No Control

I recently had a dental procedure that required me to be put under for the extraction of a tooth and to help endure the pain of a bone graft as well. While lying back in the chair, I recall thinking, “I need to remember this feeling for my blog.” What feeling? The feeling of no control. As I lay there, a blood pressure cuff on one arm and the other pricked with a needle for the drugs that had already begun to flow making me quite woozy, I began to cry. When the nurse asked if I was all right, I replied, “No. I hate this feeling!” Perhaps you’ve experienced this feeling too. I’m talking about that terrible, gut wrenching realization that you have absolutely no control over what is going to happen, no matter what you try.

Having no control while sitting in the oral surgeon’s chair is no fun. But it’s a cakewalk compared to what people may experience while living with grief. The pain of having no control when facing a great loss in the death of a loved one is beyond comparison. So how does one survive such a feeling – such a loss?

Perhaps it might be helpful to know that while you may have no control over your circumstances, someone else does. When I lay there blacking out and feeling helpless with no control last week, I did trust the surgeon to do his job well. In fact, I had signed papers to that effect, placing my signature on all those pages meant to protect the doctor, the office, and assure me they had things under control.

So who has control in the case of your grief? While your friends and family are there and willing to help, they certainly cannot control all your circumstances and instantly make things better. You find yourself helpless to bring back your loved one and return to days gone by. So what can you do to feel better and manage the sadness of the days you now face? Turn to the One who controls everything. God is the creator of all things, thus you can trust Him with control of your days.

You may ask, “If God is in control, why did my loved one have to die?” Good question. It’s one that has crossed my mind in the past as well. However, I have no answer for you and there are some things we just may never know this side of heaven. Even so, God is more than able to comfort you, guide you, and sustain you in your sadness. The world in which we live is a broken one. There is pain, there is anger, there is danger, there is loss, and there are tears.

This is not the way things began. God created a perfect world. But because man chose to disobey God, sin entered the world and thus our downward spiral until Jesus Christ returns for His loved ones. Until then, we really have no choice but to acknowledge that we have no control. Instead, we can choose to trust that God still has our best interest in mind. I am not sure that when my loss was fresh I would have expressed my situation that way. However, looking back over the last 7 years, I can say that I trust what God is doing. I would rather Him have control of my life because I know that I truly have no clue what lies ahead and He does.

So having no control is okay by me; at least when it comes to my day-to-day life, for I trust that God will direct my steps. If you find yourself having no control over your emotions, or your circumstances, do not panic.  Instead try trusting in the God who cares and who is more than able to direct your journey and carry you through your hard days.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

Until next time –

Karen

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.

Finding Good Grief Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/Finding-Good-Grief-289425764887980/

Today I choose to

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What would life be like if we could always choose? Today you choose to get that job you have always wanted, drive a brand new car, sleep all morning, or take a walk in the woods. It sounds like a wonderful thing. To be able to do whatever you want whenever you want is a daydream many people have. But what would life really be like if that came true? Do you have the wisdom to always choose well?

There are plenty of choices we make beginning very early in life. As our kids were growing up, we would teach them to make choices starting as toddlers with the clothes they would wear. Those safe decisions led to bigger ones. What friends to make, whether or not to respect the house rules, being home in time to make curfew, and choosing a spouse. Looking at the ability to choose and make decisions seems a natural progression in life.

What happens though, when you do not get a choice? What about the circumstances that just seem to occur without your permission? You did not choose to break an arm playing sports as a child. Your intention was not to get up, drive to work, and have an accident on the way. When you decided to pick up the phone, you did not intend to hear tragic news that would rock your world. Yet, these things happen. Events come into your life without invitation and dare to change who you are. How dare they!

So how do you handle those moments that alter the direction of your life? How do you manage to recover and continue when everything seems lost and you feel alone? It is in those very moments that you will make critical choices, whether you intend to or not. Realize that you can choose to fight and continue on with life, making the most of every day. Giving up does not need to happen, even when you feel that things are hopeless. Life is never hopeless if you focus on the right things.

So today, even though you face pain and sadness, you say:

Today I choose to pray, for God knows better than I.

Today I choose to give, for that causes me to look outside myself and focus on others.

Today I choose to trust that the God who created the universe is bigger and more capable than I am.

Today I choose to love and treasure people still around me because they deserve attention and I still have much to give.

Today I choose to wait and hope because I believe there is a purpose in my life. I will embrace the promise of scripture. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prospers you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

While you would not have chosen to face the losses you have endured in your life, recognize that those events have shaped you. They have made you who you are today. While life may not be how you pictured it years ago, it is what you have now. There is no turning back the clock. Do-overs are not available. When I realized all this, I decided that I would not waste the death of my husband. I wanted to learn and grow from the experience. While it was not something I chose for my life, it happened. So I had a choice to make. You do too.

As you begin a new day, make the choice. This can be a better day if you will set your heart and mind on the hope and promises available to God’s children.

Until next time –

Karen

Choose to give hope to someone in your life today. Share Grief Letters with those you know walking through loss and sadness. This devotion book is filled with lessons learned from my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief.

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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.

The good life

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Driving in our wonderful Denver traffic this week I saw a tire cover that read Life is Good. Surrounded by hundreds of cars on I-25 at 8:00 a.m. I smiled thinking it was a rather ironic message. Most people would agree that the good life is hard to find and fleeting at best. Especially in rush hour traffic.

Life events can certainly sway how you see things: weddings, raises, new job opportunities, babies, vacations, shopping – all these may cause you to sigh and say, “Yes! This is the good life.” However, just as easily there are occasions that cause you to say quite the opposite.  Anything from job loss, financial ruin, moving, arguments, and death can make you wish for something different and something better.

Because the things you encounter daily can so easily influence how you view life itself, it is beneficial to realize that no matter what life brings you, it never changes the fact that God is always good. True, the things that happen to you while living here on earth are not always fun and certainly do not always bring you happiness. Those of you navigating a loss can certainly attest to that. So how can I adamantly state that God is good?

God’s goal for you is not happiness. That may sound harsh and cruel. However, God has a bigger goal in mind for you. Happiness will always come and go in this life. It is not a constant. Knowing that, God has bigger and better things in store for you. He wants to show you how to be different from the world and how to live with meaning; how to contribute to the world and make a difference in those around you. How to reflect more of Christ and less of yourself each day. How to handle the difficulties of life with His grace and strength.

Holiness is something that those who know God through Christ strive for. It is unattainable this side of Heaven. Yet, it is your effort in following God and living a life to honor Him that will bring you joy, and influence those around you the most. When real life happens – not just “the good life” – people watch to see how you will handle the hard, unexpected, and tragic moments. It is at those very times that people can witness the truth – that life may not be good, but God is always good and sufficient for everything you need.

When you lay your head down tonight and reflect upon your day, perhaps you can rejoice that it was a “Life is Good” type of day. Great! Super! Treasure the moment. Just be ready for the next night when you might lay in bed and have to remind yourself that even though the day had been horrible and full of sadness and hardship, there is hope. It is at those times when you remind yourself that God is good and nothing will shake Him from that status. Rest in that promise. Take confidence in that truth. Then find strength and assurance for the days ahead. You do not have to fear what tomorrow holds, because you can truly know Who holds your tomorrow.

Say the first line of that childhood prayer and rest easy – “God is great, God is good….”

Until next time –

Karen

Let me encourage you to share Grief Letters with those you know walking through loss and sadness. This devotion book is filled with lessons learned from my own journey as well as suggested activities written to help achieve forward progress through grief.

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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.

Super Duper Soup

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Growing up in a large family provided plenty of opportunities for my parents to get creative in placing good, healthy meals on the table each day. As a child, I did not grasp the challenge that they faced once in a while when there was more month left than grocery money. From my point of few we did just fine. There was always plenty on the table. Mom was a good cook and was gifted in stretching food in such a way that no one went hungry. We almost always loved what was put before us on the table.

One meal I remember with a grimace, though, is Super Duper Soup. This was a creation of my dad’s that tended to hold every possible left-over bit of food in the refrigerator. Cabbage was a staple of this dish. Looking back as an adult, I realize we had Super Duper Soup when there was little else left in the house to eat. Fortunately, it was not served often. I hated Super Duper Soup.

While this was an extremely healthy meal, full of vegetables and made to satisfy the appetite, I did not care for cooked cabbage and dreaded the meal every time it was served. I even remember one occasion when I refused to eat it, going to bed hungry since my parents did not believe in making a separate meal for a picky kid.

The lessons learned from Super Duper Soup have transferred into my adult life. The first is very practical – I have not and probably never will fix such a concoction myself. While I make a good stew, soup containing everything but the kitchen sink, is not a meal I plan on fixing and eating myself. I know, I know…never say never.

The second, more important lesson I have learned is that my dad had the best in mind for his children. Even when occasionally challenged to put food on the table, he managed to provide for us. My Heavenly Father does the same thing. His provision in my life is undeniable. I have also received things in my life that I would rather not have experienced. Grief is one of those. However, looking back on the last four years, I realize that God has used this journey to teach me to trust Him more. He desires the very best for me.

Just as Super Duper Soup was unpleasant and something I dreaded, there are lessons that God has for me that I would rather avoid. It is never fun to experience disagreeable situations. Yet, these circumstances can hold the largest potential for gaining wisdom as well as glorifying God if we take advantage of them. We can trust God to have a purpose for every situation in our life and that He will journey with us every step of the way.

As a child, I did not understand the circumstances that brought about the need for Super Duper Soup. In the same way, we may not always understand what God is doing in our life. Our vision is often small and confined to our own little world. However, God is capable of seeing how everything works together to shape our lives and make us into the people He intends.

Next time you experience a Super Duper Soup-like situation, do your best to be open to what God might be showing you. Strive to swallow and digest the lesson, knowing that God always wants the very best for you.

Until next time –

Karen

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Grief Letters” By Karen Bransgrove

Published by WestBow Press

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

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.

Waiting

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Waiting can be such a difficult task. We wait in line to be served next at the store. We wait for the light to change so we can get home to the kids or get to work on time. We wait to hear if we have received the job for which we interviewed. You fill in the next blank. What is it that you are waiting on?

What does waiting require of us? The first thing that comes to mind is patience. At times there is nothing we can do to hurry along that which we anticipate. Life happens on its own schedule and there are times we feel at the mercy of the clock. Nothing can speed along the results that are out of our control. The adverse is true as well – nothing can slow down the outcomes we dread.

Waiting also calls for trust. There are times when all we can do is believe that what is happening is for the best. When it is evident that life events are out of our control, the best thing we can do is have hope and believe that there is still Someone in charge. The little things we have been forced to wait upon all our lives, have been preparing us for the big things that creep up seemingly out of the blue. While we may be caught by surprise, God is not.

I studied 1 Thessalonians 3 today. Verse 4 states, “For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.” (ESV) We kept telling you. Life is going to have hard times, and some of those are moments of waiting. Waiting in lines, waiting for death to happen and waiting for healing. The good news is that we do not have to face those times alone. We can trust and know that God goes before us and is with us in any and every situation.

Tonight I await word that another loved one has passed into Glory. While I struggle with this, I try to imagine – and fail – what her husband is feeling. To try to relate to what he must be going through, I recall that God Himself waited for his son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross. We have and serve a God who knows pain, loss and who has perfected the art of waiting.

So as I struggle in waiting tonight, I find comfort in knowing that God has walked this road before us. He realizes the exact emotions we feel, even when we are unable to define them for ourselves. “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14 ESV)

Until next time –

Karen

 

Building Walls

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There are some times in life that makes us feel more vulnerable than others. We can easily feel as if we are being attacked and beaten up either by circumstances or people some days. The blows we encounter can render us hurt, confused and defensive. We may wonder, “What did I do to deserve this?” Focusing upon our calamities and ourselves can leave us wounded and worn-out as we seek to fortify and protect against the next onslaught. Building walls can be one way we choose to hide away in life.

Harm can come to us in varying forms. Life can hurt whether it is physically or emotionally. Often times we decide to build walls in order to prevent future harm to befall us. While this mentality is absolutely understandable, it may not provide the relief we seek and desire.  For us to thoroughly fortify and give protection requires us to build walls with no windows. Without a means to look out and view life, we risk missing so many good people and wonderful opportunities that come our way.

So can we be assured that we will not be harmed again? Is it possible to trust and move forward without further attacks on our character, our body – our very lives?

I believe the thing that makes trusting and moving forward possible is understanding whom we can trust. People are not meant to be perfect. No matter how much we love someone, they will wind up hurting and disappointing us at some point – either intentionally or unintentionally. Yet, we need those relationships. Avoiding contact with people places us in an isolation that is not healthy. Especially when we are already walking through the experience of loss and grief.

Putting our confidence and dependency on anyone but God will fail. He alone can be trusted to help you tear down your walls in order to move forward and enjoy life again. God wants to provide comfort and healing for the pain you have experienced in the past, while giving you resources and tools to better handle difficulties that are certain to arise in the future.

Since we are in a world that is far from perfect, the people we live and interact with will continue to disappoint and bring us pain from time to time. Events will occur that may bring us harm and sadness. However, by trusting God, building walls will not be necessary and your tendency to do so will lessen. Allow God to tear down your walls today. Let him bring the healing and joy that has been hidden in your life by the fortified boundaries you had set in place.

Until next time –

Karen

 

Release and Drop

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The other day I was preparing a lesson to teach the kids at church. As I was writing the instructions for their activity, I was challenged to evaluate how well I succeed doing the very thing I was asking them to pursue.

On an index card, the children were to write down one item that is important to them. Then they are instructed to release and drop that card, explaining why they should let go of that item and share how hard or easy it would be to do so. Finally, the children are asked to determine something positive and God honoring that they would then put into their lives to fill that gap in order to replace the dropped item.

As the children release their cards, of course they are not actually removing those items from their lives. They will hopefully begin to understand priorities, though. It is far too easy to give certain activities and possessions power over our lives. We are never too young to begin learning that lesson.

Since I believe it is a good practice to do what I ask the kids to do, I contemplated what is in my life that I can release, drop and then replace. As adults, are we prepared to reflect and re-evaluate the items in which we invest? I think it is important to do this. How else can we be assured that our activities and material things are good for us as well as those around us? As we discover what we should remove, we then have an opportunity to fill that open space with something more valuable and meaningful.

So let us make our own lists! Here is part of mine to get the ball rolling. I want to release and drop from my life fear and anxiousness. Since Alan’s death, I have experienced being afraid and worrying about certain things such as being alone, my finances, taking care of the house and the future.

I choose to replace that fear and anxiousness, by remembering what the Bible says about trusting God and not worrying and being afraid. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6,7 NIV)

It is now your turn. Begin your journey to release and drop those harmful and joy-stealing things that have worked their way into your daily life. Then have fun and find freedom in replacing them with better choices. I believe you will find those new choices more beneficial for you and for those around you.

I have confidence that you can do this! Drop away!!!

Until next time –

Karen