Tears to Joy

Tears to Joy: October 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

"Take that Mask Off," he said...

Last night several of our youth from church went down to Atlanta to work with an inner city church's Trunk or Treat. We had a great time playing games, painting faces, painting pumpkins, serving food and much more. My friend, Suzie, had these great masks and it was such a hoot watching people's reactions as we would walk up and stand beside them, waiting for them to see us. Most jumped; some laughed; others ran.

There was a little boy that stole my heart. He was four years old and shivered in the cold. He had no shoes and he wore a jacket that was too big for him. He first came up to me and sheepishly said, "Take that mask off."  After a while, I sat with a couple of girls from the youth group at the face painting table and took off my mask. To my surprise, the little fellow came over and climbed in my lap.

As I began talking with him, it seemed like he was there alone. This pierced my heart to the core. How could someone leave such a precious child alone at a church in the inner city? He had sores both in and on his mouth, and his nose was caked with mucus. He was obviously sick. Oh how I wanted to wrap my arms around him and bring him home and protect him.

After I had fed him dinner and played some games with him (about an hourhd passed), his seven year old sister found him. She had his shoes, and she asked me to put them on his feet. As I put on his tennis shoes, I wanted to cry as I realized that there was no adult there with them. No one to protect them. As they left, my heart hurt for them both. So young. So at risk. So precious.

I haven't been able to get this little one out of my mind. I have prayed for him continually since I met him and I will continue.

As I write this, I am hit with the reality of what Christ did for us. We were wanderers; lost without anyone to help, when He laid aside His deity to become man so that he could rescue us. Christ doesn't just feed us a good meal and save us from our current troubles, but he saves our very souls and will one day rescue us from this world; He adopts us as His children and He promises to never leave us. What a mighty God we serve!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

If I Try, I Might Fail...

No one likes to fail. I can't remember anyone ever saying, "I think I'll try something new so that I can fail." No. We don't think that way. Instead, if something seems too challenging or if there is a risk of failure, too often we shy away from it, and find excuses not to push ourselves. We refuse to risk success.

I put off getting my commercial driver's license for years because I wondered in the back of my mind, "Can I really do this?" and "What if I fail?" After countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears (OK, maybe not the blood part) I decided to bite the bullet and go after my license. The result --- I passed!

Currently I face another seemingly unattainable goal -- passing intermediate statistics. It would be so easy to quit -- trust me, I've thought about it -- but I realized that God wants to teach me far more than statistics through this course. He is teaching me to think critically, to problem solve, and to persevere.

If we never get out of our comfort zones and stretch ourselves beyond our limits, then we cease to grow. The only way to achieve our dreams is to risk failure, while at the same time taking a chance at success.

So, even though there is an underlying fear of failure, I will not let this fear paralyze me and keep me from pursuing my dreams. Dare to dream; dare to succeed.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In the Bucket

Last week a friend was going through old newspaper clippings for our scrapbook at work, when she came across an article entitied, "What's in your Bucket?"  Dr. Mike Davis, from First Baptist Cleveland writes about how we are earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7). He goes on to talk about times when we are carrying a cup of coffee and are jostled and what's inside of the cup spills out. He challenges readers to examine what is in their earthen vessel and spills out when they are jostled by life. I was so excited to find this in light of my last post, so I had to share it with you.

Now, as promised, I'm going to share a few of the things on my "bucket list" (not that you really care, but if I write them down, then I can check them off later, right?). 
  1. Ride an elephant
  2. Visit all 50 states
  3. Finish my PhD
  4. See a Grizzly Bear in Alaska (but not too close)
  5. Visit Ireland
  6. Visit the Grand Canyon
  7. Ride in a hot air balloon
  8. Safari with someone I love
  9. Visit Amicalola Hike Inn
  10. Ride in a Helicopter
Have you thought about what would be on your bucket list? If so, I'd love to hear from some of you. My list is forever growing and changing, and you may have some great ideas for me to add!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Bucket Full of Fun

Several years ago a friend and I drove from Georgia to Canada and had quite the adventure. On the way home, we were both delirious from lack of sleep and from the long drive and we became quite silly (OK, I know you’ve been super silly too when you were tired).

We saw a woman walking down the road in front of a row of stores carrying a bucket. Hmmm, we began to wonder. Why is she carrying that bucket?  Maybe she is going to get water --- nah, this is America. Maybe she is going somewhere to collect berries. Hey she could use it as a rain hat.  On and on we began to brainstorm the thousands of ways you could use a bucket. As we began to exhaust our list we decided that a bucket would be the perfect Christmas gift for us to give to our friends.

We decided to randomly call some of our friends to take a poll to see how many of them would appreciate it if we gave them a bucket. The conversations went something like this:

Me:   “What would you think if someone gave you a bucket as a gift?”
          Friend:  “It would be a drop in the bucket compared to other gifts.”

Me:  “If I gave you a bucket, what would you do with it?”
          Friend:  “What?”
           Me:  “You know, if I gave you a bucket you could carry a tune in it. Wouldn’t that be a great gift?”    
           Me:  “Hey, what would you think if I gave you a bucket for Christmas?”
           Friend:  “A bucket…I guess it would be ok as long as you don’t kick it.”

Ok, I know it’s corny but we were sleep-deprived and we got a lot of laughs out of all the bucket talk.

 What are some fun ways you could you use a bucket?  I've included a few pictures below to inspire you.
                                                To play fetch with the dog

                                                         As a lampshade

                                  To complete important missions

(My next blog post will be about your bucket list)


Monday, October 15, 2012

As the Season Changes

I grew up in South Georgia where the seasons blur from one to another without any major changes. I missed out on fall colors for years. When the leaves begin to change, I feel like a school girl, waiting expectantly for cooler temperatures and fall fun. I read somewhere that fall is nature’s last fling before settling into winter’s sleep. I absolutely LOVE autumn for so many reasons:

·         Brilliant colors

·         Leaf piles for jumping

·         Great hiking weather

·         Crispness in the air that makes me feel alive

There are seasons in our lives when joy seems like a favorite pastime, and we feel anything but alive. When our hurts outweigh our smiles. When I look back over the past seven years, I can relate to the Israelites who slaved for the Egyptians while longing for freedom. Alas, they were freed only to wander in the wilderness. Surprisingly, the Israelites began to long for captivity again, because it was familiar. The promised land seemed like a cruel joke – a place they’d never truly know.

I am so thankful that this season of my life is one of great joy. While I wouldn’t say that I’ve “arrived” in the promised land, God has multiplied my joy and given me a new passion for life. As I watch the leaves fall from the trees, I think about the new leaves that will grow in the spring. Unless the dead leaves are removed, there cannot be new growth.

Now that Tears to Joy has been released, I feel a freedom to learn from the past, and yet to prepare for the future.
I'd love to hear from you -- what do you most love about Fall?



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Walking Beside Still Waters on Stormy Days

Shall I praise God only in the good days? What good is that? Anyone can sing praises when life is going well, but only those walking in the Spirit can praise him in the storm. 

The past several years have been filled with trials and tragedies in my life and in my family.  I'm learning to trust God in the good and in the bad. Today has been one of those character building, faith-testing days. It began with a text at 6 AM telling me that my step-dad was on the way to the hospital. A few hours later I received a phone call from someone having a panic attack. This afternoon we learned Monday's round-off back handspring left Jorjanne with a broken foot.

I know it seems crazy, but in the midst of all these things, I've had a perfect peace. I'm reminded of when Jesus and his disciples were in a horrific storm, and the disciples were freaking out (my translation). All the while, Jesus was asleep in the boat because he knew that the Father had everything under control.

Well, I haven't exactly slept through today, but I've been reminded of the One who is in control. "He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul" (Psalm 23:2).

This song by Casting Crowns blesses my soul on days like today.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Mental Illness Awareness Week

When I scheduled the pre-release party for Tears to Joy, I had no idea that it would serve to kick off Mental Illness Awareness Week. Sadly, millions of people with a mental illness fail to get help, because of the stigma associated with mental illness. Stigma exists because of ignorance. I hope as people read Michael's story of his battle with bipolar disorder, it will open eyes and hearts as to the seriousness of the disorder.

It's true. There are a lot of people walking around today with a bipolar diagnosis who don't have it. For some doctors, it seems to be the tag they stick on people who've continually made poor choices, in much the same way ADHD has been overdiagnosed in children. Personally, I don't think bipolar disorder can be diagnosed in one appointment; I think erratic behavioral patterns need to be observed over a period of time.  Because of the challenges associated with finding the right balance of medications, I also encourage people to seek help from a psychiatrist. A general practitioner may be able to make an initial assessment, but I'd get a second opinion from a psychiatrist.

What can you do for Mental Illness Awareness Week?  Read and post an article about mental illness on facebook, twitter, or your blog. Pray for people you know who struggle with mental illness. If you struggle, know that each time you share your story with someone else, you are doing your part to eliminate stigma!

Many of you have asked me about the pre-release and I'll post pictures and tell you more soon. It was an absolute dream come true and I'm still coming down from the high of the night!


Friday, October 5, 2012

O Happy Day!!!

 Joy. Joy unspeakable. Today is further evidence of how God has turned my tears to joy. Six years ago, I began writing a story of undeniable grief and heartache. The tears were gutwrenching and my whole body ached with the pain of loss. I wondered if I'd ever smile again.

Fast forward. Today. My cup overflows. God has been more than good to me. He has once again been my Savior, only this time he rescued me from the agonizing grief, and replaced it with unexplainable joy. (I actually woke up singing this morning, which is rare because I am not a morning person).

As I anticipate tonight's pre-release of Tears to Joy, I do so with a heart of gratitude. Not only do I thank God, but I thank each of you who has walked this journey with me.  I would not be where I am today without the support of family and friends. I will enter tonight with a heart of gladness and invite you to celebrate wtih me. It truly is a happy day!

If you are in a place of pain, trust God in the midst of the pain, for joy truly does come in the morning!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Well Meaning People

People mean well -- but their words are often like knives that strike us to the core of our being. Most of the time they don't even realize  the hurt that they've caused us when they say things like, "If you just trust God, then you won't feel depressed," or "Christians are to be joyful always so snap out of it." 

There are lots of theological issues with these two statements but I won't delve into that here. Instead, I want to point out that when you say things like this to someone who is already struggling with depression or hurt, you heap shame and guilt on them as well. Someone who is struggling to climb out of the pit needs encouragement; when you imply that they are somehow less of a Christian because of their depression, Satan adds feelings of guilt and shame to the mix.

Trust me, most people who are depressed feel enough negative emotions without well-meaning people who think they are helping "beating them while they are down." Instead, I prefer to view the depression as a thorn in the flesh. While it is tormenting, it has not escaped God's notice. As he told Paul, "His grace is sufficient." God can use times of depression to draw people closer to himself. Who are we to say that depression is due to a lack of faith? It may be that God wants to illuminate a person's existing faith by showing their loyalty in the midst of depression just as he allowed Satan to test Job.

If someone you love is struggling with depression, offer them encouragement and support instead of a sermon. Ask them how you can help. If possible, get them to go with you for  a walk (physical activity and sunshine are both helpful in alleviating depression). Don't judge your friend; love them.

So, those of you who struggle with depression, I want to apologize for any "trite" comments that well meaning people have said to you over the years (I'm sure I'm guilty of this myself). There is no shame -- hold your head high! God sees your pain and he cares! And I do too!

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Not Long Now

Four days. In just four days the culmination of a life-long dream, countless tears, and hours of hard work will occur. People keep asking me, "Are you excited about your book's pre-release?" Let me just say, excited is an understatement.

There are some who have already read Tears to Joy, but the official kick-off is this Friday. When I think about all who will read the book I have an odd mix of emotions. I'm thrilled that my dream has become a reality, but this joy is mixed with fear. You see, by putting this book out there, I feel like I've put my heart on a platter. Strangers will read about some of my most personal thoughts. This takes vulnerability to a whole new level.

I pray that our story won't be read for "entertainment" but will transform lives. I hope that by sharing our story, others will have a different ending.

As I reflect on all that has happened in my life since Michael's death (almost 7 years ago), I thank God for restoring my joy. It's hard to believe there were days when I thought I'd never smile or laugh again. Today as I write this, my heart overflows with unspeakable joy. I thank God again for turning my tears to joy!