Tears to Joy

Tears to Joy: December 2011

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflecting on 2011

I’m not gonna lie. 2011 has been a year I’d like to have skipped…it’s been a challenging, character building year to say the least. I thought about using this post to gripe, and I was reminded of 1000 Gifts (see earlier post for more details). I decided instead to highlight the things I am thankful for from this year.

I praise God for providing a publisher for Tears to Joy!!! I can hardly wait to see it in print next year. I am thankful for the relationship Jorjanne and I share; I am so proud of the young lady she is becoming and I thank God for her. I’m thankful for friends – faithful friends. On some of the toughest days of my life, they’ve cried with me, hugged me, and encouraged me. Thanks to each of them for not bailing on me when the going got tough.

I thank God for helping me to complete my first year in the PhD program with a 4.0 average. I am stoked about the things I am learning and I can’t wait to put them into practice. I thank God for a job I love!

In the midst of tragedy, it is so easy to focus on what we don’t have. I am choosing to focus on life’s blessings. Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” I am working hard to take every thought captive. So, instead of dwelling on the hurts and pains of 2011, I will praise God for allowing me to go to Rwanda, the thrill of ziplining, the countless hikes with friends, and the silly, giggly nights with my special girl!

Happy New Year to All! I pray that each day of 2012 will bring us closer to Christ than the one before.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Choose Joy

I remember when Michael died thinking that I was stuck in a really bad movie. If I’d just wake up, then the nightmare would end. Or maybe this was all some horribly sick joke. Michael wasn’t really dead; he was just pretending. Any minute he would jump out and say, “Surprise!” I wasn’t sure how he had convinced so many people to go along with this hoax --- hmmmm, who was in on this? I remember thinking I’d kill Michael for doing this to me – no I’d hug him, then I’d kill him for putting me through this nightmare.

Unfortunately, no one changed the channel of my life to a better movie. No matter how many nights I went to sleep, I awoke each morning to the same devastating nightmare. Psychologists call this phase of grief denial; for me it seemed like survival. I couldn’t imagine living the rest of my life with such intense heartache. The pain was so raw, it hurt physically.

What I didn’t know at the time was that the pain wouldn’t always feel quite so raw. You never “get over” losing someone you love, but you do learn to live with the pain. I remember the surprise I felt when I realized that I had felt joy again – even experienced laughter. Then I felt guilty. I felt like feeling joy somehow diminished my love for Michael. I now realize I didn’t love Michael any less because I was experiencing positive emotions. In fact, I was beginning to heal. Just as a physical wound scabs over, the wounds in my heart were beginning to form scabs. There would definitely be scars, but they wouldn’t always be so open and so fresh.

This morning I was reading in James, where he writes, “Consider it pure joy when you encounter various trials, because they produce character and perseverance” (my paraphrase). While no trial is pleasant, it is possible to experience joy in the midst of the pain. Joy isn’t dependent on circumstances – it is a fruit of the Spirit that depends on God.

Today my trials are different, but the struggle is the same. I am tempted to be anxious and worry myself sick over things that are outside of my control. All the while God wants to build my character and develop perseverance in my life. I know the trials of life are not in vain and that is why I choose to find the joy in the trial. No, I’m not exactly happy about the hardship, but I consider it joy to suffer if it makes me more like Jesus.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Supporting Prisoners' Families

Recently, I’ve reflected on my trip to Rwanda, and my mind keeps going back to the perpetrators that participated in some of the most horrific crimes. As I’ve thought about them, I wondered about their families. I remember hearing a story of a young boy who was struggling in school. His grades were dropping, and he really had no friends – as a matter of fact, the other children avoided him. You see, his dad had brutally slaughtered his teacher’s family a year earlier in the genocide. The teacher, who didn’t want to take out her anger on the child, couldn’t help but be reminded of her dad’s death each time she looked upon this young man. All of his classmates knew that his dad was in prison for killing several people in their community. The other kids would often whisper and point at him throughout the day. The young boy withdrew further and further into isolation.

What did this boy do to deserve the ostracism? Not a thing. He was his father’s son. That’s it. This made me think about all the people today who are in prison and about their families. When someone is a victim of a crime, people are quick to offer support. What about when a family member is convicted of a crime? Is that support still there for his family?

Unfortunately, I admit that I've failed in this area. One of my best friends in the world has had a loved one in prison for a number of years now. It wasn't until recently that I really talked to her about what this was like for her. When she most needed my support, years ago when her brother was arrested, I avoided the topic like the plague. It wasn't that I didn't care. I just didn't know what to say so I didn't say anything. I had to ask her forgiveness -- I regret not being there for her when she needed me the most.

I know this is a heavy post, but it’s been heavy on my heart. I don’t want to treat anyone like a leper --- I want to love others as Jesus loved. I’m trying to flesh out how this looks in today’s world. What are your thoughts?