Hoping God Proves Me Wrong

So far, my annual writing retreat has been a reflection retreat. I’ve been in quite the writing slump for quite some time. It’s even been hard for me to journal (that alone is usually a sign I’m not in a good place). The past six years have been filled with losses for me. I have been grieving the loss of my sister. My father suffered a stroke which has taken much of him away from me. And in between those two life altering events I have also had several dreams shattered. Things I had invested my time and my heart in were snatched away, one after the other.

As someone who has held Ephesians 3:20-21 as a life theme, this has been hard to process. That verse says, “God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” I’ve always followed that with, “And I can imagine BIG things!”

Well, I always followed with that . . . until now. More recently, I actually told someone I am now afraid to dream big or follow my passions because it just leads to disappointment. 

Thankfully, the friends I do this writing retreat with are what one of them calls “safe haven friends.” On the first night of this retreat, when we usually list our goals for the week, I shared my struggles and confessed that I had no specific writing goals – or at least none that I’m motivated to work on. They listened, asked probing questions (the good kind that showed they cared and wanted to understand), and they agreed to be in prayer for me.

Last night, one friend asked if I had heard of Mandisa’s new album Out of the Dark. She explained that the songs were written after Mandisa had dealt with the loss of a friend to cancer – a friend for whom she had been praying and believed God would heal.

I was intrigued, so I listened to a few podcasts where Mandisa talks about it. When Mandisa said, “That was just not the way I thought the story was going to end” I knew I had to buy the album. The song “Prove Me Wrong” resonated so strongly with me, but I’m still processing the how, and why, and where it leads. I can’t imagine I won’t do a follow-up post (because I do still believe God will ultimately prove me wrong), but for now I’m just going to share a portion of the lyrics and the video.

 

Would it be wrong if I asked you for proof?
I wish that I could just believe, without questioning
I’m just being honest with you
And they say your ways are better
But I still don’t understand
And you can’t hold me together
And this can’t be your perfect plan
Prove me wrong
Prove me wrong
All this pain
This sorrow in my heart
I can’t find my way out of the dark
Prove me wrong

 

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An Article to Share for Bereaved Parents Awareness Month

In the January Bible Study for the Encourager’s Devotional Series, I shared several articles on how to (and NOT to) help people who are suffering with depression, grief or other life altering issues. With July being Bereaved Parents Awareness Month, I’m linking below to another great article on what you should (and should NEVER) say to a grieving parent.

I know when my sister lost her son, she found this to be true:
“People are sometimes tempted to list their own periods of grief — the death of their grandmother or a beloved family pet — as a way to sympathize, but those are not equivalent losses …”

And when I lost my sister, I finally came to see the truth of this statement (though I cannot fathom how much more true it was for her): “To try to explain to people that this is the kind of loss that transforms you into a different person, that you will never be the same person you were before this happened, is almost impossible.”

http://www.today.com/parents/child-loss-what-you-should-should-not-say-parents-t30596

A Hint of Life, but Death Is Still in the Background

Reflections from time with God at Zion UCC Labyrinth, Florissant, MO

Reflections from time with God at Zion UCC Labyrinth, Florissant, MO

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)

This scripture kept going through my mind after my sister’s death (Janell Joy Bartz, June 5, 1966 – September 19, 2012). Two weeks after her passing, I plugged earphones into my digital Bible to help feed myself the Word at a time I was not feeling prone to read it. I thought it might help me get to sleep (another thing I was not prone to do at that time). Later in the night, I woke up at the exact moment this passage was being read.

A few days later, I was at a labyrinth that I go to for prayer walks. Before going onto the prayer path, I sat on a bench for a while. A line of trees surrounds the labyrinth. I noticed a purple flower bud (Janell’s favorite color) on one near me. For a brief moment, I was comforted. Then, almost immediately, I noticed the very next tree in line behind it was already browning for fall and the coming winter. I thought, “A hint of life, but death is still in the background.”

When I got to the center of the labyrinth and stopped for contemplation, the dead tree was directly in front of me and I became overwhelmed. You see, Janell’s death was preceded just a week prior by the death of a 22 year old cousin who died in a car accident. That death alone had been very difficult to take, not only because he was so young, but also because it was yet another tragedy in my family which has a long history of young deaths, and violence and many forms of chaos and heartbreak.

While standing there, staring at the dead tree, I also thought of the many people I was praying for who were dealing with depression, and addictions and … well, many forms of chaos and heartbreak. For many of them, I had been praying a long time.

At that moment, the only prayer I could muster was, “Lord, I need to see someone overcome! To continue to believe it’s possible.”

Then, I remembered the meeting I’d had just that morning (how soon we forget) with the friend I am partnering with to write his life story. His is a story of someone redeemed from the worst of life’s circumstances. It is a story of true transformation that can only be brought about by the power of Christ.

I was gently reminded by God that there are many stories of redemption and transformation out there. And there are more to come. I WILL see the goodness of the Lord – in the land of the living. All of our hope is not just found “in the sweet by and by.” We don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to see the heaven’s move on our behalf. There is still hope for deliverance, here among the living, even when death is seemingly mocking us in the background.

Encourager’s Devotional Series – January Bible Study Answer Guide

Click here to view accompanying materials (original devotional, study guide and general introduction).

If you would like a leader’s guide to facilitate this study with a group of friends, feel free to email me at pullupachairwithlisa@gmail.com. The leader’s guide contains suggestions for ice-breakers, activities you can lead with a group, as well as additional teaching material.

ENCOURAGER’S DEVOTIONAL SERIES – JANUARY BIBLE STUDY ANSWER GUIDE

Information

Why was Paul in prison? 2 Timothy 1:11-12; 2:9

Paul was in prison for preaching the gospel.

How do Galatians 6:8-10 and Matthew 5:10-12 advise us to respond when we are persecuted for doing good?

They encourage us to keep on doing good and not lose heart.

How do these Scriptures bring encouragement?

They help us remember:

  • You will reap a harvest if you do not grow weary.
  • The kingdom of heaven is yours and your reward in heaven is great.
  • You are in good company (with the prophets before you).

In 2 Timothy 4:14,15 Paul has two responses to those who hurt him. What are his responses and how are they different? Continue reading

My First Year of Blogging – 2014 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. See what’s happened since Lisa started her blog on May 8, 2014.

Here’s an excerpt:

The busiest day of the year was October 16th with 81 views. The most popular post that day was 5 Controversial Statements about Race and Gender I’ve Really Wanted to Post on My Blog but Haven’t – Until Now.

Click here to see the complete report.

Sing Over Me

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The first time I saw this painting (by dear Gwen Meharg), I immediately thought of my sister, Janell. This was before I even noticed the woman in the painting was pregnant. When I realized that, it was even more significant because I knew that Janell drew strength from a song by 2nd Chapter of Acts called “Sing Over Me” while she was going through a very rough patch of life – finding out the baby she carried in her womb had spina bifida and was not expected to live, let alone thrive, after birth. She made it through that difficult time with her Lord’s help and was blessed with our sweet Daniel.

Daniel far surpassed the doctor’s predictions. Though confined to a wheelchair, he participated in sports, stayed on grade level in school and brought joy to all who knew him. Janell cherished her role as his caregiver and was a wonderful mother to him and his older brother, Justin.

Unfortunately, Janell would experience other rough patches in life – the death of Daniel at age 15 in 2008, financial difficulties and the loss of her home, and then the break-up of her marriage which left her devastated. I always knew I could not fully comprehend the depths of her grief at the loss of her son, even though it was the most difficult loss in our family to that date. But it was only after Janell’s own death two years ago today that I began to see just how debilitating the loss of someone so significant to you can be.

When I was going through her things, I found the verse from Zephaniah 3:17 written on scraps of paper in several different places. I was comforted with the idea that she could envision God singing over her, even when life seemed the most bleak.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

We had someone sing the song “Sing Over Me” at her funeral. On that day, I was picturing the ultimate fulfillment of the song’s lyrics (see below) for my sister who took such great comfort in the image of God singing over her and being encompassed by His presence. Today, I am the one seeking that place of refuge.

Look out my heart the wind is blowing again
It´s time to batten down the broken parts
Look out my heart debris is flying around
Confusion wants to shake your solid ground

Storms may come along and winds may blow
Raging tempest will come and go
But I´ll hide in the shadow of Your wings

I´ll hide in the shadow of Your wings
And listen while You sing
I´ll hide in the shadow of Your wings
And listen while You sing over me

You can listen to the song here. I pray it will make you feel at peace no matter what storm you may be going through.

Note: The link to Gwen’s work above is for her watercolors. She also does some amazing multi-media work. You can find it here.

Jewish Prayer of Mourning

I found this prayer of mourning comforting today. It is my sister’s birthday. She would have been 48.

It is hard to speak of oneness when our world is not complete,
when those who once brought wholeness to our life have gone,
and naught but memory can fill the emptiness their passing leaves behind.

But memory can tell us only what we were, in company with those we loved;
it cannot help us find what each of us, alone, must now become.

Yet no person is really alone;
those who live no more echo still within our thoughts and words,
and what they did has become woven into what we are.

We do best homage to our dead by living our lives fully
even in the shadow of our loss.
For each of our lives is worth the life of the whole world.
In each one is the breath of the Ultimate One.

In affirming the One, we affirm the worth of each one whose life, now ended,
brought us closer to the Source of Life, in whose union no person is alone and every life finds purpose.

Catharsis or Creativity?

Catharsis or Creativity?

So often since my sister, Janell’s death in September 2012, I’ve thought:

Sometimes I really miss the old me. Other times I wonder if I ever really knew who she was.

One part of myself, among many, which seemed to disappear along with Janell was my creative night owl self. I love being a night owl. I love the creative zone I get into during the wee hours of the night/morning. I really hit my stride at around 2:00 am – usually.

For over a year after her death, though, my quiet times at night were spent mostly crying or vegging out in front of the TV in an effort to keep from crying. Hating the lack of productivity and missing the joy of creativity, I’d try to sleep but that didn’t work either.

For about five months now, I’ve finally been able to recapture that part of me – until tonight. Janell’s birthday is tomorrow. I went to the cemetery today. I actually had a sweet time there. I pulled a blanket out of my car – one of her blankets – laid it on the ground and actually took in a bit of sun, something she and I had done together since our teen years. One of my last days with her was spent by the poolside soaking in some rays.

While I was at the cemetery, song lyrics to a song I couldn’t name kept coming to mind …

When you remember me                                                                                                                                                                                           If you remember me                                                                                                                                                                                                I hope you see                                                                                                                                                                                                           It’s not the way I want it to be                                                                                                                                    Oh I’d be with you now                                                                                                                                                                                                                 But wherever you go                                                                                                                                                                                          My love goes with you

When I got home, internet searching (and a “memory jog” by a Facebook friend) led me to the song “If You Remember Me” and its use in the movie The Champ. So, I looked up both and have been bawling off and on ever since. That’s okay; sometimes you just need a good cry. This time around in the anticipated all night crying session, though, I decided to go ahead and write this post about what I’m feeling.

I’m not sure if this is creativity kicking in or if it’s just catharsis. I’m just glad it got me through the night.