the symptoms were progressing rapidly and we had a sudden decline, this is the case for hospice: I had a number to call, someone to talk to. I had a nurse at bedside within an hour. We had new equipment, new medications, new plans of support. We had symptoms managed and new reassurances that everything was okay again.  We had peace. If I were to describe our evening now, it would be tranquil.

This is the case for hospice. This is my passion. This is the reason I want everyone to know what the beauty of Hospice is. My mother isn’t “in hospice”, Hospice is not a place. It is a service that is provided where ever a patient calls home. My mother is on Hospice Services: She is in her own bed, in her own room, in her own home, with her family lovingly supporting her. We have help at the other end of a phone call. We have support, education and medications to make her very comfortable. (She still is not on Morphine, another myth). She has just days to a couple weeks left. Only God knows this answer. She is still the energizer bunny, strong fighter that she has always been.  She is sleeping comfortably with us nearby. We read to her, we talk with her, we watch her sleep. We rest, we visit, we process.

Oh, what a joy, to share this precious time with her. What a blessing to support my stepdad in his care for her. There is nothing more precious than a really good, timely referral to hospice. I will never stop advocating for this amazing blessing… And I get to do this for a living.

Follow The Leader

15 Oct

 

How many times have I held myself hostage to shame or guilt; Lost sleep over things I have said or done, things I wish I had done differently?
How many times have I sat in sorrow, feeling like I have blown it all; Blown God’s blessings for me, messed up and knew He must be so disappointed?
How many times will I question whether I am being punished by Him?
How many times do I question my own belief; How many times will I feel too hypocritical? Like I am supposed to be better than I am doing.
How many times will I be offended or feel resentful over things, hurt by rejection or presumed being unchosen?
How many times do we say, I have to do better, be better, watch my words, grab hold of my sins and fix them?
How many times do we want to do the right thing and ask God over and over, “what is your plan”, “what do you want me to do”, “Open doors, close doors”, and become frustrated because He didn’t answer. Maybe it didn’t matter? Maybe it was more about submission than the outcome.

No More!

This is probably the most powerful truth we can grasp. He wants to be in a close relationship with us. He wants to know us. He wants us to know Him.  To submit our will to Him, our independence to Him, our need to fix life, fix people, fix ourselves achieve stuff, to Him and Him alone. To have a real relationship with Him.

If we believe that Christ was the sacrificial lamb, who died and rescued us from the punishment for our sins, that his death was merciful and complete; Why do we throw that away and reclaim the hopelessness of being judged by the law?

The Sermon on the Mount is so powerful in the expression of the true consequence of our belief. If we judge sin, we will be judged by the law. If we surrender sin, we will be washed clean. Surrendering our ability to do to the one that already did, is powerful and because of our ego, very difficult to do. We don’t have to be perfect to know Him. We just have to know Him, seek Him. We begin to fill up with Him, through His word, through prayer, through being still and letting the words wash over us, by journalling, with praise of Him, worship of Him.

Take your tears, your anger, your brokenness, your fear, your hopes, your wishes, your control, your illness, your insecurity, your anxiety, your hopelessness, your joy; take this all to Him. He knows everything and still loves you enough to take it all away and make you new. Build you back up, create in you a new mind, a new heart, a new hope.

If we don’t trust God with our complete hope, we fall short. We, the ones trying to do the impossible-becoming perfect, or running away so fast because we are imperfect, we need to remember who is the only one that will ever be perfect. And learn what His love and death for us, did for us.

We are all sinners.
All are welcomed by God.
We love ourselves and love this world best when we begin with loving God and accept His love in return.
We don’t turn from our sin and with this perfected new self, accept Christ and His Grace and Mercy.
We turn to Him, the only one, that can rescue us and transform us by our own submission to Him

It isn’t those that worked so hard at changing their sins and being good, that will be known by Him.  The ones that knew they couldn’t do anything without having a deep and trusting relationship with our Lord, will be known.

We are so unworthy, every one of us, to sit in Heaven with God, but He chose you, not because your so great, or so perfect, not to be the judge, or the next teacher; not to be the next amazing, not to be the next best, but to be loved by Him, for Him, for this world.

He will transform you, rebuild you, for His purpose. He will not leave that work undone. He did not say you will not leave the work undone. He did not say reject those people, judge those sins as abomination. He said be a light in the world. Know you are a sinner yourself and from that joy of forgiveness, let other’s see what grace is and does.

When the townspeople were set to stone the woman for adultery, Jesus taught the message of let the one without sin, throw the first stone. No one could. But don’t miss the second part of that message. Everyone left, leaving the woman alone there. Jesus is the only one that didn’t leave that woman alone in her sin. He loved her so much even in her sinful state of being an adulterer. He didn’t judge her. He instructed her to not sin any longer. I would love to know her testimony from that rescue, that love, that welcoming.

This is what it means to follow Him. Follow His examples of prayer, of relationship to the Father, to surrender and submit over and over and over again.

Grace cannot be earned; Grace is not the goal. Grace is the gift, the fulfillment of requirements, someone else took the punishment of your sins for you. Grace is the invitation to join Jesus in a relationship.  ALL are welcome to this.

This relationship will be harder, not easier. Submission is hard. God transforms you, and it can be difficult to be healed in many ways.  Remember though; In the perfect garden, Eden, where all needs were supplied, where God walked as a friend, Eve chose deception for more than all supplied needs and God as a friend and Adam chose to please Eve and blame everyone. We are built this way; Imperfect creatures. You are never going to be perfect. Not ever.

Knowing who God is, knowing He loves you, letting that fill your heart, letting that move you and guide you; trusting in Him, through every up and down, every betrayal, every trial, every loss… That is where your purpose and your freedom is found. That is where joyful living begins and endless pursuit of happiness ends.

“For sin will no longer be a master over you, since you are not under Law [as slaves], but under [unmerited] grace [as recipients of God’s favor and mercy].”

ROMANS 6:14 AMP

https://www.bible.com/bible/1588/rom.6.14.amp

“Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” ———-”

John 8:1-11 NLT

https://www.bible.com/bible/116/jhn.8.1-11.nlt

Sermon on the Mount is Matthew 5-7. I encourage you to read this.

https://www.bible.com/bible/116/mat.5.1.nlt