But A Vapor

memories

Look at the walls in your home. Photographs of family. Plates a grandmother collected. Awards for achievements in a career. Colors of curtains, couches and rugs all coordinating. Some of the hand me downs aged with time and wear. Closets filled with boxes of keepsakes. Shelves filled with scrapbooks and photo albums.  Those are just things, memories of lifetime that will be passed on, sold at a yard sale or thrown into the trash. Why do we hang on to things? I believe it is because the person who owned it, touched it. They held it. They kept it to remind them of something.

We touch it, we hold it and smell it because it reminds us that they were here. That they were real. And we are not ready to let go of that thing that connects us to the living, breathing person that our hearts are longing to see one more time. Grief is a funny thing. it comes fast and hard at first. And then subsides long enough to catch a breath. When you are least expecting it comes on like the wave that looks small in the distance and then crashes down with a force that knocks you off your feet. Sending you tumbling head over heal while you are grasping to find the ground underneath you. It’s never what you imagine. And it never leaves you but it does quiet itself over time.

I have been feeling as if I have gotten old overnight. A little alone and lonely because of isolation, living out here away from the city, family, and friends. A bit melancholy but not depressed. Some of it is from all the news of death recently. Several celebrities taking their own life, a very close friend losing two loved ones within a week apart and then hearing two more soldiers, suffering from PTSD, taking their own lives this past week. I spent the day in bed a few days ago not feeling well and missing my dad, my sister, and my mother all at the same time. Wanting to talk to them but not able to. My mother was the most recent to pass. She left this world on New Year’s Eve. I began the new year with a loss. I did not know that this year would be filled with it.

All this loss makes me reflect on my own life. Makes me turn inward. It brings up memories I forgot were there in the corners of my mind. At moments it takes my breath away. It has haunted my dreams waking me up suddenly with my heart beating fast. Some of it is grief, the other part is the awareness that our lives are so very short. There seems to be an urgency to get the things done I have had a on list for years. I had a ninety-year-old woman tell me the other day that she was ready to join her husband who had passed twenty years before. I told her she shouldn’t say that maybe the Lord still had something for her left to do. She said I have done everything there is to do. And she asked me how old I was. “55, soon to be 56.” Feeling somewhat young at that moment in comparison. She said, “We have different vantage points you and I, I have been there and done that. And there is nothing else I want to do or need to do.”

I think she was saying she was lonely and she had no purpose. She was living day in and day out doing nothing. Her family was living their lives without her. She had been a strong independent woman, self-sufficient and a real hard worker. This tiny woman was mowing her lawn just months ago. She told me of some of the things that she had done back in the day. She replumbed and rewired her house by herself and at one time in her life, she could lift 100 lb tanks.  In the short time, I have known her she is not one for sitting still. She could still do all that in her mind but her body will not let her. And she is ready to go.

I left her house thinking, is that what the end of your life looks like? Waiting to die? Waiting for God to take you? I remember talking to my grandmother before she passed. She was not an easy woman. She was a proud woman and never let you see the vulnerable side of her. She was judgemental and very manipulative. She would spend her last days of her life being paranoid about those around her. Even on the day she passed, I spoke to her on the phone and she begged me to call the police to come and get her out of the hospital. She did not trust the doctors or the nurses. I was in a different city and I could not get home to her. She died with no loved ones around her.

My mother passed somewhat in peace. I was five miles from the hospital when she took her last breath. Everyone told me she heard my voice on the phone, telling her I was on my way. But in the Lord’s sovereignty, I did not make it. I missed her final breath.

All of this death should have me sad and depressed. It should have me in despair. I could ask all the questions most people ask God, even the ones that know Him when people leave us. What is the point to all of this?  Why did you create us to die? Why do you allow all the pain and suffering in our life? Why do you take innocent babies? Why do you allow cancer to eat up our bodies and anxiety to wreak havoc on our minds? Why do some people think that the only way is out to take their life?

Why?

I know depression is real. I know it is an illness. I know, because it runs in my family. It took the form of self-medicating, alcohol abuse, rage and dysfunction. It showed its face in PTSD, trauma and physical abuse. It was passed on like a photograph in a frame. I tried myself to say, “No more, it stops with me.” And for the most part some of it did. But not all. It crept in through others who came into my life and left its mark. I am not a victim. I am no longer in bondage to the things the enemy used to take us captive in our family. Because I found something better than a pill. I have a relationship with Jehovah Rapha. The Healer.

I know something about God that I did not know when I was younger. When I first came to know Him I was so unsure of who He was. I questioned so much about Him. His motives, His will, and His love. I read His word to find out how He thought, how He works in our lives. I studied his concepts & principals so that I could apply them to my life. I sought His mercy, His care, and His heart. Looking back I found something I would never have found if I had not been looking.

I found a God who wanted fellowship. Could it be that He was lonely? Could it be that God wanted to be loved? His word says we are made in His image. We desire to be loved and cared for. Our hearts desire relationship. We look for it our whole lives. Even when we think we found it we look for more. Our hearts seem to be a bottomless pit of want. And the irony is, in our creation, God put that desire in us. It was meant to cause us to look for Him. Because He is the only one that can fill it.

When He comes in, He fills it with His presence. It is then we become whole. We become loved. We become cared for. We become, slowly like Him. My thoughts become His thoughts and so I do not feel hopeless. And as my heart beats as His for my fellow man I should want to serve them, help them, and love them too. My soul is one with Him so  I am never alone or lonely. My strength is His strength working in me, through me and for me. I have nothing to fear, nothing to despair from and everything to look forward to.

The whys of life and death disappear in the light of His filling. You see He never wanted to control me like a puppet on a string. He never wanted me to be a mindless robot doing His bidding. He did not want our relationship to be based on terror. It was not about how good I was or am. It is not about punishing me for bad that I have done. It is and always has been about relationship.  And that is the purpose. For us to go out and create relationship with others and by doing so we show them who God really is. What love is, what purpose is and it gives us the hope of eternity with our loved ones.

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I have carried seven children but have only given birth to four. My life profoundly changed with each one I lost. Sadness, sorrow, regret, and failure. Loss, mourning and forever wondering what would have been. While I have never gotten to see the faces of three of them, it was not until I beheld the face of my first little boy of how fragile and blessed life really is. Following the lines of his tiny face, hearing the cry of his little voice and feeling his little fingers curling around my one. Realizing now that God gave me a glimpse into His relationship with His children through the birth of one child and the loss of another.

Relationship. A mother and a child.

Love. I did not know him but I loved him because he came from my body. He was a miracle.

Purpose. At that moment I could not fathom what was ahead only that I would care for him, raise him and give him all that I had until the day that I die.

When he became a man I did not stop being his mother. I did not stop loving what came from my womb,  what God created within me. And just like God whose children walk away from Him for a while, I wait to hear from my son. To speak with him. To love on him. To have relationship with him. And when we do my heart is full! It is in the moments that I do not hear from him my mind can wonder if he still cares for me if he still needs me or will we ever be together again?

And so God waits to hear from us. To speak with us. To come back to Him. Our God did not create us to die. He did not cause us to suffer. Life is but a vapor and it is gone before it even begins because a man and woman in a garden wanted more than they had. They wanted to be independent of a God who would love and care for them. A God who would protect them by giving them all they would ever need. Yet they did not believe he was enough. They would choose their own way over a relationship with their creator. In doing so death & suffering came upon mankind as a consequence of their choice.

Death is not the end though. We will all live somewhere forever. Heaven or hell. But God in His love and mercy gave us a way back to Him. Back to a relationship with Him. And He let it be still our choice. Choosing Christ as our Savior takes us to Heaven, gives us a purpose beyond ourselves and can heal the despair and heartaches that come with living life.

He does not want us to do this alone!!! We are to stay connected, assembling ourselves with other believers. This is one way He protects us. Others looking out for us, comforting us, praying with us, loving on us and showing us Jesus in the flesh. When we draw away to be alone we are vulnerable to the enemy.  It is the enemy that will lie to us and lead us to destruction. Even unto death.

Depression, PTSD, and grief can be healed by Jesus. I have been a witness to and a recipient of healing so many times. We have to choose to want to be healed by applying God’s word, walking in faith and letting Him fill our hearts and minds with new thoughts and ways. Believing Him & trusting Him to walk with us through the darkest moments in our lives. Even in the dark days of loss and grief.

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I miss them all but I do not despair. I am sad but not depressed. I may still grieve their loss at times but it is only a reminder to me the day I take my last breath on earth  I will take my first one in heaven. We will all be reunited! And God does say He will wipe away all the tears. In the meantime, my purpose is to bring as many people with me to heaven as possible. Afterall, it is the only thing we can take with us.

 

Breathing, In and Out

Today’s verse on the Thomas Kinkade flip calendar is 2 Corinthians 13:11  “The God of love and peace shall be with you.”  That is a GRRRRRRREAT reminder after posting on Monday, my prayers to God, about the anxiety I have been experiencing.

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It is the kind of anxiety that you feel in the pit of your stomach and in your throat.  It leaves you taking deep breaths and your heart is racing a mile a minute.  I believe it is what happens right before a panic attack.  Some have described cold sweats, dry heaving and unbelievable dizziness.  Thank God I am not there. Yet.

I am really not sure how much I should reveal as to the reason for these current physiological occurences other than if the weekend could be over today I would be in much relief. You ever hear the saying “One man’s pain is another man’s pleasure?”  Well that could somewhat apply here.

I have experienced these very, very uncomfortable feelings several times in my life and ironically one of those times indirectly relates to this time.  It was a nightmare then. But if I am being honest I did not completely face the thing that brought on the ‘anxiety & dread’ the first time.  I sort of let someone else handle it. So I believe I have no choice but to face it square on this time.

There are some huge differences between the two events.  Back then I did not have the faith in God that I have today.  I20150128_121050 was naive and lost. Today I know a whole heap of stuff, thanks to hind sight and experience. And thanks to Jesus Christ, I am found.  The other difference is back then life as I knew it was being ripped out of my hands and I was losing everything, or so I thought. Today God has given back to me what was taken from me and I have gained everything. Including a love for Him that I would probably not have otherwise.

I am not talking about material things.  I am talking about love, honor and commitment. Those things that are contained in wedding vows.  Back then it was a little girls dream of happily ever after dying before my eyes.  Today it is about true love never fails.  To face the fear and insecurity in my heart from long, long ago again is so overwhelming. I am trying to understand why after all I have learned about my Heavenly Father the feelings have come back.

It’s the age-old question why would God keep bringing something or someone back into your life that is hard to deal with?

In my reading today I realized that even in Paul’s day Christians had to be continually reminded that the Spirit of God lives in you when you accept Christ. It is that Spirit which helps you to intimately know God, the Father and the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is that Spirit who gives comfort, strength and daily wisdom. Through the Holy Spirit and God’s amazing grace we are able to cope with those things that are beyond our capabilities. Also through grace God reveals those things in you that need to be purged. Impurities such as unbelief, sinful thoughts and selfish desires.

Those things in my heart which were from long ago have remained because I chose not to fully deal with them and put them in their proper place.  I did not put them up to the light of truth. I left them alone because they were sort of comforting to me. I chose to forgive but I did not choose to work through the fear and insecurity from loss. I chose to hang on to it because it justified my superiority over those who hurt me.  So now every once in a while I can take it out and use it to excuse my ‘anxiety.’ “Oh, Lord how weak I am.”

God has been using messages throughout the weeks and months to bring me to this new level of understanding.  David and Goliath. Jesus asleep in the ship during a huge storm.  Jonah and the whale.  Joseph, what his brothers meant for evil, God meant for good. God speaking to Moses in the burning bush. Just in listing these messages brings every past lesson I learned to my mind.

  • God is bigger than my anxiety
  • Trust Jesus no matter the circumstances around you
  • You can not outrun God
  • Every difficulty that comes into you life God will use it to glorify Himself and to conform you to the image of Jesus Christ
  • No matter how many excuses you have for God as to why you can’t He has one big one why you can, His power lives in you

Each one of the above lessons were learned by reading, studying and applying them in my life from the day I began my relationship with Jesus.  The journey to learn them was up and down, sometimes all over the place.  At times painful and other times extremely gratifying. But each one always came with a promise from God.  One He has always been faithful to keep.  One that He wrote deeply on my heart.

  • Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
  • “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
  • “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. Psalm 139:7-10
  • “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30
  • “He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

With all these promises in mind and in my heart, as I draw closer to the moment of inevitability I see what it could be through Christ.  I envision Him doing something spectacular, as He has done before.  I smile at the thought that many will witness the miraculous.  All will marvel at His handiwork, how He brings all the broken pieces together to form something new and usable.

Then again this might be something He does privately within my heart.  Through me.  Beyond me. The results will still be the same. Miraculous, I marveling at His handiwork and He forming something new and usable out of the broken pieces left inside me.

And so it could be the anxiety is merely a warning sign to beware the obstacles ahead. Keep your eyes on the road Christ has set before you. Follow His directions, obey the commandments He has given you.  Do not turn left nor right. Keep going forward walking in His steps. Focus on the destination He has given you. Trust in all you can not see yet. Know He has gone before and already cleared the path.

So heading into the unknown of tomorrow I am starting to feel the peace, the steady beat of my heart, the ease of breathing, in and out without thinking about it.

“Ahhhh, there it is ‘love and peace with me!”

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The Greatest Gift a Father Leaves a Child

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6

Putting into words the sum of a man’s life seems more daunting when you do not really know a man.  God is the only one who truly knows the man’s heart.  I do believe that a man who has faith, who lives and walks in faith, gives us glimpses into his heart.  Without spending time with him you can not know the details of his daily routine but it is in the conversations you can know the spirit of his heart.

My dad is a big man.  Stubborn and always offered his opinions whether you wanted them or not.  In my younger years I was often intimidated by him.  As a little girl looking up at him I was looking up at a giant.  And it never really mattered how tall I grew to be he was always taller and still a giant in my eyes.  As children we seek our parents approval and in our relationship it was no different.  I was as stubborn as he was in my teenage years and I am ashamed to admit I did not respect his authority very much in those days. I quickly found when my kids became teenagers that they too thought they were as smart as I thought I was talking back to my dad.  But he loved me in spite of those years, as he did all of his children.

Over the years bits and pieces of his life and heart would be revealed through difficult relationships he had.  It was not until I found my faith in Christ that I stopped to consider what he gave me as a father.  When I came face to face with God during a devastating time in my life I often went to God the way I went to my father.  Intimidated and craving relationship.  I began to talk with God and my father in a way that was more open and honest.  Asking real questions instead of hi, how are you  and whatcha’ doing? And he began to talk to me.

It was awkward at first but after time it became the very thing I often craved as a young girl.  Moments with dad.  Real conversations. Some were deep, some were hard and some were sweet.  As in all families each of his children had ups and downs that closed down communication altogether for a short time.  During those times it was the issues in our lives or his life that turned us inward, the way difficult times can sometimes do.  When dealing or coping with circumstances beyond our control our world shrinks. I depended on my faith but I am not so sure what my dad depended on during those times.

As in all relationships we go away from each other and we come back.  We pick up where we left off.  We forgive and move forward to a new level of relationship.  The one area that my father and I never connected was in the area of faith.  He had no peace. I had found it with Christ.  He was sometimes respectful of my beliefs but he did not like hearing the truths of what I had learned.  At first I tried to win him over with words but eventually I knew it would be God, himself who would crack the hardness of my father’s heart.  So I began to pray.  And pray. And pray. And walk by example.

Many years went by.  Many relationships in his life crumbled and made his heart harder for it.  He was searching out something to make him whole.  To give him peace.  To know love.  Even though he had not found any of it he never gave up. Then God finally broke through.  By God’s divine providence he brought several people into his life and took a daughter home to heaven.  First he brought,Marilyn.  He was a romantic and it was the first time in my life I saw him show it openly.  Secondly he brought, Michael. A man of faith.  A friend who could  meet him where he was in his life, who accepted him and most importantly showed  him the love of Christ.  The third thing was my sister’s death.  For the first time in his life he questioned eternity.  He began to ask questions and seek God.

When Marilyn called me and told me he had accepted the Lord and wanted to be baptized my heart just leapt with a joy. I had prayed for 20 years for my father to find peace and forgiveness.  To find the hope of heaven in Jesus Christ.  It says in God’s Word that He will give you the desires of your heart if you will commit your heart to Him.  He surely fulfilled that promise to me and to my father.  In the song by Bebo Norman called ‘I Know Now’ he says…

I could lay my burdens down
And I never knew
Redemption could be found
But I know now

And that is what my father told me.  He found rest from his burdens, his worries and his past mistakes.  And then he would say I want that for my boys.  For my grandchildren.  I want them to know what I know.  There is no perfect parent except God the Father.  He is our Daddy.  I have been told that we often view God the way we view our earthly father.  I know it is true.  For in the beginning of my relationship with God it was tentative at best.  I was seeking approval by checking my God box.  As I got to know the Lord I began to understand His unconditional love for me.  No matter how I messed up He always forgave me and His Word told me consistently that He loves me with an everlasting love.

Now the most wonderful gift that God has given to me, my brothers, our children and our children’s children is the example of a man who lived the best he knew how to live.  Found a relationship with God the father and peace for his soul. He Learned to forgive and not only learned to love unconditionally but to say it at the end of every conversation.  As in the beginning of our father/child relationship his children sought for our father’s love and approval.  And at the end we received it.  What better gift could a father leave his children?

Our father ended well.

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Larry Dale Leach

October 8,1942 – July 3, 2013

Online Obituary

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 2 Thessalonians 2:16