Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Responding to Life

I sit here in my little corner of the world, taking it all in.  The windows are open and a gentle breeze is circulating from one open window to the next, curtains swaying in rhythm. The hum of the lawnmower lulls me as I stop my tasks and I become aware of this moment.

My tasks have dominated me this morning as I have made one decision after another on how to respond to all that is going on around me.  Because of my job, this morning I have had to make decisions of whether a young man can come into our transitional home,
or not.  I've had to respond to accusations from a hurting youth as they fight responsibility and accountability.  I've had to pray about how to respond to a hurting family member and discern how I can respond with support. I've had to evaluate my own actions and discern how they have impacted others. I've also had to determine how I will let the response of others impact my life.  All of life is a response; and my response matters. 

I have to respond to victimization on a daily basis.  I deal with victims and I deal with victims that have become victimizers.  Oh, how I wish I could release them from the lifestyle of victimization.  It is a life of imprisonment; a life of living behind steel bars placed there by their responses.  One bar after another, creating a life of isolation.  This is not the life God intended for us.  He created us in his own image and that image is not one of a victim:

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.
Genesis 1:27
The scriptures are filled with his image; wisdom, holiness, sovereignty, faithfulness, love, graciousness, mercy, justice, kindness, forgiveness.....in none of this imagery do I see "victim".

As I discern my response to life I have realized I exercise a thought process when responding. I look at a situation and process some of the following questions:
  • How can good come from this?  
  • How can my response bring a positive solution?
  • Did I do something to cause this negative situation?  If so, what do I need to do to make it better?
  • Is not responding a better solution?
  • Did they really mean to hurt me or am I being oversensitive?
  • Is there something bigger going on here than what I am seeing?  Some deeper pain?
I am a flawed individual, I carry sin.  So unfortunately, I do not always choose to respond with a self-less intent.  But I do purpose to take myself through this questioning to make sure I am looking at the situation with as much discernment as possible.  But sometimes "ME" takes the front seat instead of "OTHERS"; "ME" becomes the victim and the reigning queen.  I hate when that happens.  It just creates more pain.  I am not into pain for myself or others so I purpose towards a response that brings good.
This thought process, when responding to life, is not something my parents actually sat me down to teach,  they simply modeled it throughout the years.  I am so very grateful for the gentle modeling I have received and pray that I am carrying on that legacy to my own children.
I remember a time in my childhood when my Dad's mom was not a fan of my mother.  My parents had done the unforgivable and had done what the scriptures said, "Leave and cleave to one another"...not your mamma.  I loved my Grandma and admired how profoundly she adored her son. She was like many mothers who love deeply and then have a hard time letting that love move forward.

It took a while for Grandma to warm up to my mom, even into our childhood.  But my mom did what she does best, she loved that little granny into a love relationship with her.  She showed kindness when it wasn't warranted, she showed love when rebuffed. She showed the image of Christ to her mother-in-law and in time, Grandma found love in her heart for the woman who had stolen her son. And on that day when Grandma took her final breath, my mother laid her head on Grandma's chest and grieved the loss as much as anyone else.
My sisters and I talk about mom's genuine love and THAT is what sticks in our minds.  We do not have images of her turning her back in anger at her mother-in-law or creating a rift because she was rebuffed.  She understood where Grandma's fear and pain were coming from and did all she could to reassure her that there was enough love to go around. My mom realized, her response mattered.
I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to have parents that modeled the image of God and not the image of man.  They modeled forgiveness and grace instead of bitterness and keeping record of wrongs.  They passed on an amazing legacy of how to respond to life.
My son and I were talking the other day about the loss of his brother.  His response blew me away.  He said, "Mom, there are so many worse things in life than losing my brother!"  At first I was taken aback but as we talked I understood what he was saying.  Yes, losing Ryan was horrible in the moment, and we will miss him forever, but in the big scheme of life there are people going through much worse things.  He pointed this out again the next day when I was sharing about seeing a homeless woman and a baby in a stroller hanging out at the park and how my heart hurt for that baby.  Luke closed our original conversation by saying, "Besides Mom, I'm going to see Ryan again in heaven so it isn't like I'm never going to see him again!"
Response and perspective, it really does matter.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Death has no sting.

Death stinks.  It comes with inevitable pain for the loss of those we love.  No one would choose that kind of pain. I have to ask myself, now that I've experienced death and pain in such an intimate way,  am I afraid of death?  Does death chase me around each corner? Do I run from it at all costs?

Parenting is one of the most nerve wracking jobs there is.  On the day that our children are placed into our arms most parents move into protector mode.  At all costs, we try and prevent pain and danger from entering our children's lives. Consequently, the role of "Protector" can place us in a position of constant fear and worry.

I learned early on that if I was going to enjoy parenting my two boys I was going to have to give up some of that fear and worry that came with parenting them.  As soon as they were old enough they were jumping off rocks, climbing mountains, zooming down ski hills and riding ridiculous mountain bike trails; they were part of their father after all.  So it has been a slow release of fear and control as I raised my boys.

Then Amanda came into our home at 16 1/2 and she came in with foundations already set; there was very little control I could claim.

Then Ryan died falling 100 feet in a climbing accident and I realized how little control I had over anything.  There was nothing I could have done to have prevented that event from happening.  I guess I could have never allowed Ryan to take up climbing while he lived under my roof, but he would have found some other way to express his need for adventure.  Limiting him would have been thwarting the person he was meant to be.  I did not want to be the kind of parent that shaped my kid's lives based on my own needs; "I don't want to live in fear so you, my child, will live safely and steer away from anything I deem dangerous."

Climbing is dangerous, much like many other activities in life. I was chatting with a friend and telling her that Luke just recently took up climbing again and that Amanda is a climber and Tom has even gotten back into it.  She looked at me with her big brown eyes with fear and astonishment and I knew what that look said. "Your son died in a climbing accident and you are letting the rest of your family climb?"  I responded, "Yes, it honestly doesn't bother me at all.  Climbing is not what killed Ryan.  God just simply said, "It is time."   It wouldn't have mattered what he was doing when it was his time.  So I have no fear of climbing."  My friend replied that of course that was how I felt, she knew I trusted God that completely.

This conversation has been mulling in my head since then.  I am so grateful that I can walk with so little fear and such a great deal of peace because I trust my Creator.  I trust what I read in his Word to me:

"To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;"  Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father."  Matthew 10:29
"Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." Psalm 139:16
No, climbing did not take Ryan's life.  The days that were formed for him were over.  God could do more with his death now than he could his life.  Of this I am very certain. 
Trusting the perspective that our days are numbered and that God knows our coming and our going allows me to walk in peace as I and those around me continue to walk out our lives.  It takes away that constant fear and need to control my environment.  Now that doesn't mean I'm not careful and encourage wisdom and discernment and wise counsel, but it does mean I trust God with the outcomes and the big picture.
I'm no theologian and I probably can't give a solid answer to some of the harder questions like suicide and murder.  My heart goes out to those who have had to deal with loss in those situations.  I recognize how different that kind of loss is.  But ultimately I think it still comes down to whether we believe God's Word or not.  Do we trust it even when what we see in front of us doesn't make sense and is excruciating? I chose to step into that kind of trust.
My journey is not painless because I have made a choice of trust.  I still have those moments of extreme loss and sorrow.  Moments where my heart just simply hurts.  But in that pain I have also experienced a depth of joy that has come from trusting my Savior and seeing the good that has come from the pain.  Lives have been altered, including mine. I could write a book on all the growth that I have seen in people's lives because of my son's death.
What if I hadn't allowed Ryan to climb?  What if I hadn't allowed him to become all that he was meant to be because of my own fears and need for control?  I have to wonder if we would be experiencing the same results if I had let my fear rule.  Would Ryan's life and death have had the same impact if he hadn't been allowed to live life with a big "L"?
No, I'm not afraid of death. It does not stalk me at every corner. I know where I'm going. I trust God completely with my life and the lives of those around me.  I pray that my life, and some day my death, simply benefit the Kingdom. 
Yes, sorrow comes with the sting of pain, and I cannot avoid it, but the threat of death holds no sting when I entrust my past, present and future to the one who formed me and holds my days in His hands.

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way". Psalm 37:23


Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Essence of Heaven

"That was a bit of Heaven." "That was Heaven on earth."  Have you heard these phrases before?  I have, and they are usually associated with something beautiful, delightful and enjoyable; something that pleased us.  I suppose that is because of what we read in Revelations 21:4  "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” That sounds so peaceful and beautiful doesn't it?

Perhaps we are short sited in this perspective.  When I think of Heaven I think of being in the presence of my Savior continually; the constant presence of the one who formed me, knew me and walked beside me on my journey called "life".  Ahhh, Heaven.  And yet, I think I've been experiencing part of the beauty of Heaven while I've been on my journey down here on earth as well. 

As I have been learning to abide in Him and lay both the good and the bad at his feet, I have experienced a deep love and covering.  This allows me to be in the midst of trials and sorrow and still experience his peace and beauty as if I were in the midst of something wonderful.  I haven't always felt this way. 

For most of my years I held Heaven off as a destination I would get to when my time on earth was finished. I knew that I believed in him and would obtain that eternal presence with him when my time came.   

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." 

I knew I would see the kingdom of God one day.

John 3:3 "Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  

But I really didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it.  Heaven was a destination I felt confident about because of my choice to receive Christ as my Savior but wasn't a part of my every day life.

And then Ryan died and Heaven reached down and touched my soul.  I felt linked to it in a very personal way.  Others I knew had died and I imagined them in heaven, but this was my son, someone who was formed in my womb was now experiencing Heaven. The things we had taught him to hope for by choosing Jesus Christ to be part of his life were his reality.  His time had come.

This event would be the beginning of my understanding of what it would mean to keep my eyes lifted up to the heavens and in doing so, experience the essence of heaven while still here on earth.  The depth of my faith and trust in God through this event is what lead me to this place; much like Abraham.

In Genesis 22 God asks Abraham to take his son, his only son, to the mountains and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.  YIKES!  What kind of a God does that?  But read on. 

Abraham gets up early the next morning  and loads up his donkey with all that is needed for the event and then three days later packs up his son and tells people they are leaving to worship and then they would be back.  WOW!  What trust in the Lord.  He was immediately obedient and in that obedience trusted God for the outcome.

We then read further that Abraham went through all the actions of being willing to sacrifice his son, his only son, and then just as he was raising his hand with a knife God called down, "Abraham! Abraham!"  and Abraham says, "Here I am!"  I can imagine Abraham screamed that with tearful eyes of anticipation.  And God said, "Abraham, do not lay a hand on that boy.  Now I know you fear God because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."  And Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught up in the thicket. He went over and took the lamb and sacrificed it in place of his son.

And the Lord said, "...because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I promise I will bless you with everything I have -- bless and bless and bless!  God can't and doesn't break his word.  He is sinless.  His word and promises are unchangeable. Abraham received everything God promised him.

As I read this account I can't help but think how I didn't have to choose Ryan's death, I didn't get that option.  My option became whether I would put my son's death on the alter and trust God with it.  Or, would I become bitter and angry and tell God he had to be wrong, this couldn't be right?

Every day we have opportunity to put things on the alter; marriages, relationships, illnesses, miscarriages, jobs, situations, catastrophic events, etc.  How often do we hold those things in our hands and refuse to put them on the alter because we think we must know better than God.  He couldn't possibly know what he is doing in this regard, not if it means we experience pain and suffering!?

I'm going to argue that we can put anything and everything on that alter and trust him with the outcome.  We don't need to argue and cajole and manipulate and stomp our feet in anger. We can lay it there and "rest".  As we learn to do this and trust God for the outcome we too, like Abraham, can receive that peace, peace and more peace and experience that essence of Heaven that only God can provide.

I have been learning to do this; laying it all on the alter.  When I have chosen to do this I have found that piece of Heaven in my every day life.  I have experienced Heaven on earth, that peace of having the constant presence of my Savior right by my side.

I will continue to purpose to do this until that time when I will enter the gates of Heaven and experience no more tears or death or mourning or crying or pain and the former things will have passed away. I will see my son and all those who have gone before me and walk beside my Savior.

I'm reminded of a chorus we used to sing as kids.
Heaven is a wonderful place.
Filled with glory and grace.
I want to see my Savior's face.
Heaven is a wonderful place. 
(I want to go there).

Friday, April 11, 2014

Behind closed doors

Spring is here and my neighbors and I are finding ourselves outdoors more.  The other day I was washing my car and one of my neighbors, whom I have only waved to throughout the winter months, stopped by and we had an opportunity to catch up.  As we caught each other up on our lives we both realized how much goes on behind closed doors that we can be so oblivious to.

We see a pretty house, we see pretty people walking in and out of the house with pretty smiles, and we assume all is o.k.  I wonder if we went around our neighborhood and knocked on the doors and said, "Hey, I'm just wondering, do you guys have struggles too?"  I'm pretty sure we would get an earful of struggles that even the most perfect looking families deal with on a daily basis; yet we all pretend life is beautiful and perfect.

I actually count myself blessed that we decided to put a memorial garden for Ryan in our front yard.  I've had neighbors say, "When I walk passed I see your cross and I'm reminded to pray for your family."  Isn't that just lovely?  They know that specific struggle and they choose to carry our burden to the Lord for us.

My family is a walking example of how prayers have mounted up and impacted our lives.  This got me to thinking.....

What if we all had a cross in our front yard that displayed our struggles? I'm sure instantly, many are thinking, "NO WAY! I could never expose myself that way."

But think about it.   How wonderful would it be to have people walk passed our homes and know just exactly how to lift us up to the Lord.  The sense of connectedness would be amazing as we walked passed one another's homes and saw that others carry burdens too, perhaps even our same burden; we are not alone.  It would be amazing to be aware that each one of us is on the same journey of working through our struggles and getting to that other side to find joy.  And, it would be transforming to know how to pray for one another. 

I know, I live in a dream world.  But I wonder, what would be on your cross?

We live such isolated lives.  We think we are being strong by keeping our burdens to ourselves and not bothering anyone with them.  Well I think that is a bunch of hooey!! 

There is beauty in sharing each other's burdens.  The burden becomes lighter as we allow others to carry a piece of it with us.  As we bring the burden into the light the grip of darkness is removed and light has the ability to shine into it, producing beauty from ashes.

I am continually reminded how much we need each other. 

I Corinthians 12:7

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. 

If God thought we could make it on our own he would have given each of us all gifts necessary to exist on our own; but that is not what he did.  He gave each of us our own gifts, designing us to be in fellowship with one another, ministering to each other with what is needed.

When we remain isolated, we rob others of our gifts and of the opportunity for others to minister to us.

I'm going to take some action on this thought process.  I care about my neighbors and believe my family moved to this neighborhood for a reason; it wasn't a coincidence.  None of my life is a coincidence.

I'm going to talk with a couple other neighbors, whom I know have a heart for our neighbors as well, and see if we can't host a monthly potluck.  This is not so that we can get up in everyone's business, but so that our neighbors know that they are not alone behind their closed doors. There are people who care deeply about them and want to share the joys and the sorrows, the good and the bad.

The Wahl door will remain opened.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

The trajectory of my life

April 7, 2012.  Two years...how can that be?  I remember so vividly those first moments, hours, days filled with pain, sorrow, shock and anguish.   The impact of that day becomes a faded memory in the minds of most others but in my mind, the mother's mind, I can vividly recall those moments in an instant. My mind does not retain a lot of things, but it remembers those moments that changed the trajectory of my life forever.

But wait; did those moments really change the trajectory of my life?  Perhaps they changed where I thought I was headed but I do not believe they changed where God intended.

I have spent the last two years watching, waiting and listening for ways that my sorrow could be worth the pain.  I have been asking God to show me how He was going to make good from what appeared to be the darkest moments of my life; the death of my 20 year old son Ryan.

God has been found faithful; he has been answering me one step at a time.

The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;  Psalm 37:23

The last two years have been far from easy; they have been filled with tears, and anguish and struggle.  It still can seem like a dream, like it didn't happen and he's just gone on a trip.  But then I feel that weight in my heart and I know it is true; he'll never walk through that front door again with that twinkle in his eyes and a skip in his step thinking up some adventure.  But honestly, the pain isn't as constant as it used to be. 

Life is a forward motion and I have been pulled along with it, leaving the deepest parts of my pain behind as I take each new step.  In that forward motion, as I offer my pain to God, it has become less of an albatross and more of a message of hope. The hope that, God is in my moments.

The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

I praise God for that every day.

I have not tried to rush through the grief, but rather, experience it, step through it and not get stuck.  I have purposed to stay on God's trajectory and not my own.  On God's trajectory I have experienced more pain than I would have chosen, but it has brought a depth and dependence on him that I couldn't have, wouldn't have, orchestrated on my own. I do not consider myself weak because I put my life in the hands of someone else.  I'm stronger, so much stronger in my dependence. I am grateful for that dependence because it brings with it a peace that surpasses all understanding.  Peace is not something we witness often, so for this, I am very grateful.

Ryan's life was not interrupted, but rather completed.  He fulfilled his purpose on this earth, and yet, there is still so much of him left behind for me to continue to cherish and learn from.  I will never tire of talking about my son and all that his life and death taught me and consequently, all that God has done in my life. I believe that is part of my trajectory.  Even though gone in body, there is a part of him that lives on in me.

So to Ryan, as I approach the 2nd anniversary of your death, I say, "Thank you!  Thank you for living life so boldly.  You lived it fully to the end and I purpose to do the same.  I would choose to be your mother again, in a heartbeat, even with the pain. As of today, God's trajectory is still in motion in my life. You are terribly missed, loved to the heavens and back, and I will see you soon, but not yet! My trajectory is not complete."

Friday, December 27, 2013

Opening the Gift

This Christmas we decided to stay home in Colorado and not make our traditional 17 hour drive to Wisconsin to visit our families.  There were a number of reasons why we made that decision but the closer we got to Christmas the less important those reasons were and the more important it seemed to get our butts in the car and get near our family.  On Christmas Eve at 10 p.m. we squeezed ourselves in the car and headed out. Yes, we have been known to be a spontaneous family.

The long drive gave me a lot of time to think. I got the driving time from 2:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. and the thing that kept me awake was thinking about the Gift that has meant the most to me this Christmas Season; the gift of God's Son.

This year, more than any other year, I have realized how important that Gift has become to me on a daily basis.  It isn't just a Christmas Gift to me; it is a moment by moment Gift that I must choose to open and receive. 

All those years ago when that Babe was born it was God saying, "Gail will need the gift of my Son.  She will need this active relationship in her life.  She will need to open this gift.  Through my Son and through my Spirit I will be her Helper." 

I chose to open that Gift when I was 7 and I have been choosing to keep that gift open since then.  It is an everlasting gift. To be honest though, there have been times when I only looked at that Gift on Sundays.  There have been times when I was more excited about that Gift than other times.  But in the last 18 months I have chosen to keep that gift opened right next to me.  I look at it throughout my day, and doing this has changed my life.

One evening, last week, I was having a particularly tough evening.  I was feeling alone, annoyed, mad, sad, and a whole lot of other descriptors.  I went up to my bed early and just simply started to cry; that hard kind of cry that comes from deep within.  I hadn't cried like that in a long time but it was something I just couldn't control.  I take Tylenol PM now and again because I've always had a hard time sleeping.  I decided to take one that evening because I just wanted to sleep my hurts away.  I looked at that bottle and thought, "Boy would it be easy to take this whole thing and REALLY sleep my hurts away."  I also remembered an earlier time when I traveled over the bluffs in Wisconsin that Ryan had travelled over often when he spent a couple summers there.  I remember thinking how easy it would be to just veer off the road and end it all. But these were fleeting thoughts I knew I would never follow through with.  They were just honest thoughts that went through my head.  I knew that I would never bring more hurt on my family with selfish acts like these.  And, I would never want to ruin the testimony that God has given me.  But in those moments I understood how easy it would be for those who had no hope; for those who never opened the Gift.

On that night when I looked differently at that bottle of Tylenol PM it was God's Gift to me that kept that bottle tightly capped and in its' proper place on my bedside table.  It was God's whisper to me that said, "My Grace is sufficient for you in this moment Gail, there will be Joy in the morning."  Because I have been learning to truly trust God even when I'm not feeling it, I closed my eyes and trusted Him with my sleep.

The next day had some really tough moments to it but I purposed to give God the whole terrible day and keep his Gift right next to me, opened and in full view.  I sought His Glory throughout the day and found it.  By the end of the day my heart had found Joy again.

He doesn't promise me that I will walk in a fairytale type life, but He does promise me that He will walk through it with me and that I will see His Glory in it if I seek to find it. 

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Mathew 7:7

As I step into 2014 and wonder at what will come, I know that as long as I have that Gift with me and keep it opened and in full view, I will find God's Glory and there will be beauty ahead.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Turning My "Damns" Into Praise

I've never been a cursing person.  It has never felt natural or right to have a curse word form on my lips.  But lately, the word "damn" has come to my mind quite often.  I'm not here to debate whether that is write or wrong, and pray I don't offend those who say it is and don't encourage those who say it isn't.  Prior to my grief experience I probably would have been one more on the side of judgment, but now, it is just simply about being real. 

The day we put up our huge Christmas tree and thought we were going to have to take all the lights off and start over again I said to Tom and Luke, "Right about now I'm thinking the word damn!" They both looked at me like I was from Mars because we just don't curse in our home. Luke said, "What did you just say?" I told him and he just shook his head and snickered.  I shared that thought with him because  I want him to know that it is o.k. to be frustrated, mad, sad, angry....but the important part is what we do with those feelings. 

This morning I hurriedly sat down in church and after the first couple songs we began singing the song "Restless".  BAM!  My mind went to a Sunday not too long before Ryan died where we were sitting in the back of the church and were singing a song about being restless (I don't remember if it was the same song) and Ryan looked down at me and mouthed the words, "I'm restless mom!"  That memory hit me so hard and my mind said, "Damn!"  It said that right while I was sitting in church.  I couldn't control the tears that rolled down my cheeks and for the rest of the song I was caught up in that memory. I let myself settle into that memory and after a bit I began to hear the rest of the words of the song....  

You dwell in the songs that we are singing
Rising to the Heavens
Rising to Your heart
Our praises filling up the spaces
In between our frailty and everything You are
You are the keeper of my heart

And I'm restless
I’m restless
'Til I rest in You
(Oh God I wanna rest in You)

Oh speak now for my soul is listening
Say that You have saved me
Whisper in the dark
'Cause I know You’re more than my salvation
Without You I am hopeless
Tell me who You are
You are the keeper of my heart

Still my heart
Hold me close
Let me hear a still small voice
Let it grow
Let it rise
Into a shout
Into a cry

I am restless until I rest in You

......and so I then took that pain I was feeling and agreed with the song; I too was feeling restless in my grief and would have to choose to allow God to still my heart, let it grow and let it rise into a shout of joy.  The remainder of the songs were about celebrating Emmanuel, the God who wrote himself into my life by sending his Son all those years ago because he knew I would need him in this very moment.

My tears continued but now they were tears of praise as I celebrated that my son was no longer restless but probably celebrating from the heavens over his mom who was choosing to lift her grief up to God in praise.  And my tears were for me as I felt so blessed to be in a place of allowing my "damn" to be turned into a praise. 

We were then asked to open our Bibles up to Luke Chapter 2 and this is what I opened to:
Ryan had written in his Bible in big letters, "Through God nothing is impossible.  He wrote this right over the passage of Christ's birth.  He recognized the significance of this Gift.  He recognized that the Gift God gave us all those years ago made everything possible.

Across the page he also had written:  "We're here for God's Plan."  My tears began to flow again.  Thank you Jesus for showing me, once again, my son's love for you and the clear message for me this morning.  And, what a blessing for it to come to me through Ryan's handwriting.  God's fingerprints were all over this moment.

We are here for God's plans.  God's plan for Ryan on earth ended on April 7 of 2012.  God's plan for me is still in motion.  And no matter what the plan is, through God, nothing is impossible.  Message was received.

Even though I feel renewed I have no doubt that the word "damn" will continue to form in my mind for I walk in a fallen world.  Life can hit us write between the eyes and we are compelled to feel angry or exasperated or broken or sad.

This week I thought "damn" for a young boy I know who is plagued with a chronic illness that keeps him from so much in life.  Yet I watched this same 16 year old boy post on his FaceBook this week Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. "  He is allowing God to turn his "damns" into praise. 

This week I thought "damn" for a friend of mine who chose to love a little girl and adopted her yet her love is often met with cursing and tirades that completely wear her down.  Yet I watch my sweet friend choose to trust God for the heartache and acknowledge God is her only true strength.  She is turning her "damns" into praise.

This week I thought "damn" for a man who has lost a lot of his eyesight yet shared with me how God has strengthened him through the story of Abraham.  Abraham continually trusted God, even when it didn't look like it made sense.  This man is turning his "damn" into praise.

I am thinking at this very moment, "damn" for a family friend who in this last hour had to choose to take her husband off life support after a severe heart attack.  I am praying she too will be able to turn her "damn" into praise as she watches the impact of his life on others and finds the purposes in her life without him.

I could go on and on.

The point is that there are "damns" all around us.  But what a glorious thing when we see them turned into praise.   When we go through trials all of our TRUTHS OF GOD are tested. Before the trial we might have believed "All things work together for good to those that love God and are called according to his purposes." But do we believe it in the trial too?

The stories I share above are people who are learning to trust God even with the ugly.  They are choosing not to waste the trial but purposing to move it from "DAMN!" to PRAISE GOD!

I still don't think I will verbalize my "damns" out loud because God is the only one who needs to hear that cry of my heart.  But I am grateful that I know he hears the frailty of my heart in those moments and reaches down and becomes the keeper of my heart.  Because of this, I praise Him!
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
2 Corinthians 12:9