Always the Heart

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Isaiah 55:11 ‘so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.’

This is a call to Christians. A call to please God, not man. ‘Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.’ A call for you to evaluate where your hearts are at. A call to draw close to the One who made you and called you according to His purposes. A call to really know Him and what He is calling you to. A call to be grounded in the Word. A call to know what is required of you. Micah 6:8 ‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’

I feel like I need to write a caveat before I send this blog forth. It is possible I may offend people but before you choose to take an offense up, can I challenge you to ask your heart why? And forgive me please as my intention is not to cause offense. I write about this subject because God is burning it in my heart these days and I feel broken because of it. I write about this because I have been in the middle of these situations all the way back to when I first found Jesus. I have been a part of these situations. Because guess what, people are people. Even if we don’t purposely set out to let the enemy use us, when we don’t know God’s voice, we can become the accusers of our brothers and sisters. One word timely whispered and an offense can be set off. Revelation 12:10

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:pointing-1991215_640

“Now have come the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
    who accuses them before our God day and night,
    has been hurled down.”

My heart is burdened because we cannot do His will here on earth well as a fractured body. And we can do so much more together. I mean, He is God and His purposes will be accomplished as the Word says above but will we fall by the wayside and will He have to raise others up to accomplish the purpose He had for you?

How well do you know God? Like really know Him and His Word? Would you say that His heart is for you? Would you say you know you are loved, forgiven, saved, righteous, His child? Would you say that you are following Him and not people?  Are you sold out to His commission for us as believers? Matthew 28:18-20 ‘Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

My heart has been breaking for all of the stories I have been hearing lately about how people are hurt by Christian people and that becomes generalized to the church and then projected on who they think God is. Offence is picked up and if not dealt with this can turn to resentment. If they are Christian, their faith may suffer, reconciliation might never happen,  then they possibly fall away or in some cases plan never to attend church again. In the meantime a fracture happens within the church by the loss of these people and that particular body goes on but with a noticeable limp. I realize sometimes there is a grand purpose in God removing some people from a particular body of believers but it may not always be the case. It may be the enemy working his steal, kill and destroy program through his bait of offense.

I understand when someone is a Christian we naturally give them a higher standard to hit and that should be the case but I think it should be higher, not impossible. This also means if you are a Christian, you also are called to this higher, not impossible standard. It is not impossible with His spirit and strength, it will be in our own strength. They are not God, neither are we, we are all human and we hurt each other, often not on purpose. I also realize that church is not the only platform to display His glory but it needs to be a place where we grow together to be strengthened to go out into the world, in all the places He calls us. The local church is the hope of the world but a fractured one doesn’t always paint a beautiful picture of hope. Please don’t take this to the extreme because I know we are all broken in some way and the beauty of God doing what He does through broken vessels is often what it is about. I am just saying if we are loudly broken without Christ on display in our behaviour, hope doesn’t always shine through. What is your part in the restoration?

So what is getting in the way of your witness? Is it you? Can I gently suggest we get over ourselves? I love how Revelation 12 gives us the answer with verse 11 in the Message translation,

‘They defeated him through the blood of the Lamb
    and the bold word of their witness.
They weren’t in love with themselves;
    they were willing to die for Christ.’ 

Most of all I think God’s heart in all of this is not to equate who He is with who we are as humans. Remember the part, my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways? God said that. He sees us through the filter of what Jesus did, dying on the cross for our sins. Christ’s blood and His love cover a multitude of sins.

As I was praying through this blog, a few things came to mind that may get in the way of us not fulfilling the commission.  Pride, unforgiveness, inability to work through conflict, missing God’s heart, lack of identity, disobedience, blindness from our own wounds. This doesn’t just apply to issues within the church but  within our own hearts. Working through these things is not easy and I think we forget that we have the power of the resurrected Christ within us to help us get through these places.

Joyce Meyer said,‘ The gap between desire and doing is determined by how much pain one is willing to endure to do God’s will.’ . It is always a heart issue. How sold out is yours for our Saviour that you will do whatever it takes to live at peace with others and be obedient to His purposes?  Please read the following out Romans 12 out loud, stop on each verse and challenge your heart to see if you are living these words, if not, repent, ask His forgiveness and move forward knowing He is for you, and Holy Spirit will empower you to live this out. Be blessed brothers and sisters.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’

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All we need is…

loveapple-570965_6401Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

LOVE! There is nothing more telling to me that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than mine than seeing what He says about love, and watching how we all try to execute this. Our broken brand of this mission is tainted with our wounds, disappointments, rejections, shame, guilt, insecurities and lack. I failed in at least half of these directives about love just today and I haven’t even left my house yet.

But God…

He is love. He is the model of love. If we know Him, we are a demonstration of what His love did for us. He sent His only Son to die for us. Who does that? GOD did! And when we do choose Him, He gives us a new nature, one that is powered by the Holy Spirit to execute the kind of love that He showed us. Our mission is grand, to love the Lord with all of us and to love our neighbour as ourself, but it is not impossible with Him, despite our brokenness.

It keeps no record of wrongs…this is the portion that jumped out at me as I read this familiar love chapter from Corinthians today.  Ironically, I am co-leading a women’s bible study about the book Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst and it is all about rejection. Rejection hijacks our normal emotions and we absolutely keep a record of wrongs within all of the jabs of rejection that we have experienced if we don’t allow God to heal these wounds.

When our son was smaller he would often scrape his knees when he was playing. No sooner did one wound start healing and scabbing over, when another one would happen in the same place. The scabs showed the healings were happening but were insignificant as another owie ripped the scab off and irritated the sore. We had to watch that they didn’t get infected.

This is often what happens with unhealed rejection in our lives. Escalated emotions during an incident of rejection is a good indicator of past unhealed hurt. An antidote for this is acceptance. As Lysa Terkeurst says,”Acceptance is like an antibiotic that prevents past rejections from turning into present day infections. The need for belonging runs deep.” She also says that, “No amount of outside achievement fixes inside hurts. Those hurts have to be soothed by replacing the lies with truth.”

Rejection changes what you believe about yourself and so if you don’t inject God’s truth in those places, it can be a festering wound waiting for the next scraping. Belonging comes from God. His love is like a balm to the soul. His truth goes deep to our roots.

The word tells us in Colossians 3:14. “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Love is something we do, not something we feel. It is a choice. Love is something God does for us, He brings fullness to our empty places. Lysa says,” I can choose to bring my emptiness or God’s fullness into any situation I face. It saves us from begging for scraps of love.”

Love in its fullness is…heart-598048_640

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:18, 19

“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” Proverbs 10:12

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” 1 John 4:20

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. Psalm 103:8

I think you get the idea. In the New International version of the bible, love is mentioned 551 times. I think God was trying to tell us something significant about putting on who He is. As you know from the start of this post, walking in love is not an easy thing to do but we are called to do it. We need to practice walking in love. It not only is an antidote for rejection but for all of the hurts that may be contained in our hearts. He is not finished with us yet and the more we act like Him by being loving, the more we resemble His heart to others that don’t know Him yet.

How does your love reflect God’s heart? What parts of your heart do you need Him to bring healing and correction with truth? How are you bringing God’s fullness to situations? How have your hurts broken the mission of leading others to know Him? What will you do to seek the healing God longs to give you?

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Wholly Blood

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“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” Leviticus 17:11

I never grew up hearing old hymns but as a baby Christian I did, 15 years ago. One of my favourites is There is Power in the Blood. “There is power, power, wonder-working power, in the precious blood of the Lamb.” I love the history of these great songs and writers. This one was written by Lewis E. Jones in 1899. He wrote this classic during a camp meeting. Writing was a sideline to all the work he accomplished for the YMCA. The longevity of these hymns speaks volumes about their power and impact.

Within the lyrics are great reminders as to what the power of Jesus’ blood accomplished when He was crucified for our sins. It makes us free, there is power, it cleanses us, it takes away our sin, it gives us the ability to serve Him and it causes us to praise Him. These hymns speak the hard truth of God’s word. The beauty of music and song bring the truth in with grace.

Blood gives us life. It is an essential part of our body function. Some of its specific purposes include carrying key substances and nutrients to our cells, such as sugar, oxygen and hormones. It also carries waste away from the cells. This reminds me of how Jesus’ blood cleanses us from sin and shame. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NASB)

Red blood cells carry oxygen to vital parts of our body. Jesus carried his cross to bring us life and invites us to do the same. ‘Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”‘ Matthew 16:24

White blood cells defend our body against infections and foreign materials. Jesus fought death and darkness by His death and resurrection. 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus” 1 Corinthians 15

Platelets coagulate or clot the blood and prevent us from bleeding out. Jesus stops our eternal death by giving us eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

These comparisons may seem a stretch for those who don’t know the saving blood of Jesus. I encourage those who are skeptical of these truths to start in the gospel of John and read Jesus’ story. Ironically in the times of indifference to what we watch, listen to and believe, some people want to take the blood of Jesus out of the equation or the songs as it signifies the gore of the crucifixion. Ha, have you read the bible? Our history is littered with gore, war and violence. Mankind has not changed a whole lot, we can just see and respond and share our opinion faster than ever before.

The truth of Jesus’ blood shed for us is crucial in the story. Blood was mandatory for the cleansing of sins. The people used to do it through a priest and a sacrificial animal and God finished it through the sacrifice of His Son, the lamb of God. Once and for all.

Yesterday Pastor Craig Groeschel quoted research being done that 48% of people say they are Post Christian, which means they are familiar with Christianity but are intentionally choosing to reject it. This is frightening to me and encourages me to continue shining light into the darkness. Pastor Craig also said that he fears people are just getting little snippets of Jesus, enough to make them feel good but not enough to make them different. I implore you that there is power in the Blood. Don’t just know Him a little bit. Don’t just pick and choose the ‘good’ parts of Jesus. Relationship requires all of Him. Blood and all.

There is Power in the Blood.

http://www.hymnary.org/text/would_you_be_free_from_the_burden_jones

 

 

Genuine Surrender

‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ Philippians 1:21

Often when we think of the word surrender, we associate it to a laying down of arms and giving up as in an act of war or crime. We imagine a scene of carnage surrounding the perpetrator, like a last ditch effort for them to try and escape or make a statement.

Dictionary.com defines surrender as ‘cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.’

At the beginning stages of surrender we may see God as an opponent. This collaborates with our imagined scene of surrender induced carnage. A biblical definition though is emptying of self, or allowing Christ to take our place which is in essence submitting to an authority.

Sometimes we don’t feel a need to surrender. I think this is the first step to the different levels of yielding to God.  We move along the path of surrender, doing it for our own gain until we reach a place of genuine submission.

I listened  to Steven Furtick teaching from the story of the man by the pool at Bethesda in John 5. He said something to the effect, we sometimes are with people of similar disabilities so we feel more normal in our own dysfunction. Our submission starts with relying on ourself.

I started thinking of this man, who for 38 years came and laid by the pool, hoping for some miraculous push to be the first to receive the angels water-stirring healing. water-drip-921067_640They were all in the same position, they all had similar disabilities. Do you think there were new people that came hearing of this healing but then they heard the thoughts of those that had been ‘waiting’ for years for their miracle instead of surrendering to their circumstances.

Someone limped into the crowds excited and hopeful, asking.’ Is  it true? Is it true? Are people healed here? ‘

I imagine some of them would not even lift their heads, weary as they were from waiting. Others would respond cynically,’ Well that is what I was told but I have yet to see it.’

Still others full of blame and bitterness,’These people are so pushy and inconsiderate, there is no way to even get close for that.’

How much had these thoughts kept them all prisoner and created carnage? Not just physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. Do you see how weariness, cynicism, blame and bitterness could exacerbate this kind of thinking? One encounter with Jesus could change the direction of this carnage though.

But Jesus…jesus-1115989_640
As He entered what was known as the House of Mercy, he scanned the crowds, asking the broken how long they had been there. This conversation amazes me every time.  Jesus to the invalid, ” Do you want to get well?”

 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

What! At once? He didn’t even answer the question!

True to what Steven Furtick said, ‘Most of us love the idea of God changing our circumstances but we don’t love the idea of God changing US.’

Why do you suppose that Jesus chose this particular invalid? Do you think he saw the potential for surrender in his heart? 38 years! Or could this amazing touch from Jesus have been the most impactful?

Rick Warren describes Genuine Surrender as us saying, “Father, if this problem, pain, sickness or circumstance is needed to fulfill your purpose or glory in my life or anothers life, please don’t take it away.”

My heart is not there but it is to get there.  How about you? Are you ready for a new level of surrender?

“Father, help me to trust you where I don’t. Let my true cry be to live is Christ and to die is gain. Help me to see past myself Lord and genuinely surrender to the healing and changes you want to do in me, through me and for your glory. In your precious name Jesus, Amen” 

Branch Requirements

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

We as Christians are referred to by John in this passage as branches. If you think of a branch, what is required of it? grapes-984493_640To hang around, to draw from the life of the vine, to be grounded by the root, to be prepared to bear the fruit of the plant. What is the branch apart from the tree? It is a dried up stick! I know this illustration is used often and we go ya ya, we know, but are we really remaining?

Remain in Hebrew is translated as to stay, continue, abide, dwell, endure, be present, stand! These are not passive words nor do they portray just a hanging around attitude. This requires us to stay connected to Jesus in the midst of all that we encounter in this life. It is the lifeblood of victory and abundant life in a world that can squeeze the life out of us if we don’t.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the beauty in creation as the summer months are upon us. It is far easier to appreciate all of that when I am not in the middle of a winter season. I am able to breathe a little easier and see a little more clearly and remain a little more firmly. I just went through a season of wilderness in my own spiritual life, this combined with premenopausal hormones has made for a wild ride. A more apt description might be a crazy train!

And try as I might, like the branches, I was not able to muster up anything of my own volition. I kept pressing in even when it felt like I would snap off of that vine at any given moment. I did the things I knew to do when things looked hopeless. I watered my branch with many tears and went through periods of drought when tears weren’t even possible.

Sometimes God calls us in to the deep and it is a period of waiting that sometimes seems unending. But He never leaves us there, He is with us even when we can’t see clearly. Sheila Walsh recently described that getting to know Jesus is the antidote to shame and that we have never lived an unloved moment.

Consider that…Selah…Pause for contemplation…not One unloved moment!sunset-1207326_640

Sheila also said that when we walk through a dark season in our life it will alter the landscape of our heart. This is absolutely true but the new scenery is not always a bad thing. I learned that I could not always trust my feelings, my requirement as a branch was to trust God, to walk with Him and obey even if I didn’t ‘feel’ like it. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in All things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

This frees me in knowing that He works it out for good, I do not have to manage that. It doesn’t say that the circumstances are good necessarily but that All things can be used by Him. In this wilderness time there has been a lot of disappointment; in people, in ministry, in not accomplishing what I thought this season was for and in some of this I see the truth of this verse and the solidifying of my branchness. (My word)

You see, as I heard in my heart the other day, God doesn’t waste anything. He works All together in our lives, we have been called according to His purpose. So not only do we not need to work it out, He has purposed what it is for. And our requirement is not to become a stick. To nurture our relationship with the vine and to be planted firmly in the root of who we are in Him.

It is about authenticity and identity. It is about receiving His love and allowing it to change us. It is to trust and be willing even when we don’t understand. It is to keep our eyes on Him even if it seems like nothing is changing. And so in our process, we unlearn, we lean in, we listen, we trust the preparation, we speak His truth, we learn His Word, we love Him and receive the abundance of love He has for us. Meet with Him as you are, dance, sing, write, talk, garden, love others, be honest and real and raw. Fruit will come as you cultivate your relationship with Him, after all that is what He created us for.

Micah shows us a branch requirement very clearly, “He has shown you , O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

How are you making that sacrifice of your heart and remaining in the vine?

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Shadowboxing

As I sat in my basement one evening the light reflected off of a wall which to my disgust was covered in dirt and handprints. I don’t have little ones in the house anymore but they do visit. This grunge I realized was an accumulation of many hands resting on that wall to get up our stairs.

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Although this made me sentimental about all of the hands that have graced our house, this called for disinfectant. I sprayed and washed and thanked God for all the love we have received within those handprints but then I started to be dismayed. Have you ever started washing a spot on a wall only to realize that spot highlighted the dirtiness of the rest of it? Once you press into clean one spot, your eyes are highlighted to much more that is connected with it. All of a sudden I am taking down clocks and washing those and seeing how that wall is connected to that wall and so on…The most disconcerting realization was that some of those places haven’t been washed since we took up residence 5 years ago!

Ok before you pass too much judgment on my housekeeping skills, stay with me as I share what God revealed to me in these moments. Isn’t this how God cleans our character to become more like Him? At first it takes some light to shine on the issue. This can take many forms but often it is squeezed out by our circumstances. We don’t realize the dirt that has accumulated until it starts rising to the surface because we have expectations or  hurt, or we are discouraged or grieving. Perhaps it is just in our seeking of Him that the dross in our character rises to the surface for God to touch and heal.

As these things start to be cleansed you realize other things are connected to that as well and God wants to go a bit deeper. Process… the dreaded p word. Process is always in layers. Can you imagine if it wasn’t? We would explode in the unraveling. It isn’t always easy this unraveling, in fact I believe we often make it harder and more complicated than it needs to be. Our flesh and spirit shadowbox in a collision of independence and surrender.

Shadowboxing – spar with an imaginery opponent as a form of training. boxing-40747_640We fight our circumstances instead of giving in to the process of character development. We seek His will looking for clarity in something when all our flesh really wants is an easy way out. It is hard for us to engage when things are pressing in on all sides. This reminded of me of Jesus in the garden, when He faced the ultimate rejection from the Father and asked if the cup could be taken from Him. He was most definitely human and God in that moment. I loved how Pastor John Gray said it in his sermon this week at Lifechurch, “The reason my salvation is authentic is because his obedience was not automatic.”

Even Jesus felt overwhemed to the point of death. These moments though, lead to surrender. As Pastor Gray expressed,”There are some places that are only reserved for you and God.”holiness-1207699_640

 “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12

I encourage you to give in to the cleaning process as places are highlighted in your heart. Dig into God’s word and see what He has to say about the subject. Let your shadowboxing evolve to fighting the good fight of faith and going the distance with God. He will open the door to healing and invite you in.

John Ortberg wrote,” God is a door opener, not a celestial enabler…God’s primary will for you is the person you become.”

What are you shadowboxing today that is hindering you from becoming all that God wants you to be? What is the light of Jesus shining on? As you press in to get God to clean that place be encouraged that He loves you too much to leave you that way and NOTHING is too hard for Him. His blood is the perfect disinfectant.

 

Pastor John Gray – http://www.life.church/watch/going-the-distance/

John Ortberg – http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/teens/helping-teens-wrestle-with-big-decisions

 

 

 

 

 

The First Christmas

‘Christmas is not so much about opening presents as it is about opening our hearts.’  Janice Maeditere

Out of all of the firsts during a season of grief, I think Christmas is one of the most difficult times. I wanted to give homage to this truth this year because I know a lot of families experiencing a lot of Christmas firsts without their loved ones around. My footprints have been there after my divorce and the loss of my Mom so I am sensitive to this subject for others. The season really creates a dichotomy of emotions for those going through this valley as it is usually a trigger for those hurts and loss. If you are a Christian and you celebrate the real reason for Christmas, there is the joy in the truth that Jesus came to earth as a baby, to be God with us and be the Saviour for our sins. On the other side of that is deep grief and sadness in your loss and you may have trouble reconciling those emotions especially while many are expecting you to display the joy or excitement of Christmas.

Here are some of the ways that I coped during this season and others that I have read as I have studied grief and how people cope during loss.

  1. Be honest with your emotions and to those around you. Sometimes this means just being with those that will understand where you are at and accept that in you. Other times it will take a gentle reminder that you are still in the throes of grieving. Acknowledging the holidays will be difficult but it sometimes frees us to grieve easier.
  2. Start a new tradition. Doing something new with others starts a fresh memory to ease the pain of old ones.
  3. Continue with old traditions and customs. My Mom used to make and decorate sugar cookies with us every year and for me that was a comfort to carry on this tradition.
  4. Create an exit strategy. Go to someone elses home for celebrations but take a separate vehicle or set a boundary with your time so that if things get to intense for you, you can leave.
  5. Let your emotions out. Cry if you need to, tears are healing. I know I tried to prepare and be ready ahead of time by going through all kinds of scenarios and imagining what things would feel like. I really had no idea and in essence with all my preparing, I actually walked through some of the emotions before and was able to be more present during Christmas.
  6. Find a grief group, pastor or counselor. This was an imperative part of my healing process. I attended a suicide survivor group for a few months and besides helping me to process some of these raw emotions, I realized I was not alone in my grief.
  7. Volunteer your time. There is great relief in getting out of your head and emotions by helping other people. The needs are always great but Christmas also highlights opportunities for people to give back. Help out with a cause that was close to your loved ones heart.
  8. Write a letter to your loved one. This can be ongoing as things come to you but it is very healing to write your words and emotions to them, perhaps expressing things you didn’t have a chance to share with them before they died. Forgive them and ask for their forgiveness if you need to, then ask Jesus for the same thing.
  9. Practice self-care. Sleep lots, eat and drink in moderation. Share your feelings with a trusted confidante. Go for long walks. Do something you love. Light a candle for your loved one and pray.
  10. Don’t feel guilty. Everyone grieves differently even within the same family. It is normal to feel overwhelmed by seemingly ‘normal’ activities. It is ok to say no. It is ok to feel joy and be happy in the midst of grief. Feel your feelings. Grief has no time limit, listen to your heart, not everyone’s advice to move on or get over it.
  11. Do something in memory of your loved one. We planted a tree when it was warmer. Make or buy an ornament. Have a memory box that everyone can share favorite memories and pick a time to share them together. Donate to a cause your loved one believed in.

Remember especially in this Christmas season, the babe born in the manger. He came to bring hope to the hopeless, light to the darkness, to be close to the brokenhearted, to bring healing to the wounded hearts. I don’t know how I would have survived without my faith and those standing beside me. Go to God with your grief, He knows all about it and He is waiting to comfort your heart.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6