Grief at Christmas

Now that I am navigating my very first Christmas without both of my parents, I must learn a new normal. To be honest, it’s not something I am looking forward to right now.

I learned at Thanksgiving time that doing something different could help. Starting a new tradition could be fun and exciting (but I knew it might not be too fun if I wasn’t feeling up to trying something different). Since my birthday fell on Thanksgiving this year, I decided I wanted to go the movies. It turned out to be the right move. I like to see movies of overcoming against all odds, so we saw Midway.

As Christmas approaches this year, one of the main things for me has been to focus on the reason for the season: Jesus. Still, the season does also come with many memories (and it could be good or bad). I do remember good memories with both my mom and dad’s sides of the family, large family gatherings when we got together. I really miss that especially since my mom’s side is all literally gone, except my cousin’s son in Wisconsin.

I get newsletters now on “grief”. When I read them, it helps to explain a lot of what I am going through. The newsletters must have had someone who is a counselor write them. They always give good insight as to why I am feeling the way I do. So I’d thought I’ve give you some really good points on understanding fear and grief from the newsletter, and maybe you can relate!

Many people find themselves more fearful in general following the death of a loved one. We feel vulnerable.

We are likely to find that we startle easily and become very uncomfortable with anything that is unexpected“.

We are fearful that something bad will happen to us or our remaining loved ones, particularly if the death was sudden and violent.”

Traveling or simply leaving the house to run errands may seem dangerous.”

When someone close to us dies, it may feel as if our social world has been destroyed.

Many people find that evenings and weekends – times that were formerly filled with enjoyable and restful leisure activities – are the hardest times.”

When we are grieving, we may want to have others listen……We want other people to simply listen to our hurt, anger, and fear without trying to “fix” it or make it better.”

Youngest family members, the children, grieve, too……children are able to move out of their grief and into play or other activities more easily than adults.

Some bereaved people feel a need to withdraw from social life for a time.”

Family members need to realize that grief is unique for each individual.”

If you have lost anyone (or more than one person), and if you can relate to any of the above feelings, you are not alone!

Processing Grief

So the next thing to ask, how do you get through the fear, loneliness, anger, hurt and grief? Well, first we understand that these feelings are normal. No feeling is “right” or “wrong”. They just are feelings. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and this process looks different for each person. If someone tells you “how to grieve”, this may or may not be true for you. Allow the process to unfold as naturally as possible for you. This is where I lean into my faith, despite the fear, hurt and grief. The Bible says, “He bore our griefs.” And, “He binds up the broken hearted.” With that gives me hope, hope that I will not be stuck in grief. I look to God, who can help in every situation.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it…..You must try to do the thing you think you cannot do.”

I am trying to do that, do the thing I think I can not do. It’s not been easy. After Thanksgiving, I decided after talking with a cousin on my dad’s side to host a dinner for the holiday in remembrance of our loved ones. My dad has 5 siblings. One, my aunt, has gone on to be with the Lord and I was very close to her. She was the sweetest person anyone would ever meet. So, in honor of my aunt, my uncle (her husband, who died a few years ago) and both of my parents, we had Christmas dinner on Sunday to remember them. It was a nice way to remember times with my parents, my aunts, uncles and cousins from the “old days”. My mom loved to take pictures, so because to her, we had many to look at and remember. That did bring some joy and laughter (and was a good distraction for this time of year). For me, grief comes in waves now. The beginning was nothing but tears, sadness and hurt. Now, it’s waves that come and go with holidays stirring things back up. It’s just the process. Through all of it, having a relationship with God, who says He will never leave us nor forsake us, brings me hope. And now, I can focus more on that hope of seeing them again, one day in Heaven. That thought is now bringing some peace.

My dad’s sister (center), at my Christmas dinner on Sunday to remember my parents and my aunt & uncle.

For those of us grieving, we move into Christmas Day with heart ache. We can only take this thing one day at a time. I pray you will find peace in the midst of grief if you are going through this process too. I am right there with you.

Merry Christmas,
Michelle

Addiction – the Cause and How to Help

There is a growing concern for the amount of overdose deaths due to drug use. This rise in deaths is bringing more and more awareness that many communities have this issue. It may be something that affects you or your family or a friend whether they are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

In this post, I will attempt to cover some (there may be more) of the causes of addiction. Then I will cover some ways anyone can help. In no way am I a mental health expert. But I lived with it growing up with addiction. I learned a lot of things the hard way. I understand the effects of it as I experienced it and had to seek recovery for myself.

Anyone can be addicted to anything with alcohol and drugs obviously being of great concern. The brain is an organ that gets hijacked in addiction. The brain’s chemistry physically changes and is altered due to substance abuse. The addiction becomes so powerful that the brain causes the body to look for the substance over other basic necessities, like water, food, sleep, social interaction, safety, etc. Consequences don’t seem to have an impact on the person (at least right away). Sometimes, the consequence of substance abuse is death and that’s scary. So we want to try to help where we can with the best means possible.

Admitting to Needing Help

For any addiction, admitting to needing help would be a great place to start. Denial can be very strong. Loving the person but not enabling or pitying them is a way to help the person get through the denial process. Sometimes it is hard to love the person because of the hurt and pain that comes from their addiction. But realize they are powerless over the substance and can’t stop by themselves. In AA, the first step is to recognize that “I am powerless over alcohol and my life has become unmanageable.” You can take out the word “alcohol” and substitute it for anything really. We can’t beat the person over the head with guilt, lecture them or shame the person into recovery. So we want to be very strategical about what we say and do. And remember to set healthy boundaries for your own sake. If you have been personally affected or grew up around addiction, etc, you’ll want to get some healing yourself.

The cause and contributors to addiction can vary. Usually it’s a combination of things. In addition, the addiction itself brings on more problems that creates more pain and stress, so more alcohol/drugs are used to “cope” (it’s a vicious cycle). Some common contributors are (and there could be more):

  1. PTSD or any form of trauma
  2. abuse/abusive relationships/neglect
  3. peer pressure
  4. “recreational use” that goes too far
  5. surgeries or injuries that turn into prolonged use of Opioids
  6. mental health issues like anxiety or depression
  7. family use/genetics (ran in the family).
  8. persistent feelings of loss, grief, rejection, isolation
  9. socioeconomic factors
  10. turning to unhealthy coping habits routinely
  11. lack of understanding of the brain/addiction connection
  12. tragedy/loss
  13. *there is a spiritual component that needs to be addressed also, it’s not only a physical, emotional and/or mental disease.

No matter what started the addiction, the cycle is hard very to break. Drugs are flooding our streets. Alcohol is legal but easily accessible and culturally promoted. Education to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place should be ongoing. If a person does engage in substance abuse, early intervention would be great! But the person will not always get help right away. This is where knowing the signs and symptoms of addiction will be important. The earlier you (as a family member, friend, pastor) detect a problem, the quicker you can employ strategies that may help the person seek treatment.

Ways to Help

There are resources that can help. Remember, no one person responds to treatment the same way. What may work for one person may not work for another. You have to have a tool box of resources. Do your research, take care of yourself, gather information, learn about interventions, recovery centers, church groups, 12 -step groups and so forth. Lovingly, try to share the information with the person who is addicted. You may want to present all of the options and see which one he/she will accept. An intervention may be the way to go, so you can be with others while presenting a treatment plan. Don’t expect them to be excited about your information. Stay calm and press on. They might not be ready to admit they have a problem, but don’t give up. The nicer you can be with speaking about the reality of the problem, without enabling, the better the chance you may have of helping them break through their denial.

I wish I could say that I was loving in my responses to those in my family. I was not always. I was mentally exhausted. No one taught us how to deal with someone’s addiction (especially if you were like me, a child growing up with it, it’s traumatic). If you have enabled the person with the addiction, simply stop doing that. If the one who is addicted yells and screams at you, cusses you out and blames you, then you are probably not enabling. Trust me when I say, I know this hurts. I know this is painful. But remember you want to help them by pointing them to recovery. Tell them that you will support them in their recovery process. And if you have an addiction yourself, you will want to get help too. The family cycle needs to be broken at some point. Future generations depend on this.

Why do some get free and some don’t? I ask that question often. Some say the problem is due to not haven’t enough treatment facilities, detox beds or that 30 days in rehabs are not enough. This is true at times. But I know of plenty of people who got clean by only going to 12 step meetings. Some will get help, some won’t. So what do we do in the meantime?

  1. Learn all you can. Education is always a must.
  2. Have info on different treatment options available at all times.
  3. Be ready at all times to share information with those who have a problem in case you have an open door (you can’t force the info on them however).
  4. Realize that the person addicted at times does secretly want help even though their behavior doesn’t always match it.
  5. If you are a Christian, pray for them. The most powerful thing for them would be to help them find help through Jesus in all of this.
  6. Share with other families what you have learned. Don’t be embarrassed about the problem, someone may need your help too.

Is Addiction a Sin or a Disease?

Well this is a question that needs to be addressed. Some will say it’s one or the other only. The Bible says we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. So the answer is that it is both. In AA and NA, the 4th step has the participant take a “fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Then the 5th step is “admitted to God, to ourselves, to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Steps 6, 7, 8 and 9 takes the person through a repenting stage. This is simply a way of admitting the sinful behavior and making amends (i.e. seeking forgiveness). Without these steps, the person can stay stuck in the sinful aspects of alcohol or drug use. It’s sinful because it is something that causes harm to one’s self and to the others around him/her. The substance becomes that person’s god so to speak. It’s also a disease because the body and the brain have physiological changed from the use and the person needs some kind of treatment. Both parts need to be addressed.

With the Grace of God, all things are possible!

And the good news is Jesus, who is the savior of the world, can handle both! Jesus can help break the cycle of the sinful behaviors/generational curses/strongholds and help one recover also. Jesus came to set the captives free and help us with anything that causes us to not know who are true Creator is and why we are here on this earth.

God has a purpose and a plan for every single life. You and your loved one are meant to shine for God (Matthew 5:16)! God doesn’t leave us as orphans. He is a good Father who wants us to know him. The power of the Cross is undeniable. Jesus can deliver us from anything that the enemy is using to steal, kill and destroy us including addiction. Jesus came to give life abundantly (John 10:10). This is true for any of us who believe in Him.

Ask, seek and knock. Know that God wants to help you and your loved one. And there are many others that want to help too. There are many resources although sometimes it seems like a daunting task piecing everything together. The State of Delaware has put a website together to help you with some research. Start here and share this link with others. If you are looking for Christian support, it’s out there too. Here’s a link for that. Most of all, don’t give up hope.

If you are a Christian, and you would like to see more education in your church, consider sharing this blog post with your pastors. I am part of a Faith Based initiative group and we can do something like Breaking the Yoke of Addiction workshop for your church.

Let’s pray now and come into agreement with Pastor Drue from Lifehouse (Smyrna) who recently attended an event for Firm Foundations Launch Dinner to help those break the cycle of addiction, watch him here.

God bless you,

Michelle

Is Revival Coming?

A few years ago, my church started a prayer room for those who wanted to come a prayer during the service, then attend the other service. I love that my church did this. I started attending and knew it was something I wanted to try to do as much as possible. It’s my main assignment right now, to pray for others and pray for revival.

In our prayer room, there is a laminated sheet that we could use if we want with prayer ideas. The title on it is “Ten Specific Prayer Points For Revival and Spiritual Awakening.” It’s good to use this as a starting point. I believe those prayers and prayers like them from around the country are going to see answers soon. I don’t think it’s a matter of “if” God answers these cries for revival but a matter of “when”.

During the last few years of praying for this outpouring of the Spirit, I’ve seen signs of revival here and there. This is probably just a small sampling of what’s really happening. I think God is on the move in many ways, as He is strategically setting up things right now. Then, when the dots get connected, we are going to see something greater than we’ve ever seen (I am not 100% sure on when but I feel we should be ready).

Here are the reasons I believe revival is coming:

  1. The atmosphere is shifting. Have you ever walked into a place where you can just feel the tension? You sense something isn’t right. We can all see that something has been off, spiritually speaking, in our country for a long time. Plus, there’s a lot of strife and brokenness: politically, culturally and socially. Despite all of this, I am seeing and hearing God move in ways that I feel the atmosphere is tangible shifting. Do you sense it?
  2. We are seeing things we haven’t seen in a long time. Despite atheists’ best efforts, we are seeing praise and worship in places like the White House. We recently saw a major rapper’s heart change, Kanye West, with release of an album called Jesus is King. And movies like Overcomer and Breakthrough on the big screen are drawing people to Jesus everywhere. God is using non-traditional means to open eyes all over the country.
  3. There is increasing unity among believers in certain areas. There was a time (and still is happening) that churches just did their own things. Now I am seeing churches or at least those who attend different churches coming together in the spirit of unity and lifting up the name of Jesus in many other settings and venues. And it’s a beautiful thing.
  4. God continues to lay on my heart to find and seek those out who want unity. There is one thing I can’t stand – is when people compare. These is not a contest. When we start comparing, that’s dangerous territory. We want to encourage others who may seem to have slipped away also. Otherwise, what if they slip away more because of the lack of encouragement (but plenty of comparing and condemnation)?
  5. God is raising up national leaders like Pastor Sam Rodriguez. I have watched him for a little while now. He’s unifying the body of Christ in ways that no one else has. He’s bringing us together from different races, churches and denominations. Oh, and he’s sticking to the Word of God in a way that’s non-compromising also (which are key components to revival perhaps- unity and not caving to agendas that aren’t God’s).
  6. It appears that there is a desire for holiness and more repentance without the legalism. Legalism left many drained and in some cases more rebellious. Repentance is going to increase with revival. A lot got caught up in legalism sadly. The effects are still present today. Routines and rules beat out relationship and revelation. Now I hear over and over again from Christians everywhere, that they want to be obedient, not because of legalistic rules, but out of the love and true respect for God.
  7. The power of God is getting stronger (I mean being revealed more). Some are so desperate for the power of God to return that they are ready to let God out of the box and let Him do what He wants to do. Because of this desperateness, they are seeing signs and wonders return to the church. Those churches who allow the Spirit to move freely, I believe, are another key component in this next revival movement that is on it’s way.

Maybe this isn’t enough for you to believe me, that revival is a matter of “when” now. That’s okay. Be skeptic. But keep praying into it. There is still prep work to be done. We don’t want to sit back and ever say “I am done praying for this.” I think more still needs to happen to pave the way (I am no expert, I am certain there is way more to this than what I have mentioned). But here’s some suggestions on what we still need to keep doing as we continue to pray for revival (these are suggestions only, God may lead you to do something else):

  • Christians can to come together more in prayer with one accord like in Acts.
  • All in the body need to be recognized and valued instead of compared.
  • Take limits off God. Let God move how God wants to with revival. Don’t expect Him to do it with the same kind of people or similar ways that happened before. You may not like who God is using, but it’s God’s choice, not ours.
  • Get ready to move when God says move and don’t ignore the prompting of the Spirit. Yesterday, my pastor told the congregation how he followed the Spirit in leading his daughter to Christ at a very young age. At first, he was listening to logic (perhaps she was too young, etc), then he listened to the Spirit. He stopped what he was doing (at the gym working out), went back to his daughter and led her to Jesus. He didn’t have a long discussion on theology, doctrine, etc. He just followed the Spirit.
  • Try to bless others who are in the limelight instead of criticize, including the President of the United States. If I mention some names, it might automatically stir you up. That means you need to pray for them more! The devil doesn’t want you to pray for people you can’t stand. Try not to always criticize those who God may have raised up. David even knew not to touch Saul and called him God’s “anointed” when Saul was crazy and acting so stupid. Stop cursing what God is using for a greater purpose. (this is for us all)
  • Try to speak life into those those who get a lot of attention instead of accusing of being “false prophets” in the Christian world like Joel Osteen, Justin Bieber, Hillsong United, Bethel Church, Kanye West, and so forth. Pray for them. Stop listening to those who want to “warn” against them if it leaves you feeling like it’s us against them. Pray for your own discernment instead of listening to others who could possibly not know the whole picture. The devil is using this to cause greater divide. And God may be using them in ways you don’t see yet.
  • If you have a beef with anyone, ask God to help you forgive and move on! It doesn’t let them off the hook, God will deal with them. Plus, you don’t have to agree or “subscribe” to what they did, but you want to heal from it (I know it can be hard depending on the situation). I understand things are hurtful as I have experienced things too, but I do think unforgiveness can be an obstacle for us to experience more of what God has in store.
  • Pray and don’t give up: pray for revival, pray for repenting hearts (including our own), pray for those you don’t like/can’t stand/who have hurt you, etc. Pray for good discernment but open minds/hearts at the same time, pray for those you think will never come to Jesus in our government, media, Hollywood, Megachurches, those with small and large spheres of influence alike. Pray that churches and leaders are available to equip new believers so that they have a place to go as revival will create more believers.
  • Most of all, try to see what God is doing and bless this. Take any limits off of God. He can move and use who He wants too. I know it might tick off some people when we find out He may use a pastor like Joel Osteen. So what if Joel started preaching more on repentance? Why don’t we pray for that? Pray for him and pastors of all churches, small and large. They are under extreme pressure but I think are a vital key to revival. If these pastors stay the course, stand on the Word of God, take limits off God, allow the Spirit to move, call for holiness and repentance by the power of the Spirit, I believe we will see much fruit.

Tell me your thoughts on revival. Have you seen God moving in your church? If so, how?

God bless,

Michelle

7 Great Faith Books for Children

Reading is a great activity.  It’s also a great way to bond with children.  I fear that we are losing that wonderful activity in our current culture.  It seems like more kids are playing “games” on cell phones than reading books.

Not only does reading help a child’s mind, it can also help to reinforce values that you as parents want to teach your children.  Why not pick books that reflect faith and values? Reading books with your children has many benefits which I discuss in 6 Reasons to Read Faith Based Books with Children.

Good quality books are important.   Even if the book is not specifically about faith, it can still be about the values of faith:  love, kindness, compassion, self control, patience, etc.  With a huge market of books, there are many things to buy but if you order online, you might be disappointed.  I suggest to go to a local store so that you can look through the books before purchasing.  Some books, however, you’ll want to stay far away from.

Take this one for example, A Children’s Book of Demons. It looks “cool” to cast spells, summon demons and perk a kids’ interest in occult type of activities.  These books can certainly find their way into public libraries  including school libraries. So be involved and guide your kids now when it comes to what to read.

I found LOTS of good children’s books at a local shop called Saving Grace Christian Bookstore.  And what I like is that I can flip through the books and get a feel of it before ever purchasing it.  You can also sit in the “Parlor Room” at this store and skim the books before you buy.  (Saving Grace Christian Bookstore is in downtown Middletown, Delaware near the Everett Theatre).

Here are my favorite picks at the store (but there were so many more!).

  1. Once Upon a Time – a childrens’ Bible
  2. A Travel Guide To Heaven – great illustrations
  3. Jesus and the 12 Dudes Who Did  – creative way to learn about the 12 Disciples
  4. The Oak Inside the Acorn – I like this author, Max Lucado
  5. Same Kind of Different as Me – great message of acceptance of others who don’t look like me!
  6. Jesus Always – 365 Devotions for Kids
  7. Created To Shine – and of course I have to say my own book –  available at Saving Grace for this Christmas season.

These are just some examples of the great gift ideas available at Saving Grace Christian Bookstore.  And if you do purchase a Bible from this store, engraving a name is available too (for an additional fee).  You will absolute love the store and its owner too!

Sincerely,

Michelle

 

 

 

 

How Do We Vote In the Midst of Political Turmoil?

The right to vote is under tremendous attack in this country.  It’s something that no one can take for granted.  The right to vote is something special because not every country gives this kind of control over to their citizens.  It’s such a beautiful thing – to vote.  But with that, comes challenges.  Just like in everything that’s good, the devil wants to destroy it.

It’s no doubt that God has given this country so many blessings.  Our country has had many faults, sins, and it will never be perfect.  This is because it’s made up of people.  People are imperfect.  People sin. Can we get better?  Of course, but we will never be perfect.  Only Jesus is perfect.

So, when you have imperfect people who are fighting (like literally fighting with more than words now), about who you voted for and should vote for, that is a  HUGE red flag that the devil is in the mix.

Be an Observer

I have been in mostly an observing phase over the last few years.  I am not saying I never express my opinion but from all of the backlash one can get nowadays, it seems safer to be silent.  But you learn a lot in this phase.

The one thing that I have seen during this “observing phase” is how desperate some are to get our vote.  And how desperate they become afterwards if they don’t get our vote.  Now I know that this is all a part of the game of politics (I call it poliTRICKS).  We have tolerated this game for years and years.  But now it’s not just causing more division (some would like to blame the current president for this – but the fact is this division has always been there – you just see it more now with social media and 24 hour news etc), it’s causing people to go nuts – literally.

I wonder how much depression there is or anxiety there is from watching the news, all the arguing from the pundits, all the blaming, all the strife, all the negativity.  I wonder how much energy is wasted making people seem like the enemy, when the real enemy is  laughing at us (the devil).

Let’s face it, this is nothing new in politricks.  How long though do we observe and keep watching or do we speak up in love?

Here’s what I mean about our right to vote being under attack.  To get your vote –

  1. They use a wide range of tactics including mental manipulation, control and emotional persuasion so that you can’t think for yourself.
  2. If you don’t vote a certain way now, you can be retaliated against, called names, smeared, shamed, cut off, scolded, demonized, accused, made fun of and/or guilted for the way you “did vote”.  I think this is in order to try to make you give up on your vote and vote their way next time.

Don’t drink the Kool-aid! 

As American citizens, we need to not get caught up in the hype.  We need to take a step back from all that is being said and pray for discernment if a believer. Only the Holy Spirit knows the truth in every situation.  People do not know the whole truth, nor do they always see it or tell it.  I am not telling you who to vote for. I am suggesting that we learn how to vote using some critical thinking skills.  First, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Am I easily manipulated because of my emotional investment in this outcome?
  2. Am I looking at different sides of each and every story?
  3. Do I discuss candidates with others who can offer a different point of view (and not only those who agree with me)?
  4. Can I discuss the issues with self control?
  5. Do I expect the candidates to be in line with 100% of my values?  Or is there room for disagreement?
  6. Do I pray (if I am a believer) about each candidate and who to vote for?
  7. Am I scared to vote a certain way for fear of retaliation?
  8. Am I only voting a certain way because the people around me say I have to vote this way?
  9. Do I put all of my trust into one commentator, news channel, politician etc?
  10. Do I let fear of criticism influence my choice?

What is lacking as a whole in this voting process looks like good critical thinking skills and solid discernment.  We are expecting human beings to give us the whole picture.  That will never happen.  We can not put trust in one party, one group of human beings or even one president (Democrat or Republican).  Our trust has to be in God first.   If we are putting someone else first, that is an idol.  Anything can be an idol.  Are you being controlled by an idol that you don’t realize you’ve made into one?

By the way, just my personal conviction, and I don’t know about you, but I won’t be shamed into who to vote for.  If someone thinks that they can manipulate me or my emotions to get my vote, they are wrong!   None of us should feel like we are shamed by any political party to vote a certain way.

Another form of guilt

For some of us who are Christians in addition to Americans, we are being manipulated too – in a different way.  We are being accused of not being “Christian enough” if we vote for such and such.  This is an emotional tactic used to guilt us into who to vote for.  We are told (and by some friendly fire too) that we should have never voted for a certain person because it doesn’t line up with our faith.  My question to them: Who put you in charge of me instead of the Holy Spirit?  If you think I did something wrong, then pray for me, to hear God’s voice better next time.  You are not my Holy Spirit (thank God!).biblical truth

I prayed earnestly last time for who to vote for.  I also considered scripture and tried to follow Biblical principles in voting. I genuinely struggled and so did many others I talked with on who to vote for last time (my original preferred candidate didn’t win the primary).  You just don’t know who to believe (in the media especially).  Ultimately, after much prayer, I made my choice.  Yet, I was still criticized (you just can’t make everyone happy).  People may have regretted their choice.  But because I know I did all I could to make that decision, I will not be guilted in believing I made the wrong choice.  I will again pray earnestly on who to vote for in the next upcoming election also.

You vote how you want!

I am not saying in any way who you should vote for.  That’s heaped on us enough already. Vote Democrat or Republican or don’t vote if you don’t want.  You do what you need to do.  Let me do what I need to do.  And in the mean time, let’s not condemn OR try to manipulate each other into voting a certain way.  It’s that simple.

As always, Pray.

Please pray for this country.  I know it’s not a perfect country.  But still, it’s a country that has come a long way and is still something worth fighting for, on our knees and through grateful hearts even when things seem so ugly.   Pray for courage to speak truth in love, and pray for those in leadership (yes including this president too – please don’t shoot the messenger on that last one), pray for God to show us where we all need to repent and do things differently with each other.  Our country is so worth it!

God bless,

Michelle

 

 

Getting Through the Holidays with Grief

For many, holidays are fun and filled with many festivities.  And that’s a good thing.  Having set yearly times for get together when life can be so busy is a must.  Sometimes, holidays are too rushed and for the energy that is put behind them, they go by to fast.

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where days before, most people are shopping at grocery stores.  Everyone comes together for a big meal and by the end of it, people are stuffed like the turkey they just ate.

For others, holidays can be a time of grieving and missing loved ones.  There are other reasons for grieving.  Loss is the underlining factor in grief.   But loss is a part of life.  Loss is inevitable for anyone breathing.  It doesn’t discriminate.  And it’s a guarantee that everyone walking the planet will experience loss.

Loss that leads to grief

Now people may handle loss and grief differently.  For some, it’s might be a matter of “holding on to the good memories and looking to the future.”  For others, it might not be that simple.  Or the past memories may have not been so good for some, and you might not even have many of those “good” memories to hold on to.  There is pain associated with that too.

I have learned so much about dealing with grief.  Some of this came from my own experiences but also from experiences of others whom I have watched go through loss and grief.  My age now yields to more loss as those who are older than me in family and extended family have been passing away.  Both my parents are now deceased (which is still weird for me to even say).   I’ve experienced many losses in life, but death is another kind.

What I will share in hopes of helping others deal with loss are just suggestions.  In no way am I telling you how to deal with your loss.  I have had many say to me what I should do, and that’s annoying.  So, in the spirit of allowing you to find what works for you, here are the possible tips for dealing with grief:

  1.  Find  a few people who have similar losses.  While I was going through the immediate grief of losing both parents in a short time, I found (by accident) numerous others who had lost both of their parents also.  Some parents were very young.  We could say we get it without even going into details.  The connection was just there automatically.
  2.  Don’t waste time with people who don’t care.  That will just cause frustration and add salt to a wound.  When you are vulnerable and in grief, some people will not lift you up but they could pull you down.  Perhaps stay away for a while until you get some healing.  This is a hard lesson (especially if some of them are supposed to be friends).
  3. Do things that will bring joy (if you can do them, sometimes at first, just doing nothing or having no commitments was better for me).
  4. Express how you feel in some kind of supportive group.  There are different kinds of grief support groups now too.  I get numerous invites.  Although I don’t one that is specific to grief, I do attend prayer groups and other things that encourage me (it’s not completely focused on grief but it is usually focused on sharing burdens and lifting them up to God which can also help).
  5. Ask those close to you to read up on the stages of dealing with grief.  This will help them understand.  The initial stage doesn’t always look like the later stages.
  6. Try not to get stuck in any of the stages.  The stages are normal and natural.  But getting stuck in grief can cause it to last much longer.  Without the hope of recovery, the next loss could be even greater and more difficult to deal with.
  7. Holiday time can be extremely difficult.  It can bring back a ton of memories. Maybe cut yourself some slake. Don’t make big plans (at least I couldn’t for Thanksgiving this time).  Keep it simple.  And don’t worry about making the dinner perfect!  Last night for Thanksgiving dinner, I totally forget to cook the vegetable.  I got everything on the table and realized it.  When I said my mistake, we had a good laugh and no one missed the vegetable!
  8. If your holiday meals are now different because missing those you can’t see anymore, start a new tradition.  Did you know the movies are open on Thanksgiving?  Last night, we saw Midway at the movie theatre.  It was a good diversion and it helped us to be even more thankful that we have a country that allows us to stay free from the rule and reign of other countries.
  9. Play the Thanksgiving game (any time of year):  We played this game yesterday (which my teens say it’s really not a game).  But we go around and say 5 things that we are thankful for about the other person.  We start like this:  “I am thankful that you are……”.  Some are funny statements that make us really laugh.
  10. Even holiday shopping can be difficult when you see things that remind you of your loved one.  My mom, for example, was a gift giver and loved to shop for Christmas.  This year, since I don’t have her to give a gift to, I decided to buy some more Christmas trees to decorate my living room in her memory.  My living room and dining room spaces are like a mini Longwood gardens right now (okay, not that nice, but you get the point).

  11. Do something to help process the grief.  Some of my blog posts have been like that for me.  It’s kind of like journaling but at the same time, I hope to help someone else.  This in turn helps me get through my grief as I learn and grow through this.
  12. People say dumb stuff to you when you are dealing with grief.  It’s because they may not understand it to the level you are experiencing it.   It’s hard enough to process the grief and then things people say.  But what a counselor told me was that setting boundaries is a must during this time.  Yet that’s hard to do too because sometimes you don’t have the energy to deal.  Again, I think that goes back to talking to someone who understands grief (and the stages).   Or at least find someone who is a good listener and may not feel the need to “fix you” all at once.
  13. Pray as always. And ask others to pray for you.  It really does work and there is power in prayer.   Don’t ask those who don’t think prayer works (their unbelief will not help you).
  14. Grieving is a process.  I have learned to plan for it, even when I don’t know when it will hit.  But giving myself space helps keep the anxiety down.  And then it also allows me to get through the period of grief quicker.
  15. Don’t compare your grief to others.  Society says certain types of loss are harder than others.  That’s not true.  Don’t think you shouldn’t grieve just because someone else’s loss seems more significant.  I’ve seen this play out over and over in how some losses are treated and compared.  Your grief is real.  And people don’t know the whole picture.  Only God knows the whole picture and He is the one who truly understands what you need to heal.
  16. Grief doesn’t have to last forever.  God says He binds up the broken hearted and heals all of their wounds.  I am holding on to this promise!  You can too if you believe in God’s promises.  You don’t have to try to pull yourself out of your grief.  That will only work temporarily at best.  God can do it for you!

I hope some of these tips can help!!  Please let me know what helps you.  Remember, there is no magic formula.  It’s not a cookie cutter recipe.  Hopefully, in time, as you (we) process grief and go through the stages, healing of the fractured parts creates something more beautiful for us than before.  As believers, God gives us beauty for ashes and a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness.   That’s my prayer for you today!  Please pray for me too!

Amen.

Sincerely,
Michelle

Breaking the Yoke of Addiction

On Saturday, some Faith Based Volunteer Champions (a term used for those who are trying to help churches and other places of worship connect and share resources for the community and for those who struggle with addiction to opiates) got together to host another Breaking the Yoke of Addiction event.

This event was very informative and full of hope!  There were many who came together to share what faith can do for a person struggling with addiction.  Delaware is still climbing the ladder of overdose deaths with it looking like we are going to be close to number 3 (?) in the country (numbers are coming out soon).

What in the world is happening here in this little state?

We really need to get a handle on this.  Well, for one thing, opiate prescriptions are still an issue.  Opiates are not being carefully prescribed and the lack of connection between brain and addiction is not studied enough.  You think doctors would have a handle on this by now.

And second, drugs pour into this state illegally and it seems like we need more support on the law enforcement side.

So how to we fight it then?

To help those who use substances, we have to understand some things.  (And we need the law on our side too).

How addiction affects the brain:

Addiction affects the brain in several ways.  The reward/pleasure part of the brain is affected to the point that the person will choose the drug over food, safety, relationships and so forth.

brain on drugs

We know drugs can also lead to a life of crime because the decision making part of the brain is impaired.  Consequences may be getting more severe but the brain can only think of getting the next fix.  It’s no wonder behavior modification doesn’t work completely.  Lecturing doesn’t work.  Even cutting someone out of your life doesn’t always work.  And jail doesn’t always work either (although the person needs consequences if they also broke the law, maybe that will be their “bottom” finally).

It’s imperative that family, pastors, congregations, police, doctors and the like learn about the brain connection, what works and doesn’t work, in order to get the person to “choose” help.

We now know enabling doesn’t work.  We know that if we keep doing that, the person will keep taking advantage of that.  Why?  Because the brain demands the chemical fix over everything else.

We’ve got to get smarter than the addiction.  We also have to realize that there is not only a brain component, an emotional component, a mental component but also a spiritual component. 

About 5 women came from Adult and Teen Challenge to give their testimonies.  They just gave a brief glimpse of what their lives were like before God and what their lives are now after a relationship with God (a real “pursuing God” relationship).   It’s not enough to just want God to help, it’s got to be an ongoing relationship where God is at the center of it all.

Having the police at this event was also a blessing.  They are learning from us.  They want to learn.  They want to see how they can handle things differently.  They know that they can’t arrest every single problem out there – they know there is more to this that arresting those with addiction issues.  If they have the right tools, I am confident they will use them.

Spiritual Solution to the Problem

Nevertheless, the fact that it’s a spiritual problem also means there is a spiritual answer.  The one who truly can help, who came to set the captives free, is Jesus!  This is what He loves to do!  But how do you get the addict to even be interested in Jesus?  Some are running from God.  Some are very angry with God for something that happened to them.  The best way is through prayer! Pray for them!

Furthermore, it’s not enough to try to get a person into detox, although detox is very important.  If a person goes, be ready when they are out with something lined up for the next step. Christian rehabs would be a good next step so that they can learn more about God and grow in a relationship with Him.  I am not against secular rehabs, but those will not necessarily talk about God.  They might talk about a “higher power”.

But here are things you can do, to help someone if you are a friend, family member, church member, pastor, and so forth:

  1. Try to keep some line of communication open with the person who is addicted (I know this can be hard for close family members).
  2. Learning about different strategies, like interventions, different types of rehabs is critical (so that when the time is right, you can act quickly).
  3. Get familiar with this website Help is here!
  4. Learn about the phases of addiction:  1st phase is a LOVE/LOVE relationship phase with the drug, 2nd is a LOVE/HATE relationship phase, 3rd is a HATE/HATE relationship phase.   I am sure the person can also fluctuate back and forth between these.  It seems they always dream of getting back to the LOVE/LOVE phase, but it’s impossible because of the effects it’s had on the body and brain.  But learning about each phase will hopefully help you in how you handle the person better, not to enable in the LOVE/LOVE phase, so that they get to the last phase quicker and maybe they will be more open to help.
  5. Learn how to ask questions when talking with someone who struggles, get to more of the root cause of why the person feels the need to use.  Is it not being able to cope with life?  Was it a surgery that went bad and they needed pain medicine all the time?  Was it some sort of trauma that they never got help for?  Are there rejection issues?  Try to ask in a non-judgmental way and come from a place of concern, but not a place of anger (I know it’s hard to not be angry but if they sense you really do care and want to help, you may be able to get somewhere quicker).
  6. Have coffee (if it’s safe) with the person and build relationship.  Don’t try to fix the person right then.  Wait for opportunity to share something that could help.
  7. Have lots of good information on hand to give to the person (maybe not all at once).  Depending on the phase they are in (see #3 above), they may just trash the information.  That’s common.  Don’t give up even though they’ve not followed through.
  8. Have a support system for yourself to help you persevere.
  9. Learn about Narcan Nasal Spray and have some on hand.  It’s a simple drug that can be used to reverse the effects of the opiate overdose.  This can be helpful in giving the person another chance at getting into treatment (especially if they are finally in the HATE/HATE relationship stage).
  10. Pray!  Pray over every single detail!  Pray knowing that God wants to help more than you want to help! This must also be done on a consistent basis.  Get people to pray continually for salvation, healing and deliverance.  Ask people to also pray for you so you don’t give up. You can’t skip this step (at all!).

I know it seems like a difficult task.  But with God, all things are possible!!  Don’t give up.  The person addicted can not break the cycle themselves.  They need the help of God to break this cycle.  To host something at your church or to get involved, contact me. For prayer points and specific things to pray, let me know, and I will refer you to strategic prayers for this.

breaking the yoke
Breaking the Yoke of Addiction, free community event at Dale United Methodist Church, 11/16/19

Let’s together, pray for the yoke of addiction to be broken over this state!

God bless,

Michelle