Often life is hard, but God is always good

Posts tagged ‘Friendship’

O Solo Mio – Loneliness

 

Loneliness

Photo Credit: Andi Jetaime

It wasn’t so long ago that I craved solitude – just give me an hour alone so that I could hear myself think. My place on the introvert-extrovert scale rests at about dead center, but as a stay at home mom, the constant verbal chatter of my children often pushed me into a desperate need for silence.

God sets the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6

When I was homeschooling my kids, activities like hiking with my binoculars at the ready to watch birds, swimming distance laps in the local pool, or reading engrossing fiction– all gave me that social break.

But now, it’s lonely time.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Psalm 25:16.

Our second child is leaving home for college. The first one has been gone for almost 3 years. The youngest is busy with her senior year in high school and, as is proper, needs me less and less.

It’s time to transition to working outside the home, but I don’t belong to a workplace community yet. And so, the time I spend in the house is often too quiet.

This lonely feeling is an alert to pay attention to my interpersonal connections – to connect more deeply to the Lord who promises to be my truest friend.

A man of many companions may come to ruin but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

And it’s time to reach out in friendship to my husband.

I will adjust.

It’s going to be all right.

 

 

More Grinch Lessons for Our Hearts this Christmas

Dr. Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) wrote How the Grinch Stole Christmas over fifty years ago. When it was first published, he was quoted as saying,

“I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December when I noted a very Grinchish countenance in the mirror. It was Seuss! Something had gone wrong with Christmas, I realized, or more likely with me. So I wrote the story about my sour friend, the Grinch to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.”

This classic children’s story dives deep. Here are some “pearls” I found to enrich your Christmas season:

Grinch Christmas Lesson #1: We are all “grinch-ish”

As the story opens, the Grinch stands at his cave opening, peering down on the Whos as they prepare to celebrate Christmas down in Whoville with extravagant noise, gifts, food, and singing. grinch bluebirds Like the Grinch, our human hearts are naturally tight and small – self-focused, unforgiving or unconcerned. People are just hard to love. In contrast, God our Father is tender-hearted and expresses that through the effort he made to come down to us through the birth of his Son at Christmas.  Let’s take an honest look at our own grinchy hearts as the first step in reaching out to God who has the power to soften and enlarge.

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NKJ

Grinch Christmas Lesson #2: Circumstances don’t need to steal our joy

The Grinch crafts a plan to “stop Christmas from coming” by stealing all the gifts, food, and decorations of the Whos he hates. He sneaks into the town after all the “Whos were asnooze in their beds” and strips the town bare of everything – all the toys, food, and decorations. grinch #3 bluebirds Thankfully, the Grinch made a great mistake in thinking he could kill the spirit of the Whos by taking it all away. How did the Whos react when they woke up on Christmas Day and beheld their plundered homes and wasted town square? They came out and held hands and sang together. Sometimes we, like the Whos, lack possessions or money, or perhaps are suffering emotional loss at Christmas, and we choose to still sing. On the other hand, if we are experiencing abundance and have an overflow for others this year, we have the opportunity to be generous and grateful. Whatever our circumstances, we have the high calling of singing praise to God who loves us and will be close to us – no matter what.

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
 his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another;
 they tell of your mighty acts…They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145 NIV

Grinch Christmas Lesson # 3: God has the power to change the heart

This is the probably the most well known story moment. The Grinch hears the Whos singing after he has robbed them and his heart grows “three sizes that day”. God can tenderize human hearts like no other force. If we think back to the times that we had a true “Grinch heart moment”, it was simultaneously painful and pleasurable; it was not only miraculous, it was evidence of the power of God. He can do it again, if our hearts need it today. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Grinch Christmas Lesson #4: We must connect to others for strength

The Whos clasped hands and sang in their circle on Christmas morning: “It came without packages, boxes, or bags”. We also need to hold someone’s hand – God’s hand first and foremost, but also trusted family members or friends. This time of year our losses sting more sharply; loved ones are not with us this year or maybe our families are not all we hoped they would be.

“By yourself you’re unprotected; with a friend you can face the worst.
 Can you round up a third? 
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” Ecclesiastes 4: 12 (MSG)

Grinch Christmas Lesson #5: God wants to speak to us at Christmastime

The Grinch was right about one thing, all the “NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!” can be intolerable. It can also prevent us from receiving his messages to us. The Grinch retreated to his isolated cave as a way to avoid people, but later he went to the Summit of Mt. Crumpit and there heard the singing.  God was able to touch his heart. grinch #4 bluebirds We need some respite from the busy, pushy crowds, and all the events and goals of Christmastime.  We need a quiet place to hear God.

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,…” Matthew 24: 22, 23 NIV

Grinch Christmas Lesson #6: Even a “lost cause” can be saved

We often “write someone off” as being too messed up to change (or perhaps we discount our own lives as being worthy of saving). We can all think of someone who is “Grinchy”. Old resentments and hurts we have suffered at the hands of others become painful at Christmastime. grinch 2 bluebirds But this time of year is also an opportunity for forgiving, releasing resentment, and giving second chances. Warmth of kindness can draw someone from his cave. In the story, “Cindy Lou Who who was no more than two” exerts a sweet influence on the Grinch that helped stretch his shriveled heart. Sometimes we are like Cindy Lou Who to others, so let’s keep praying and hoping for ourselves and others.

“That brought him (the prodigal son) to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.” Luke 15: 17-20 NIV

Merry Christmas from me…. and the Grinch!

Pain and Joy at Christmas

How_the_Grinch_Stole_Christmas_coverThe Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

I am going to sing this Christmastime, with joy and thanksgiving; kind of like extending Thanksgiving into the month of December, because God loves me and He is close to me no matter what is happening in my life.

Do you remember the story of the Whos down in Whoville from How the Grinch Stole Christmas? Dr. Seuss wrote about how these little creatures held hands around their bare plundered town square and sang together as Christmas Day dawned – and that was after they had woken up to their stripped houses – not even a can of who hash left upon their shelves. The Grinch mistakenly thought he could rob them of their joy and faith by taking away their holiday possessions.

He was so wrong!

How many of us have difficult circumstances facing us? They don’t make it onto social media, and they shouldn’t. It is respectful to keep others’ confidentiality and to save our hearts from too many people knowing our business, but this Christmas season there are financial problems, broken relationships, adult kids off track, and ill health – to name just a few issues.

Like the Whos who sing in their circle, we also need to hold someone’s hand – God’s first and foremost, but also trusted family members or friends. Let’s not forget those whose losses this year will sting – loved ones not here this Christmas and families not all they hoped for and dreamed of.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

I intend to post cute photos of the good stuff on my social media sites– the adorable grandbaby, the sweet daughter-in-law, the pretty teenager daughters, and my husband who is still sticking around, but I want you to know I will need some hand holding too for the things that are not all right.

So let’s sing to God in our hearts, and hold someone’s hand, and enjoy the blessings we do have this Christmas season.

Can I Say “Congratulations”?

ImagePhoto Credit: Kristen W Learn

“Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12: 15 (NIV)

I don’t mean to boast, but I am tender-hearted. My friends know I cry easily when they share their pain with me and I am quick to hug or give a comforting touch when sorrow hits. So I have “mourn with those who mourn” pretty well covered. But that is the second half of the Paul’s command to the Romans; the first part is “rejoice with those who rejoice”.

Harder to do – for me, especially when my friend’s joy comes from a source that I am not sharing – like a big pay raise, a house renovation, a new car, a wonderful trip or vacation.   Remember what it feels like when a friend has a baby and you haven’t gotten pregnant yet, a friend marries when your love life is fraught with difficulty or is non-existent or when facebook photos come through of that smiling couple taking a tour of Italian wineries?

We have different blessings and achievements, not cookie cutter lives following a formula for fame and fortune.

“Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s successes.” Oscar Wilde

This “very fine nature” that Mr. Wilde touts is the goal. My study bible text note declares that “identification with others in their joys and in their sorrows is a Christian’s privilege and responsibility”. We are pushed to get out of our own self-centered thinking and connect to another person’s joy.

Taking this high road loosens up our hearts and actually feels good. Others find more freedom to enjoy their successes and blessings. When I “rejoiced” with a friend not too long ago about a cruise her husband wanted to take her on, it freed her up to look forward to it and not feel guilty for her good fortune.

I want my friends to celebrate with me, too, in true mutual friendship.

And I yearn to trust that my Heavenly Father hasn’t forgotten me when I don’t receive the same blessings as others. He is the one who gives bread, not stones, and fish, not snakes.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  Matthew 7: 9-11 (NIV)

Am I All Alone? Friends as Gifts

Photo Credit: Rodrigo Suarez

Photo Credit: Rodrigo Suarez

“Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.” (Daniel 2:17 NIV)

Daniel of Lion’s Den fame stood head and shoulders above the average person with his strong principles, trust in God, and bravery, but he wasn’t alone.  When faced with a calamity such as threatened execution, he went to his friends.

I was given a best friend as a gift from my loving Heavenly Father when I was a lonely teen.  Doris rode on the same bus to school and lived a five-minute walk from my house which allowed us to a lot of spend time together.  We basically lived at each other’s houses during middle school and high school years.

But the true test of our friendship occurred when we began different life trajectories: Doris to nursing school, marrying young and raising three boys; I to college far away, mission trips, and a later marriage and children.  But we stayed friends.  Doris put up with my foibles, my immaturity, my self-centeredness – By her example and wise words, I was pointed to God as my source and I learned, too, that friendship is precious.

Her friendship stands as a monument to the truth that God’s design is for us to go through life with others. God provides those faithful ones who say, like Jonathan’s armor-bearer, “Do all that you have in mind. I am with you heart and soul.”  (I Samuel 14:7 NIV).  My life is blessed with my husband, Glenn, who walks with me, and with so many others who share in life’s adventures and difficulties.

We are not alone!

Worthy Words:  “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18: 24 NIV

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