Recent Stories

  • A Valley Girl: Yolanda Stith's Story

        I was born and raised in Southern California in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of greater Los Angeles.  It was there that the term “Valley Girl” became popular.  It held special significance to me, not only because I came [more]

  • Roller Coasters – Emily's Story

    Brent and I had been married for 16 years. We had been through quite a bit. In the midst of many physical illnesses, we had two wonderful children who really have been a blessing. We were ministry minded and when we were turned down to move overseas to work with some [more]

  • Where is God in My Suffering? – Kit's Story

    My name is Kit Danley and I am the president here at Neighborhood Ministries. I come from affluent America. I come from a background off the lake, say in Milwaukee, both parents and grandparents were prominent Milwaukeeans. And as my parents tried to do adult [more]

Dealing with the Grief of Death

‘Good grief!’ How often have we heard that phrase? Have you ever pondered what it actually means? What is so good about grief? I have asked myself that question and came to some startling conclusions. Dealing with the grief of death is painful. It takes time, energy and hope. When your world seems to have come to an end, and everything has stopped, how do you move on? Is there good in that? You betcha!

Each person deals with grief differently. It’s the actual ‘dealing’ with grief that is key. You are not dealing with grief if you stay in denial; you are merely sweeping your pain under the rug. If you don’t move past the anger stage of grief, you risk becoming bitter. Bargaining with God is part of the process because you come to realize that you are not totally in control of your circumstances and that you are helpless. It causes vulnerability and softness between you and God. The goal here is to grow in your intimacy with the Father. When you come to the realization that ‘God is good no matter what’, you are much more prepared for dealing with the grief of death.

I have been around people who have NOT dealt with their grief in a good way. And, yes, they live in a fantasy world, they are angry and bitter people, they can’t seem to get past the past! At every opportunity, they bring up their hurt as if it was still happening to them. The ‘victim mentality’ takes over and they are stuck in self pity. They turn their anger toward God and blame him for their pain and loss. I really do not enjoy being around those types of people! My heart goes out to them in their loss and suffering; how I wish I could help them! But they aren’t ready or willing just yet. By their not dealing with the grief of death, their actions cause people who love them to stay away. They will not experience the peace and healing that comes from ‘good grief’.

In the Midst: Joy and Trust

I’m choosing to be where I am.  These emotions and the toll they are taking are entirely my choice.  There is a path that God is taking me down.  He has lessons to teach me down that road.  Currently, I’m employing the “kicking-and-screaming” method of travel.  How much better would it be to willingly and joyfully join him?  Again, I am the petulant child who thinks she knows best.  The four-year-old in a snit because she didn’t get her way and can’t see that staying up late tonight & eating candy will make her tomorrow miserable.

I know what I need to do...surrender.  It’s what I always need to do. Because I’m a control freak.  And have been since…well...ever.  But this time is different.  This time I had surrendered everything.  Thrown my arms open wide and said “I can’t do anything, take it all.  I trust you.”

And He took away someone that I loved.  And seemed to break a trust and a promise along the way.

I get that death happens.  I get there are reasons for it, and eventually could deal with the grief of not having him around anymore. But instead you throw in betrayal and trust issues.  I don’t want to surrender to You again.  Do I just have to sit back and take what’s coming? I don’t want to just resign myself to a life where I’m just getting buffeted by the waves.  Going about life with a blank expression and no response, surprise, or choice in the world around me.  Isn’t there supposed to be joy out there somewhere?  I thought that was one of the promises of the Christian life…joy & peace.  Where is the hope for that in surrender?  I feel like I will always get outvoted in life; that I’ve never have good things happen.  My training tells me that those “always” and “never” statements are lies.

I hate the despair that seems to settle in over me.  I just want a glimmer of hope.  This burden is too heavy for me.  And yet, I carry it because I’m not sure You can do a better job.  It’s not terribly rational, I know.  You say I can trust You, but I can I really?

I just want to keep avoiding these questions.  Just keep going about my life & pretend that everything is fine.  Pretend I’ve got it all together.

I know the missing pieces are joy & hope.  I feel like a kid stuck in detention watching the rest of the kids playing at recess.  I want that joy…that abandon.

The barriers that I’ve put up are nearly tangible.  I hide behind them hoping to escape the pain.  And instead I cause myself more pain.

Can I trust a God who says He loves me?  That He has a plan to prosper and not harm?  Who allows, or even causes, bad things to happen…with the promise that no matter what it is that happens, that it will become something good?

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” - Jeremiah 29:11-14

Coping with Abuse

What is abuse, really? Many of us wonder if we have been abused, and perhaps we have been. But what exactly constitutes abuse? Is it the slapping around, the name calling or being controlled by another? Coping with abuse starts with the admission that the purpose of abuse is to control, exert power, demean and avoid responsibility. In the abuser’s mind, the end justifies the means. And so it begins. There are many different kinds of abuse. There is emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, economic abuse and mental abuse. People coping with abuse do so in many different ways. In my family where there were five children, we each dealt with our pain in very different ways. Our mother was the abuser. 

The oldest child, Philip, tried to be perfect in every way. He was the favorite and we all knew it. He became extremely arrogant and controlled his own children. His way of coping with abuse was to keep trying harder; although he didn’t recognize that he had been abused until he was in his 40s. Initially, he was trying to work through the issues at hand, but then decided it was just easier to give in to the manipulations of mother.

Child number two was adventurous, strong-willed and hyper-active. A real challenge for any parent, but for my controlling mother, especially so. Mary would not conform! She would push and test the limits all the time. When she grew up, she turned to drugs, alcohol and relationships with men who abused her.

Scott, the third child was brilliant; probably the smartest of all of the kids. He and Mary were very close and gave up trying to please our mother. At any early age, he turned to drugs and alcohol. I asked him why he drank so much and he told me it was so that he could sleep at night. Lots and lots of pain there. People who are coping with abuse often turn to illegal substances to deaden their pain and help them to forget…but it is so short-lived.

I was number four. I was compliant and easy, but I did have a mind of my own and occasionally would balk. I was easily controlled, succumbed to guilt tactics and yet never gave up trying to please. My way of coping with the abuse was by suppressing the painful memories. I turned to the Lord as a junior in high school, decided that I needed to focus on being like Jesus so as not to become my mother and can thankfully report that my kids told me I am not her! Thank God!

Flo, the youngest, was strong-willed, bright and yet struggled in school. She had an inborn love for animals and looked to them for love and acceptance. Her way of coping with abuse was to talk to her dogs. She felt accepted by them and it didn’t matter what she did, they would still love her. Pretty smart way to cope with abuse.

In the Midst: Unbelief

I know that I can not do this life alone.  I just don’t know if I can trust God with it.  I know I should.  I just don’t know if I can right now.  It’s like I just want to hold on to a snit because it gives me the excuse to act the way I want to act.  Never mind that it’s miserable and not actually fulfilling, but apparently I’ve not learned that lesson yet.

Father, forgive my unbelief, my lack of trust.  I can’t promise to stop sinning because I am afraid.  I am afraid to let go.  I am afraid you will hurt me again.  I am afraid that you don’t love me and are not the God I thought you were and instead you take a perverse pleasure in hurting us.  I am afraid to believe big.  There are times when you answer no when there are thousands of people praying…what is the point of one of my tiny prayers?  How could I ever be important enough that you’d listen to me, when there are giants of prayer and faith that aren’t answered?  How do they stand up and go again?  I am wallowed down in the disappointment and the questions.  I can ask “what if?”s til the cows come home, but there are just some answers that I won’t know this side of heaven.   The times that I think if only I knew the answer to that one question, I could deal with it.  But maybe the point isn’t to get to a place where I can deal with it.  Maybe the point is to accept that it’s a mystery.

Can I just hit that big major “Oooooh! I get it!” point and be back on the right road again?  I do always look for that easy road.  I’m not a huge fan of these hard ones.

I’m tired of being whiney and weak and disjointed.  I want a life put together and at peace.  I know I’m straining hard, but I know I’m straining the wrong place.  You say “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).  Well, I’m weary and I’m heavy laden and I’m here.  I’m petulant and wary, but I’m here.

Can I still get the rest?

LORD, I wait for you;  you will answer, Lord my God.

Psalm 38:15(NIV)

In the Midst: The “I Want”s

Some days I get a nasty case of the “I want”s.  Some more mundane, I want to control my spending, I want to get to the gym more, I want to help out my friends, I want to have a greater brain capacity to be able to get everything done.  Some more serious, I want a better relationship with God, I want answers, I want direction, I want to be able to trust.  I want to pray for something big and get a yes every now and then.  I want to understand God’s timing.  I want to see God’s will.  I want to stop feeling betrayed and ignored by the God who is supposed to love me.

Everything that I know tells me that I can do nothing to earn God’s love.  That it is already there; undeserved, but given freely.  The gift of the cross.  But everything I see and feel says God is cruel and hurts us mercilessly.  But even as I write that, my soul screams “NOT TRUE!”

There is a small part of me looking across the turmoil inside, seeing the last two years of pain and knowing that the story is not over, the fight is not yet done.  Seeing hope and expecting to see God’s face at the end, and at the end seeing His hand through everything.  A part that knows that I am a pot that got off kilter on the wheel and needed to be completely re-formed.  Which requires you to be scooped up, squished together and thrown back down in a big mess to be formed anew as something whole, beautiful, and with a purpose.

But right now…it is a very small part.

But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.

Psalm 33:18 (NIV)

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