By DiAne Gates, Crosswalk.com
“I love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore, I shall call upon Him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:1-2 NAS)
The Holidays can be a difficult and poignant time as the seasons of life change due to loss of loved ones, children and grandchildren being unable to make it home for the holidays, lack of money to buy gifts, or harvesting seeds we’ve planted the past year.
I understand and have wasted too many holidays wallpapering my mind with the if-only moments. Mother always quoted, when any of us began that bottomless trek through the quagmire of if-only with one of her favorite retorts. “If wishes were fishes, we’d all have a fry.”
But we don’t need stale, unhelpful, sayings. We need help. Real and lasting help from the Helper of our souls.
Deal with dismal thoughts.
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life…Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established.” (Proverbs 4:23, Proverbs 25-26 NAS).
Satan can’t read your mind. God prevented him from having that access, but our mouths give the enemy of our souls enough information to launch a full-on, upscale, frontal attack with his fiery darts of if only moments.
Those in my GriefShare groups are warned about these attacks…we call them ambushes. Think with me for a moment, if you’re walking down the street and someone leaps from behind the bushes and threatens you—you’ll scream. Your mind goes to full-tilt-fright and you either run, scream, faint, lash out, or all of the above.
But what if I warned you, before you began your stroll — “There’s a guy hiding behind the bush and he’s going to jump out and scare you.”
Thanks to the warning, you’ll be on guard, watching, planning to counter his threats or perhaps choosing to take another route. His ambush won’t overpower you—you’ll be armed and ready with an alternative plan.
Looking to the future and all God has planned for you, holidays are an emotional time. A time that yanks our heartstrings with memories, and thoughts of if-only’s…especially when we’re alone. I’m warning you about this ambush now, so you can be ready, on guard, unafraid, and making a plan.
Write a thankful list.
“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; as for me, I shall be glad in the Lord” (Psalm 104:33-34 NAS).
The psalmist tells us to “…come into His presence with singing…” and to “be thankful unto Him and bless His holy name.” It’s impossible to sing to the Lord, to be thankful to Him for who He is and what He’s done without beginning to develop a thought or two that lifts your spirit. But a written list is better.
My journey toward a positively joy-filled spirit began with a list. Shortly after our daughter died, I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Voskamp challenges her readers to purchase a lined pad, title the first page Thankful List, and begin recording 1,000 things you’re thankful for. I remember the first thing I recorded on my list as we drove up the coastline to Hilton Head through the inland brackish marshes, was the scent that took me back to my childhood. I rolled down the windows and felt my senses filled with the aroma of the marshes, while my heart filled with praise to my Father in Heaven.
Today I still add to my thankful list—answered prayers and pleasures—things that lift my spirit and help me realize I’m not alone. How much more He does for me each day. He will never leave me. And all those who attend our GriefShare groups experience this amazing thankfulness list even as they travel through their valley of grief.
Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Negative Space
Practice the presence of God.
“Thou hast taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book?” (Psalm 56:8 NAS).
The Christian Classic, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, still available at your local bookstore, reveals this 16th-century monk’s simple journey to practicing the presence of God. Brother Lawrence knew he needed the inner presence of God to endure the physically tiring tasks of cooking and cleaning; having taken a vow of silence, but purposing to sing a song of praise in his heart. I personally find it impossible to stay in a depressed state when I sing—even just humming “Jesus Loves Me.” I also find it impossible to remain in a “poor me” state when I cry out to God about whatever state I’m in, because I’m His child. He hears my cries, but doesn’t wave a magic wand…He gives me Himself. And if I allow Him, He fills me to overflowing with awe and wonder.
He promises to do the same for you—if you ask.
Thank goodness I’m not a sworn-to-silence monk. When I’m alone with God, I can sing, shout, and speak out loud to Him. It’s impossible to remain in the depths of loneliness when the presence of His Spirit fills me to overflowing. I love having the Lord all to myself. Makes my spirit soar!
Scripture tells me He loves me so much, He even cares about the smallest detail of my life. He is even touched by my tears—and yours too.
Choose to travel new roads.
I’m a creature of habit; how about you? We live in Texas and it’s a “fer piece” to anywhere. We also live in the country, so it’s miles to the grocery store, the mall, or church. And I usually travel the same road—every time—to each place.
Habits like these are normal, but you don’t have to keep doing, going, being the same person, with the same likes and dislikes, for the rest of your life. You can make the choice to travel a different road. Meet and make new friends. Decide to pursue interests that have long gone dormant in your soul. Life continually changes, and we love the excitement and possibility of soaring with God’s changes and opportunities.
A number of years ago the holidays found me in a muddled mess. After our daughter died, I wanted to sleep from November 15th through January 5th. Until a precious sister in Christ was bold enough to speak truth to me. “DiAne, you don’t have to keep going down the same road,” she said. “Choose another method of celebrating the holidays. Put the treasured ornaments that bring you such pain in storage for your Michelle’s children. Buy a new tree, new ornaments, and begin living in the light of your new normal.” I followed her wise counsel. Stored the ornaments, sold the tree, and completely remodeled my holiday habits. Was it hard? Yes, but I did it, and you can too. Even though alone for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, I’m looking forward to my plan. You can make and look forward to your plan, too.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Clay Banks
Realize that alone today doesn’t need to mean alone tomorrow.
“Blessed be the God of our Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NAS).
Times of being alone can proffer great change in our lives, if we allow God to move us forward. A few years ago, there were many singles in our GriefShare group. A dad and two grown children who’d just lost his wife, and their mother. Plus, another gentleman who’d lost his wife of many years. The Lord put in my heart to have them all out for Thanksgiving—with all the trimmings. They were thrilled, and I was excited.
That year was a very special Thanksgiving where lasting friendships were formed. And all it took was me choosing to agree with God, and then obey Him. We all experienced the relief of the joy of the Lord, and we were strengthened.
If the Lord lays on your heart to look around and see who could use a friend, some lovely conversation, and a home-cooked meal, please don’t ignore Him. You’ll be missing the blessing of your life by ignoring those God means for you to serve.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/FotoDuets
Plow your field and plant new seeds.
Dr. Paul David Tripp, Pastor, author, and counselor says, “If you find you’re not liking the harvest of your life at this moment, maybe you’ve planted the wrong kind of seeds this past year.” Maybe you’ve withdrawn, pulled the blinds shut, and refused to return phone calls. If so, there’s no time like the present to plough up those walls of isolation.
He suggests calling those friends you’ve shunned and telling them you’ve made a mistake, you need them in your life, and fertilizing those dormant seeds with love. Or maybe, you need to plant new seeds. Ask God to show you what and where He wants to use you to help others. Remember, God never wastes anything—even our loneliness.
As I began to harvest some of those lonely seeds that flourished after our daughter’s death, God spoke that He wasn’t finished with me yet. He opened doors of opportunity and I learned to write. He opened doors of friendship and help that led to the publishing of two books, then three more written with new friends He provided. God has fields-a-plenty that need plowing and seeding and harvesting…some with your name on them. The old year will soon retire and 2019 will rush in. As God told Israel…He has plans to give them “…a hope and a future.” And He has those same plans for you. Plowing time is here, and planting time is near!
Let’s make that “Thankful List,” learn to practice the presence of our Lord Jesus, and look for new roads and new fields to plow – knowing God will provide the harvest when we’re faithful to plant.
Wife, mother, and Mimi, freelance artist and photographer, DiAne Gates writes for children, young adults, and non-fiction for adults through her blogs, http://dianegates.wordpress.com/ and www.floridagirlturnedtexan.wordpress.com. She also facilitates a GriefShare support group. DiAne’s award winning, ROPED, first in her western adventure series released July of 2015, and the second book, TWISTED, released by Pelican Book Group July 14, 2017. Third book in this series, UNTIED, is her WIP. You can find DiAne on Facebook.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/lovelyday12