How To Ruin a Bad Mood

I’m in a bad mood. 

Just when I thought 2020 couldn’t get worse—the entire west coast became an inferno. My flammable neighborhood is within spitting distance of some of these wildfires. And the smoke is so horrendous that I’ve developed a smoker’s cough.

I’m not alone in this.

Some of my friends had to evacuate their homes. Others fear for the safety of their loved ones who are firefighters. School kids stuck at home, due to the pandemic, are now stuck indoors due to the poor air quality.

People who grumbled about wearing masks in public, now wear masks outdoors so they can breathe. Even restaurant owners can’t get a break. Customers have to dine outside, but who wants to eat in the smokey section?

So yeah, I’m in a bad mood.  

When COVID-19 entered the world and rocked my personal axis, I considered myself a patient soul, but … my patience is treading thin ice.

Living in uncertain times (indefinitely) is difficult even when we try to be patient, grateful, eternal minded.

I’m also tired.

Tired of encouraging others to keep “a stiff upper lip” while I mask my sulky expression.

Tired of people glaring at me over their masks and standing six feet away like I’m a leper. 

I could shake this bad mood if I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or, know for sure there’s an end to this tunnel. And I don’t mean heaven.

Even so, I asked God to use the events of 2020 to teach and change me for the better. I didn’t expect Him to reveal the dross inside of me. There’s nothing pretty about it. And yet, if I want to be more Christlike, I need the Refiner’s fire to purge the worthless rubbish.  

“Take away the dross from the silver, And there comes out a vessel for the smith” (Proverbs 25:4).

I’d rather God purify my heart with a cooler method, but dross removal takes heat.

“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10).

My mentor, Loretta, describes how she endured the furnace of affliction when four of her family members died in a twelve-month span.

“I hated the night. Dark thoughts and death consumed my mind. When morning came, I had no energy or desire to get out of bed. I’d stick my leg out of the covers and say, ‘Father, I can’t. Help me! That’s when I learned that when I can’t, He can. God’s strength is perfected in weakness. God enabled me to get out of bed and get on with my day.” 

Loretta Chalfant

When I consider what Loretta endured (and how people are suffering now) I’m challenged once again to follow her advice,

“I get to choose, like Job, how to respond to my circumstances. I can either bend and let God work in my life and change me. Or I can resist and lose out on His lessons.” 

Time for me to surrender what I can’t control and bend so God’s refining fire can work . . . even in this bad-mood day.

You can read how Loretta learned these faith lessons in my book Lunch with Loretta: Discover the Power of a Mentoring Friendship.

Photo: Karen Foster

Hope in the Midst of Heartache

The value of one’s life is not measured by weeks or years.

I wept when I learned that Eden Hope passed away last week. Born at 24 1/2 weeks gestation, she weighed 1 lb.13 oz. Eden steadily gained weight and lived in NICU until she drew her last breath eleven and a half weeks later.

Such a short life span, but the value of one’s life is not measured by weeks or years. Just ask the people whose lives were touched by Eden Hope’s life. I’m one of them.

I physically ached when I imagined being in her mama’s shoes, especially the last time they were together. Did Mama kiss her daughter’s pale rosebud lips? Did she softly caress her infant’s cool face, committing it to memory? Did she breathe in Eden’s scent before the nurse took her away?

I’ve never met Eden’s parents. A friend of mine asked me to pray for that family. The more I prayed and received updates, the more invested I became as though these strangers were my family. I couldn’t get them out of my mind—my heart.

“Eden going home to Jesus” isn’t what I’d prayed for when I heard she’d been scheduled for surgery last week.

I asked for a safe, successful procedure, protection and healing. I prayed that God’s peace and love would surround Eden so she wouldn’t be frightened as she lay (uncomprehending) on that operating table. I prayed that His Spirit would comfort the family while they waited for the outcome. I prayed God would use this agonizing chapter in their lives to draw them closer to Himself and impact people’s lives.

I also prayed, “Thy will be done.” 

But honestly, I didn’t want God’s will if it didn’t line up with mine. I wanted Eden to defy the odds, grow strong, and go home to play with her two sisters. 

Others prayed too for this precious soul who was wonderfully and fearfully made in the image of God. Imagine a band of prayer warriors who never gathered, but rejoiced each time Eden gained another ounce. We grew hopeful with each passing week. For every two steps forward, there was one step backwards. When her health finally took a turn for the worse, we pled for a miracle.

I can’t speak for others, but I wonder if part of me hoped for a life-giving miracle to counterbalance COVID19 and the debilitating bad blood that’s been flowing through our nation’s veins. I needed some good news. I needed some hope.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12 NIV).

My longing wasn’t fulfilled. God’s will, not mine, prevailed.

This morning, tears came when I thought about Eden and how hard she fought to live. But she no longer needs my prayers. I don’t know what her new glorified body looks like, but I know in heaven there is no pain or sorrow. She is healed. She is whole. 

Eden struggled to breathe on earth, but now I picture her inhaling heaven’s pure air and singing at the top of her lungs, “Jesus loves me this I know!”

Yes, Jesus loves her. The same way He loves Eden’s mommy and daddy, her older sisters, you and me. This is lovenot that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

God’s vast and infinite love reminds me to trust His heart when I can’t comprehend His ways. God’s sovereignty assures me that His eternal purposes for Eden’s life were fulfilled. And in the process, He used that small, delicate infant to reveal His love and grace to a hopeless world.

I consider that a miracle. Don’t you?

And a reason to trust God’s heart—even in this heartache.

Photo by: Jennifer Wrede

Are You Grieving This Season?

I wrote this three years ago. I still think about the families who lost loved ones that year. And this December, I know several more families who are in the midst of grief. I pray these words encourage someone’s heart.

Even In This

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There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.”

Thus sings a young man (in the musical Les Miserables) after his friends have died in battle. And it was these heart-wrenching lyrics from the song Empty Chairs, Empty Tables that echoed in my mind as I drove to the airport a few days before Christmas.

Although I was over-the-moon excited to hug my son who was coming home for the holidays, my heart mourned for two moms who will never hug their sons this side of heaven.

A week earlier, their eighteen-year-old sons were killed in a vehicle accident while driving in our town. I didn’t know the young men. Never met the families. But my heart still aches like an open wound whenever I think of them; pray for them.

Sadly, they’re not alone this Christmas season. I have several friends who celebrated…

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Are You Grieving This Season?

candle photo

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.”

Thus sings a young man (in the musical Les Miserables) after his friends have died in battle. And it was these heart-wrenching lyrics from the song Empty Chairs, Empty Tables that echoed in my mind as I drove to the airport a few days before Christmas.

Although I was over-the-moon excited to hug my son who was coming home for the holidays, my heart mourned for two moms who will never hug their sons this side of heaven.

A week earlier, their eighteen-year-old sons were killed in a vehicle accident while driving in our town. I didn’t know the young men. Never met the families. But my heart still aches like an open wound whenever I think of them; pray for them.

Sadly, they’re not alone this Christmas season. I have several friends who celebrated Christ in the midst of a grief that can’t be spoken…

The death of an elderly father. The loss of an infant grandson. A broken marriage. A pre-school child with cancer. Someone facing a double mastectomy. So many lives touched by a pain that goes on and on.

I try to make sense of it all especially during Christmas when hearts are meant to be merry and bright. A friend told me that tragedies like these remind us to hold our loved ones close, forgive and keep short accounts, and share Jesus. Another woman, whose husband was killed, said, “Instead of asking why this happened, I ask how I can live to honor God despite my circumstances.

Wise words, but I also opened my Bible to Matthew because I thought of those ancient moms who grieved for their sons—martyred babes, slain by the sword when Jesus was born.

For even though a bright star led the Magi to worship the Christ Child, the troubled soul of King Herod resulted in the blood-thirsty slaughter of children.

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’”

When I look at the current mayhem and sorrow in the world, has anything changed since that blessed year when Christ was born?

After all, one of the Magi’s gifts was Myrrh, a bitter perfume, that breathed “gathering gloom, sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

lamentation-of-christ-by-antony-van-dyck-1599-1641However, outward appearances can be deceiving.

Jesus wasn’t born to spare folks from pain and death on earth. He came as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. To prove God’s great love by dying for us while we were still sinners. And His resurrection guarantees us new life when He’ll wipe away every tear and there will be no more death.

“Rachel wept…refused to be comforted.” Maybe you’re mourning too.

Just remember, when we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life in His name, it truly is possible to experience His peace and comfort that defies human logic… 

Even in this grief that can’t be spoken.

 

References: Matthew 2:16-18, John 1:29, Romans 5:8, John 20:31, Rev. 21:4 & lyrics from We Three Kings of Orient Are

 

What are Friends For?

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My friend sniffs, pausing in the middle of her story to get a tissue from her purse.

I wait beside her in the coffee shop.

Mute. Helpless.

Watching huge tears travel down her cheeks like raindrops rolling down a window pane.

She wipes her trail of tears, and I wonder…

Isn’t there a Bible verse about collecting tears in a bottle?

I swallow the knot in my throat. Blink back my own tears.

What can I say to encourage her?

  • Offer to pray with her?
  • Quote a Bible verse?
  • Assure her everything will be alright.

When honestly, I don’t know how things will turn out.

I touch her arm, but hold my tongue. Fearful of being like Job’s friends. Full of platitudes.

Can she feel my empathy? My longing to make things better?

Perhaps it’s enough I’m here to listen.

My friend eventually changes the subject. Mood lightens. Similar to shifting gears on a bicycle after you’ve pedaled on rough terrain and the landscape flattens out.

We hug; agree to pray for one another. Then go our separate ways.

Nothing changed. Nothing solved.

But just the act of sharing—the good, bad, and ugly—lifts our burdens. If only for the moment.

Spirits strengthened. Eyes fixed again on Jesus. We advance into the night….

Trusting a Sovereign God.

Thankful we’re not alone, even if our friends haven’t walked in our shoes or can fully comprehend the pain.

Consider the Virgin Mary who conceived a son and then went in a hurry to visit Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary, she “cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42).

Surely those words were exactly what Mary needed to hear.

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Mary didn’t have to grieve alone.

Years later, when Jesus was dying on a cross, He saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby.

“He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’

Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’

From that hour the disciple took her into his own household (John 19:26, 27).

Mary didn’t have to grieve alone.

Mary Magdalene among others was also there beside her.

Isn’t that what friends are for?

Loving the people God places in our lives.

Especially for such a time as this…..