Today my husband will be doing the funeral for our dear neighbor, Rose Storm. This past year, any passerby might look at Rose's beautiful, picture perfect home and gardens and not think twice that heartache was within that home's beautiful walls. Rose lost her husband to cancer and shortly afterward found out that she had cancer and didn't have long to live. Not only was she going through the heartache of missing her husband, but also the heartache of knowing she would die soon and say goodbye to her children forever. To all appearances, you would never know. This is the very thought that burdens my heart. I am often too guilty of it myself. Our busy lives, wrapped up in the many "to-do's". We drive down the streets in our neighborhoods and rarely give a second thought to the homes and the people that live in them and the needs they might have. Even in our day to day lives~ the cashier at the store, the mom on the soccer field, the waitress at the restaurant, the grandma on her front porch~all of them could be going through some type of heartache that we know nothing about. We get so busy, we don't take the time for a kind word and smile or an invitation to church or a note of encouragement. I read a quote that said "If the devil can't make us bad, he will make us busy." All the things that take up our time might not be bad things at all, but they can blind us to the hurting souls of those around us. The souls Christ loved so much that He died for. Christ never called us to be super moms or wives. He never told us to make sure our kids were involved in every sport and activity or stay so busy we never sit down as a family for a meal. He called us to look on the multitudes with compassion. To love as He loved. Today as you drive past your neighbor's homes, look at each with open eyes and open hearts. Slow down. Think. Pray. And when you finally get home after a day of"busy"remember~
someone needs Christ's love not too far from here.
Some of the sweetest memories I cherish are the memories of my mom and dad while I was growing up. Even though we went through some very hard times together, my parents did everything they could to make my childhood special. I have such sweet memories of my dad singing to me all through elementary school. Sadly, I know of many friends who's childhood was horrific, who's father was anything but a father. I truly believe the relationship we established with our dads growing up influences our relationship with our Heavenly Father more than we know. I never knew anything about our household finances growing up, dad took care of that and never talked about it. Today I seem to find it easy to have the faith that God will take care of our family financially when it might look like an impossible task. But when my parents split up for a while, I had so much worry and so many trust issues during that time. Today I tend to worry much more about relationships in my life, wondering if everything is going to be ok. I'm not saying this is all my dad's fault or that it's okay to blame a lukewarm or non existent walk with God on our fathers. I am an adult now and my walk with God is solely my responsibility and any areas I am lacking in are because of me, not my parents. My point is that when a man becomes a dad he probably doesn't even think about being a picture of the Heavenly Father to his children, but he is and that's huge. It's not up to us as women to ridicule or try to fix our kid's daddy. It's up to us to be their greatest encourager and to love them with our everything and to pray for them more than anyone, realizing the heavy responsibility that they have on their shoulders because our kids are also watching us and how we react to their father. Someday that's exactly how they will react to their Heavenly Father. That's huge too. They will either love Him with their everything or treat God as if He can't get it right. Praise God that He always gets it right and that no matter what kind of father we had growing up, our Heavenly Father has always been there. He knew and loved us before we were even born. He is the perfect Daddy and longs to take care of us. We can have a Father like this. That might be easy for you to comprehend, or it might be very hard. Psalms 86:15 tells us He is a God full of compassion. He wants us to feel safe and loved in His arms. Romans 8:15 tells us He wants us to cry out to Him~"Abba Father or Daddy". Ladies, pray for our kid's daddies. Thank God for them. Praise God He has given us an opportunity to show our children the deep love a Father can have for them no matter what their home life is like, then rest in His arms and find the safety, comfort and compassion of the Father who loves you more than words can ever express. The great I Am.
I turned the corner in our small school hallway and overheard a group of teens talking about me, and they weren't nice words. I remember how deeply it hurt at that time. I was already going through some inner turmoil of my own. My grandpa was in a hospital bed, dying of cancer. My mom cried every day. I felt helpless. She was at the hospital with my grandma daily and I took on the responsibilities at home- cooking, cleaning, laundry, ironing, grocery shopping etc. My heart was overwhelmingly sad and part of me just wanted a carefree life like these other teens had. I wanted everything to be better. How many other teens have felt this same way through the years? We had our 6th annual Youth Explosion this week at church and my heart was bursting with love for these kids. The mom in me wanted to just hug them all and make their lives better but I know that the only One Who can do that for them is the Lord. All I can do is pray and be there for them. These kids made decisions this week to be a follower of Christ. Completely committed. They didn't wait for their friends to go forward, they practically jumped out of their seats. They wanted their lives to be different. But then they have to return to the reality of life. Sometimes that means sadness, pressure from other teens, loneliness, heartache. Many might not have a support system cheering them on. Too often when we become adults, teens annoy us. Their dress, their music, their attitudes. We think the things they worry about are so silly and "they will realize some day that none of that matters" But underneath it all could be a heart that is overwhelmingly sad. A heart that puts on a show but is really in despair. We don't know what might be going on in their private lives. The heartaches they might be enduring. The things that are hurting them right now are very real to them. I will never forget during that time in my life that I broke down in church one Sunday morning and couldn't stop crying. My youth pastor's wife, Sheilah Smith took me in a side room and just held me as I sobbed. I don't remember her exact words but I know she didn't treat me like I was silly or didn't matter. She encouraged me, prayed with me and loved me. Our theme this month at church is Outreach. Don't neglect our teens. Don't treat them as if they don't matter. Love them. Pray for them. Reach out to them. The decisions they make now could set the course for the rest of their lives and they need encouragement from all of us to stay on the right path and be a follower of our Savior. Don't give up on them. We were all that age once ourselves and I thank God for the ones that never gave up on me.
Close your eyes for a moment and think about the day you got married. Think about how you felt when you woke up that morning, how you felt getting ready and then walking down the aisle toward him. Think about the way your heart felt as the music was played and you stood next to him holding hands and think about the next morning, waking up beside the love of your life, your best friend. Move ahead to today and how you felt waking up beside him. Perhaps some of you are still in the honeymoon stage and all those feelings are present. Perhaps you are happy but your marriage has become mundane or perhaps you woke up wondering why you were even still married with desperation and sadness in your heart. Mike and I have been married for 30 years and even though most of the time others may look at us and think we have a great marriage, my heart has been through all of the stages I mentioned above. It hasn't been a fairy tale. There have been moments that I wished I wasn't married to this man who hurt me and I'm sure he has had moments where he felt the same about me. I haven't always been the right example in front of my kids. We haven't always shown them a marriage the way God intended it to be but its never too late to start, ever. I know in my heart that if it wasn't for God and His strength and His grace, I could not have made it through. There's so much I've learned in the last 30 years and so much I'm still learning but one thing I know for sure about everyone's marriage is this~happily ever after can begin with you. It's not a fairy tale. It's a choice. It's not up to your spouse, it's up to you. Please join us every Sunday night at 6pm this month as Pastor Mike teaches on marriage. Whether you are in an amazing relationship or one that is hurting, whether you are single or a grandparent, this time in Gods word can help so much. Choose Happily Ever After today.