The Carousel Never Stops

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I received a phone call from my older brother Friday morning informing me that my mother had been taken to the hospital by ambulance the night before. My dad had just called him to say she could not catch her breath. Neighbors had come over in the middle of the night and ended up calling 911 to get them the help she needed. Upon hearing the craziness of the night they had endured, I realized that the carousel never stops.

Just when you think things are settling down and life is calm, you are thrown by a phone call, email, or surprise visit. You find that there really is no way to control the speed and direction of life’s circumstances. As much as you may want to slow down and get off, the carousel keeps turning and your horse of choice keeps bobbing up and down with you aboard.

How do you handle the sudden change of direction that those days take? Is there a way to keep from being thrown off as the spinning seems to accelerate and you experience more than your fair share of stress and responsibility?

Being prepared ahead of time for those occasions along your path is important. No matter how hard you try, there will be instances when you just wish the spinning would stop and you could get off the ride for a while. Since that is not a possibility, equipping yourself for the journey is vital.

One thing you can do for your health in coping with unexpected things is to realize from where your strength comes. I know that I am unable to do everything by myself. I have a network of friends and family who offer encouragement and help when I need it.

Knowing that you have a safety net in place, you can feel more comfortable trying new things and stretching the bounds of your abilities. On those days when the carousel never stops, look back and see that your foundation is still in place and a little spinning is not going to destroy you. While you may be shaken a bit, you can survive, pick yourself up, brush off, and continue forward on you journey.

While this network of support is important, the key to coping with life is knowing the One who gives life. “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121: 1, 2 (NIV) God wants to be your help – so let Him! Although life surprises us, it never surprises God. Take encouragement in that fact. God has your back. While you are riding the carousel that never stops, God has a harness upon you, holding you safely through the spinning and the dizziness that can follow. When you feel your grip loosen on Him, know that He will never let go of you.

Until next time –

Karen

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Grief Letters By Karen Bransgrove, Published by WestBow Press. You can order here.

Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869674

Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869667

E-Book | 114 pages | ISBN 9781490869650

Also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

A Dark Place

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Have you ever been stuck in the dark? Imagine a place so black that it is impossible to see your hand in front of your face. When the boys were young, we took them to explore an old mining shaft. The elevator we entered was small. As we descended, we could feel the dampness creep in around us. It became a dark place as we approached our destination in the cavern below. Gratefully, upon disembarking from our elevator car, we encountered the lights strewn about inside the tunnels, illuminating the path we were to follow. That kind of darkness is one without visual light.

There is another type of darkness as well. This kind dampens our spirits, steals our joy, and allows fear of the unknown to invade our daily lives. Meet the darkness that accompanies grief.

The darkness of death and loss comes in many forms. One is through the numerous questions and uncertainties which bombard our daily lives. What will tomorrow hold? How will we manage without them by our side? Who can I turn to for help? Will the bills get paid? As the questions race through our thoughts, the darkness moves in, squeezing out the light of certainty.

Fortunately, we do not have to dwell within this darkness. We can make the choice to believe there are brighter days coming. While we may not be as certain of things as we had been in the past, there is a way of seeing light while passing through a dark place.

Having faith can make a difference in how the world looks to you. Faith is seeing light with your heart when all your eyes see is darkness. It is knowing that even though the future seems obscured and unsure, you can move forward into it, trusting while moving through your days. Be careful in what and whom you place your trust though. Putting that faith in yourself or others will land you on less than solid ground. While people may have the best of intentions, remember that no one is infallible. Mistakes will happen, feelings will get hurt, and you will find yourself faltering in your journey.

Securing your faith in God is the sure way of having your path clarified and your questions answered. Perhaps these things won’t happen immediately, but speaking from experience, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I know because I can see it now. That is why I chose a picture of light for this posting. We all see enough darkness walking through grief. I prefer gazing at and enjoying the light!

The beginning of a grief journey is a dark place. It does not have to stay that way though. Be aware that even when you have traveled forward a while, the darkness can seep back in, taking us by surprise and beating down the faith to which we have been clinging. Fight back! Do not allow the darkness to set up house again. Dig down deep and find your faith that will bring forth light.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope [faith] in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11 (New International Version)

Until next time –

Karen

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Do you want more information on fighting the darkness of grief? Grief Letters can help!

http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Author/Default.aspx?BookworksSId=SKU-000980156

Long Line of Love

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Yesterday I was asked to play piano for a funeral. As I sat in the front of the chapel, facing outward, I had the unusual perspective of watching the faces of the family who were saying good-bye to their loved one. Having walked that road four years ago, I felt deep pain and sorrow for them as they tried to be strong. Once we have walked a difficult journey, God allows us empathy to better understand how others may feel in similar situations.

I was intrigued by one of the grown sons who sat beside his mother. As the video slide show of family pictures played, I watched as he would glance at the screen for a moment, then force himself to look away, swallowing hard and fighting for composure. It was not until he later stood up to share his thoughts about his father that I understood. He confessed that he would have to watch the video another time, as he feared he would be unable to “hold it together” and share if he allowed himself to view it then.

In his speech, he mentioned how loving and giving his father had been. He told of a song that conveyed his feelings of gratefulness for the family to which he belonged. Paul Overstreet wrote and sang Long Line of Love that told the story of a young couple committing to each other in marriage. Amid the doubts and stresses of keeping their vows, they knew they could handle whatever came their way because the husband was from a family who loved each another. The number of years his grandparents and parents were married and still loved each other was a testimony to what true love was and gave them the courage to do the same themselves.

After coming home and listening to that song I smiled. I too come from a long line of love. My parents have been married 62 years. I was married 26 years before having to realize life as a widow. However, there is another long line of love that is even greater.

Jesus Christ has shown his love for all mankind by dying a painful and lonely death on a cross two thousand years ago. Since He loves me and gave so much for me, I know that I can handle whatever comes my way because I never have to walk alone. Even though Alan is no longer here by my side, my God is.

Do you know this kind of love? God wants to carry you in love through everything you face.

The special thing about a line is that it is just a point that walks forward. So if you feel you have not been left a heritage of love, you can be the beginning point! Today can be the start of something special, good and lasting.

My desire is to hand down a long line of love to my children and someday my grandchildren. Even though I do not have Alan here to love now, I can love others – family and friends – knowing that what I choose to pass on will make a difference. Here is to your long line of love as well. Be it long or short, may it grow, lengthen and bless you on your journey.

Until next time –

Karen

Dig in Your Heels

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I remember times throughout my life when I  faced things kicking and screaming. There were occasions I did not want to practice for my piano lessons. Doing chores growing up in a large family was often dreaded and deemed quite a drag. Being responsible for my younger siblings while my parents were out seemed unfair and like punishment – especially when no financial compensation was given me. Growing up I was inclined to dig in my heels and resist some of life’s events. However, now I see them as opportunities I was blessed to have experienced.

Not everyone is given the opportunity to take music lessons. However, having to practicing and learn piano and voice has opened up doors for me to enjoy music and participate in some exceptional performing groups. While cleaning bathrooms, doing dishes and sweeping floors is hardly glamorous, those chores did prepare me for running my own household as an adult. Watching my brothers and sister gave me a love and knowledge of children that exists even today in my career and ministry. My mother would be the first one to tell you how stubborn I was as a child. I would dig in my heels and insist on doing life the hard way at times as I grew.

Now as an adult, I realize that stubbornness has served me well in some ways. While I can still be slow in seeing what God has for me in life, it has provided me the fortitude and God-given strength to survive some difficult days. The key though, is to rely upon His direction in those hard times and being willing to stop digging in when lead to do so.

Walking through grief can cause us to wallow in sorrow and dig in our heels, refusing to embrace our new realities. Crying tears and allowing time to grieve is not only acceptable, but can be healthy. However, there will come a point in your journey when you need to stop digging in your heels wishing for things past. You need to move forward with the new life God has provided. If you fight too long and hard, you will surely miss the good opportunities He has for you.

God desires to give you good things. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) God wants to bless you. The journey you are on now may not feel like a blessing. Trusting God with your sadness and hardship is vital though. He sees the whole picture of life while we easily get tunnel vision in our own little worlds.

When you find yourself ready to dig in your heels and resist what life is throwing at you, make a conscious effort to embrace it instead. Ask God what He has for you in the days ahead. There has been a picture recently on social media of Jesus standing before a young child holding a giant bear behind his back. The child is shaking her head refusing to let go of the tiny, worn bear she is holding in her hands, insisting she loves it and cannot live without it. In order to receive what Jesus desires to give, we must be willing to let go of our present situation in life.

If you must dig in your heels, do so with the determination to not give up on God. With Him, there is always hope for joy in your today as well as in your tomorrows.

Until next time –

Karen

Surprise in Growth

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This week I have enjoyed the sights and sounds of New York City with my family. While we were out and about playing yesterday, unbeknownst to us, something was happening back in Austin and Audra’s apartment. We were unaware of the changes that were happening until we walked in late that afternoon. The sun had already gone down and the apartment was completely dark. Little did we know that we would soon be witness to a little surprise in growth that had occurred inside the apartment during our absence.

I was the last one in the door of the apartment. The other three had entered and were commenting, “What happened?” “Why is that so big?” “Where did that come from?” I hurried in, not knowing what they were talking about, my curiosity piqued.

The air mattress on which I am sleeping on this week in the living room had been deflated that morning, folded and pushed aside to make room. However, while we had been out, it apparently had partially re-inflated and was pushing up against the coffee table and invading the living room space. Quite the surprise!

The source of the unexpected occurrence was found in that I had left the air mattress plugged in. Apparently it has a built-in, automatic adjustment valve. As a person sleeps on the mattress, it quietly pushes more air in to stay firm. I had failed to remove the blankets before folding it up, therefore, with that added weight left on, it assumed someone was still sleeping and it had a job to do. By staying plugged into the electric source, the valve was able to do what it was made to do.

We are like that as well. Our job is to grow and glorify God in living our life the best we know how to honor Him. That task is thwarted and failure occurs when we cease to stay plugged into our power source – God Himself. If we stop and unplug from Him, then we cannot accomplish that task successfully.

Life can surprise us. Things happen that we do not expect and feel we are not equipped to handle. Experiencing the loss of loved ones, especially around holiday times, can be shocking and difficult. These times can knock us off track in living well and doing what we were created to do.

How are you going about the surprises of life? Are you seeking to stay powered up by your own doing? If so, eventually you will cease to be enough to accomplish what you were created to do – honor and glorify God. Make the choice to plug into the never-ending power of God and see what you can accomplish! Have fun discovering the surprise in growth that will occur as you read, pray and seek God.

Until next time –

Karen