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Monday, March 12, 2012

What helps in times like these?

I've been asked recently, "What did you do to get through when times were rough and the outlook seemed bleak? How can I help my friend who is in a similar situation to yours?"

My answer isn't full of short answers that are quick and easy. It's a daily choice and lifestyle that helped our family get through the last 12 years. Here are a few of the things that I did or that encouraged me during this time.

1) Our church family has played a major role with us in encouraging and supporting us. They have prayed for us, brought us meals, helped financially when needed and encouraged us.

2) I have chosen to listen to Christian radio. There are many songs that speak to the soul and help renew your mind and feel God's heart through the music. There are many songs based on scripture, and I could look some of those scriptures up in the bible (based on keywords) and learn some of the contexts the songs are based from.

3) It's also amazing how many scriptures from my Bible quizzing memorization, that just pop into my head when I am working and going about my day. I really listen to my thoughts and the context of the scriptures and how they relate - or what God may be telling me through them.

4) I listen for the ways God is leading my thoughts and listening to His direction. I would say doing this is probably the BEST thing she could do during this time. There were days where I didn't feel like doing anything and reading the Bible was too overwhelming. I remember being invited to a bible study that was a "read through the Bible in 90 days" right after my Megan went to Heaven. I was so overwhelmed by the huge daily reading schedule that it paralyzed any attempts at all. This was short lived. But,I kept looking for something that would help me move forward in this area.

5) I read some Christian-based books that are written about other believers' struggles, even if they weren't the same struggles I had. Some of the points in those books still had the ability to speak to me. I once read a book about a person's journey through weight loss surgery and received nuggets to ponder for myself even though I have never really had major struggles with my weight. Reading about different types of struggles will also help your friend to see the struggles that others face and not be so self-consumed by her own.

6) I read blogs where other people were facing similar struggles to mine. I read about where my "blog friends" were in their journeys and how they discussed and/or passed hurdles I was experiencing.

7) I read Rick Warren's "Bible Study Methods" book. Each chapter discusses a different way to study the Bible. "12 ways to unlock God's word." I tried out some of the new ways and see how each one fits with my personal preferences. (Some people have huge opinions about this author nowadays. But, this book is excellent in finding a personal style of studying for yourself.)

8) I was always looking for God anywhere I was. If I was shopping, vacationing, reading, or watching TV. God could speak to me through anything. Small quotes, meaningful discussions between characters on TV, artwork, seeing the beauty in God's creation, things other people chose to share with me.

9) A friend gave me "The One Year book of HOPE" by Nancy Guthrie. This author experienced infant loss twice. But, her book is written in weekly subjects that I could read all at once or once in a while and pick and choose which order to read the chapters in. (I haven't read all of it yet, but I can read read a nugget whenever I feel like I can.)

10) Our family created as many meaningful memories and pictures, and anything else associated with our daughter as we could in the time we had left. Nothing is more important than that. We believed that God would provide wonderful moments for us to treasure for the years to come.

11) We discussed and prepared our daughter for the end of her life and preparation for her future in whatever means we were able. We did this by talking to our daughter, playing songs for her, enjoying our time with her, and pointing our eyes toward Jesus together. This was not an easy task, but your God gives us the strength to do what we must if we asks God for it.

12) I knew who the people in my life are that I could talk to (that will just listen and not try to fix) and let out my frustrations, fears, joys, etc. Sometimes it helps to just hear yourself talk out your feelings, emotions, etc. to bring them to the surface.

People going through tough times such as this should know that they are going to go through some REALLY HARD and DARK times. Yes, admitting that is important to get through it. Every few months I see myself revisiting issues that I thought I had already lived and resolved. Everything feeling has a life cycle of its own. This is also true for the struggles of care that people may have before the end of their child's life. Anything can cause feelings to change at any moment. We as believers know that faith is not based on feelings but on keeping our eyes on the prize no matter how you are feeling. God is the Great Physician and Great Comforter to mend our broken hearts.

In a nutshell, I would say that anyone struggling with these issues in life should surround themselves with anything that God uses to speak to them, whatever that is. Also, to keep their minds and hearts open to hearing God's voice at all times. Also, I believe that these are the keys to be in constant communion with God and being in prayer incessantly. God wants to know our struggles and frustrations when we feel them. It is ok to let Him know how we is feeling, even if it means telling Him that it feels to us like He doesn't care or isn't seeing what is going on with us.