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.

babyfingers

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.

 

By Him

For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.

Colossians 1:16

heaven and earth

Where are you God in the land you ordained?

We look up, eyes to heaven.

Where are you God in the people you dwell?

We look out, eyes to man.

Where are you God in the dust you formed?

We look down, eyes to earth.

By His creation He says “I am here.”

When will you lift your hand of protection?

We hold on, faith in God, The Father.

When will you come for your Bride?

We hold on, worshiping the Son.

When will you leave the lost to themselves?

We hold on, trusting in the Holy Spirit.

By His Word He says “I am the Great I AM.”

Why do you wait for all to come?

He gives hope, our only way.

Why do you forgive when all have sinned?

He gives mercy, His only way.

Why do you sacrifice one for many?

He gives love, The Only Way.

By His gift He says “I am love.”

by Michelle M. McMillen 
© 2016 all rights reserved

 

Craziness That Is Out There

What does it say about a person when they’ve enjoyed sunshine most of their life, only to be comforted when it rains? These days it is the rain that almost makes me feel safe from the world.  It is a barrier between me and the craziness that is out there. Everything has changed from when I was a child. Not only my views of life, people and eternity but the world around me is almost unrecognizable. What was up is now down, what was in is now out and what is evil is called good and what is good is called evil.

world 2Most people’s views change as they grow up and move into different phases of life and as they go through different experiences. What I believed as a young adult quickly changed as I began to see the world beyond myself.  What I understood was very, very little in comparison to what I understand now.  Yes, I know, hindsight is 20/20 but that is not what I am alluding to. You have heard the statement, “If I knew then what I know now,” well, what is the point of that statement, really? How would that even be possible unless you had a time machine. Back then the world revolved around me and I was the smartest person alive. Isn’t every teenager going out into the big, big world? Today the world is revolving all right but not particularly around me and I am definitely not the smartest person alive. I have been literally put in my place on several occasions, by Jesus!

In the first part of 2 Timothy 3, Paul seems to me, to be describing this day and age.  The last part of the chapter Paul is encouraging Timothy to continue in what he has learned from childhood because it is what will keep him focused on Christ and his faith in Him. The Word is what will give him wisdom, strength and endurance for the coming persecution of his faith. It speaks to me, I am sure as it did Timothy as well, for the coming persecution of Christians on a scale like never before.  We are seeing first hand what it means to follow Christ in certain countries around the world. We are reading minute by minute the atrocities committed by those who are the enemies of God.  Be-headings, torture, sex-trafficking, sexual slaves of young girls, mutilation of their genitalia, burning in cages, hangings, on and on it goes. No end to the horror.

And here in America…where do I begin? Those things are happening here. You don’t believe it because you do not see it or hear of it.  Because the media would not have you knowing truth.  Truth is a barbaric thing to them.  It is politically incorrect to speak of such things here in A-M-E-R-I-C-A. I believe they believe we are shielded from the evil that is building in those parts far, far away from us. They believe we are safe as long as we do not speak of it. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. They focus on the inane. And while they go about filling people’s eyes and ears with the most important ideas like sex, global warming and racism we are slowly losing the ability to discern the truth. Absolute truth. Absolute truth is disappearing. And when it is gone we will have lost one of the most important things our country was founded on, Freedom.

Freedom.  What a concept!  The word itself would stir up the most passionate of men and women.  It was fought for, died for and sacrificed for throughout history. Flags have flown for it. The children of Israel fled to the wilderness for it. And the greatest experiment in history, the pilgrims of the Netherlands crossed an ocean for it. The colonies of America fought the monarch of England for it. Countries have banded together to fight wars for it. Men have died for other men so they may be called “free.” But who fights for it now? What does it even mean to us today? Today freedom is about taking it away from one man and giving it to another man and calling it “rights.”

While the world seems to be losing sight of that noble word I have come to know the word very personally.  I did not fight on a battle field nor did I have to travel far for it. I experienced F-R-E-E-D-O-M when I met the savior, Jesus Christ. Freedom from the power of sin.  At first it was a peace and realization that I did not have to carry the weight of my sins any longer. Then as I began to walk with Him I discovered another kind of freedom.  Freedom from the bondage of my sins. Let me explain.

As I learned what it meant ‘to be a sinner’ I understood that I was born into sin. That from the beginning of time, when Adam and Eve fell from fellowship with God because they disobeyed Him in the perfect place on earth. They plunged every human born after into the same sinful state, a state of death. We are basically born dead.  Our spirit is dead to God. He himself placed a spirit in us but He gave us the choice to allow Him to bring it to life. It had to be our choice because He would not force us into a relationship with Himself. That is not His nature. He desires a relationship with us but we have to want it.

Once I realized that I was sinful and dead to God, I was undone. I wanted to live. I wanted God to live in me. I wanted Him to take away my sin. To wash me clean and give me a new beginning.  To set me free.  When I asked for His forgiveness of my sin and for Him to come into my life and lead me, He did!  First He showed me who He was.  By reading the bible and studying His Word I was able to learn about the one who gave me a new life. I spent time reading, praying and worshiping the one who had to power to give life.  The more time I spent with Him, the closer we became. And the closer we became the more I was able to overcome the sin in my life.

Then He did something that caused me great pain.  At first I did not understand the pain. But then I realized that He wanted me to go deeper into our relationship by going deeper into His Word.  He wanted me to trust Him completely; To walk with Him without questioning His leading. I was a babe in Christ, as they say and I did not know how to do that fully because of the consequences of the sin in my life. Those consequences bound me up and kept me from going forward with God. They were stumbling blocks to trusting Him. The were hindrances to growing the fruit of the spirit in my life.  They kept me believing lies about myself and about God.  Because of the consequences there were powerful voices of doubt which became extremely frustrating and exhausting.

So through the tribulations and desperate cries to be free from the bondage, God led me to the truth in His word, and to godly counselors and Pastors.  Those years of wrestling with my flesh and the Holy Spirit led me to the most amazing and joyous times in my faith. He opened doors for me that I would never have imagined to be opened.  He used me in others lives to show them Christ and to find freedom in their lives.  He brought me to a place of freedom the likes I had never known to that point.  All the while preparing me for the most devastating time in my life to come.

Lighthouse in Storm --- Image by © John Lund/Corbis

Lighthouse in Storm — Image by © John Lund/Corbis

When the bottom fell out God took me by the hand and led me the whole time. It was as if I was in a bubble of peace.  The storm was raging and I was losing everything that I thought made me normal. The world as I knew it had done a 180, along with my views and new-found faith and knowledge of God.  When you are confronted with truth in a way that rips the rug out from under you, you either fall or stand solid.  It all just depends on what is holding you up.  I stood at first because God was holding me up.  I wish I could say that I remained standing through it all. But I did not.  The storm grew so powerful that I allowed myself to be taken along with the wind, tossed to and fro.  God basically yanked me back to reality in a very public and painful way. With the help of godly friends and a strong support system through my church I was able to once again stand and even to move forward.

Not without scars to show for it. Hurt and pain I never knew existed. As I said in the beginning our views change over time. If you asked me if I would want to go back and have a do-over I am not so sure I would want that.  While I hate the bad things that have happened in my life due to the actions of others or of my own accord, I love how God has taken those bad things and made something beautiful out of them.  How He has given me a new outlook on life, people and eternity.  My thoughts turn to more meaningful questions such as have I lived a good life? Have I given more than I have taken? Have I made a difference in world?

I don’t even feel qualified to answer those questions.  For what I think I am is often influenced by what I hope I am and therefore to be objective I would have to separate every thought, action and reaction I have ever had.  Then I would have to relate that information to the type of relationships I have now in my life. It is all very scientific. But in the end useless. Because as I said before it comes down to the fact that the world does not revolve around me. So what questions should I be asking?

Maybe something that is more in line with what Jesus would want from me. Have I allowed Christ to live through me? Have I given to others in the name of Christ more than I have taken in the name of Christ? Has Jesus made a difference in the world through me?  In being honest I would have to say No, not always. No, definitely not and finally, only time will tell.  The world is changing so much so fast that it seems time is speeding up.  It makes me think more of heaven and my time left here.  It gives me a sense of urgency.  As if time is running out, not just for me but for everyone.

What does it say about a person when they’ve enjoyed sunshine most of their life, only to be comforted when it rains? I think it says that you can not completely enjoy the sunshine without the rain and it is the rain that brings new life. It is God who sends the rain and He gives me safety in His Word and truth. The actual barrier between me and the craziness that is out there is God’s love, mercy and grace.  Everything has changed from when I was a child or so it seems. It is God who has actually changed me.water sun

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 His ever constant faithfulness to me no matter where I am in my walk or in the world continues to encourage my faith.  For He has certainly changed my views of life, people and eternity through His unchanging love.

My views:

  • Life is precious
  • People need Jesus
  • Eternity is closer than ever

Grace to you,

Shell