My friends, the year 2017 is closing out and with it we come to an end of Tuesday and Friday postings on this blog. For 2018, I will post here on Wednesdays. This blog’s content will continue to be spiritual in nature with a few announcements thrown in. I am reactivating my other blog site at meridianwoman.blogspot.com to post on occasion, which will be more sporadic, less formal, and more conversational. I feel I communicate best when I am informally talking about what is important to me.
Those on the front lines get hurt.
Years ago I was reading “The Happiest People on Earth” when the author, Demos Shakarian, a dairyman who started Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship, shared a story about an evangelist who fleeced the flock on the final night of evangelistic meetings. The organizers wouldn’t touch the money and let the evangelist take it all since it was not done God’s way. After it was over, the author was discussing with another man what had happened. This other man acknowledged the wrong-doing but then said something surprising. He said that sometimes “those on the front lines get hurt,” and something to the effect that God would meet out justice. I’d already experienced some pain that comes with leading, and I could identify with the statement.
I could say, in 2017 I felt some of the pain that comes with leading, and also some of the distress that comes with stepping aside from a ministry you love and believe in. I would not wish to repeat 2017, ever. It was double hard on two fronts: church and caregiving. Both are important and dear to me. I’ve had to let go of ministries that mattered to me. This made me feel like I was losing a precious child, especially a ministry I began and shaped. That’s a hard thing to say goodbye to, but sometimes you do and for reasons you won’t state publicly.
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Before I left my profession as a teacher, I felt God calling me to step it up and use my gifts and talents for the Lord through writing and speaking. I intentionally talked to people I respected who had made life-altering decisions. I asked them how they knew the choice was of God. One was my brother-in-law. He and my sister left Panama to come to the States to offer a home for his mother and to start a Spanish-speaking church. It was hard on them because they loved the Panamanian people with whom they had ministered. From what he told me, I knew it hurt to leave their ministry behind. They did what God called them to do, but it’s not all been cushy, and they’ve had some disappointments too.
When we give and give and give in a ministry but without much support or validation, we can begin to feel used up and unappreciated. As we get older, it becomes more noticeable. This year I had to work through feelings of discouragement. I wondered if anyone had been impacted by what I had given over decades of service. That particular feeling is empty, void, and can be bitter. I had to fight it. I was also wounded, which was where these emotions stemmed from and bled.
Despite the desire to self-absorb, repair, and run for the hills (go to another church), God impressed me that I was to remain, and I was to “love them.” The ability to love people who have caused you and others distress and pain is not natural or easy. I can’t claim to know how, for I don’t. But God does. He already loves them. For months I was in tears. I have learned to ask God to show me what he wants me to do or say, and then he does but usually in different ways than I expect. God is teaching me to honor and serve him in all things.
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Another struggle was the lack of completion of my writing projects. Constant interruptions and lack of self discipline was frustrating me. Was it worth it? Again, I wasn’t sure if my voice was worth all the long hours of writing, editing, writing, week after week. I wrote a letter to my family, asking them to become a prayer support team for me, because I felt so alone and unsupported, and if they would allow me to post my testimony on my blog. That was a big step for me. Their response was appreciated.
For all this, I looked to Jesus and cried out. He enfolded me in his love and gave me other friends to lean on; these dear ones heard my heart and loved me anyway.
Prayer has become my ministry. God has asked me to pray a specific amount first thing every morning. I thought I couldn’t possibly stay awake to pray that long, but he keeps me awake. This is intercessory prayer, so we’ll see what God is going to do in 2018. He acts on our prayers, so I’m expecting specific people to come to the Lord because I’m asking God to reach down into their hearts. He does that kind of thing. I’m asking for healing, emotional and physical, for others. I full well expect God to honor those prayers too. I love praying, interceding, and then embracing whatever God sees fit to give.
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Caregiving is a precious time with one’s family, but it is also draining on the emotions. I’ve had to learn how to cope with this strain. My sister became my go-to person. She listened and listened, talked and talked, helped and helped. We’ve drawn closer than we’ve ever been. She and I celebrate the victories that come with caregiving for your folks. We’ve had to surrender some of our own wants and desires, but that’s what love does. Love gives. You learn a lot about your own self while assuming a caregiving role.
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The best thing for me this year was the multiplicity of hours I’ve spent in one-on-one conversations with a few special women (seven, to be exact). I juggled my meetings with them so I could still have time to write and caregive. Over the course of this year, every week has held long hours of conversation. They’ve all been rich and good. I’ve grown to love each one of these women very much. They’ve become close to my heart (and part of my heart). When they hurt, I hurt. They bless me. They teach me. And they love me, and I love them. It is so wonderful to be loved and to hear one of them say “you get me,” because I do or “I love you,” which is true of how I feel about them as well.
If you’re one of those wounded folks, struggling with life as it is for you. let me encourage you to stay the course. We all have it to do. Life is a strange journey, and we all tire of its hardships. But that is when we’re looking at our human traits and the things that wear us down. God never stops something without giving you something else. Embrace the future. Put your hand to the plow and keep moving forward! Extend grace to those who caused you pain. Look for someone who needs your help. They’re everywhere.