“But God!” A Lesson About Moving Forward After Loss

I spoke at the “Bakersfield Gives Thanks” event on November 4th and the Women’s Club of Bakersfield was full of people from different denominations and cultures.  I made new friends that night but it was a blessing to be reunited with old friends too.

In particular, I saw a mom whose children went to junior high and high school with my children.  Nneka and I have seen each other throughout the years at school functions at our son’s tennis events.  But this time when our eyes met, I had no words.  I was overcome with emotion.

You see this was the first time I’ve seen her since her 15 year old son Nedu went home to be with the Lord last summer.  My friend Nikki happened to capture the moment:


Typically when a friend loses a loved one, WE are the ones consoling, hugging, loving them through the grief.

However, that night I experienced and witnessed true healing.  Nneka was consoling me!!

I remember looking at her and reaching out my arms to her.

I had no words.  My ugly cry face in the photo above communicated how sorry I was for her loss of a son gone too soon.

She looked at me square in the eyes and exclaimed, “I know…I know….BUT GOD!”  As tears filled my eyes, she said, “a year ago I would never think I could be here today….BUT GOD!”  Tears could not stop flowing.  With every breath I took, Nneka kept encouraging me, even saying…”it’s going to be okay…BUT GOD!”

As I sit here typing, I’m filled with emotion again.

What I’m learning on my journey of recovery is our trial isn’t going to last forever.  The sting of hurt, in time, doesn’t affect us like it did on day one. Every story has a beginning, middle and an end.  

Think about the end.

The end is what you’ll be telling your children.  The end is what others who are wounded are most interested in.  The end is what brings glory to our Lord.

I heard this quote from William Vanderbloomen, “Will I be healed up? Or damaged goods?”

We cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our response to said circumstances when: 

  • Churches split.
  • Children reject parents.
  • Spouses betray.
  • Friends move away.
  • Life storms challenge our faith.
  • Relatives misunderstand.
  • We have to say goodbye to loved ones.

Some of us, like Joseph in the Old Testament, are victims of hardship and broken hearts.  In the end, Joseph was found “healed up.”

If you are indeed a victim, my advice is to resist the temptation to have a pity party and welcome sympathetic hugs and words of agreement to your situation.  The world welcomes an attitude of entitlement and culture teaches us to seek vengeance.  

Pray to have a response such as my friend Nneka.  Remember this earth is NOT our home and our response to devastating situations is an important testimony to those watching us live out our Christian walk.

Nnekas’ son, Nedu, left this earth at only 15 years old.  No parent should out live their child.  I know there were times when her weeping became unbearable and her heart literally ached…however her words, “But God!” reminded her and should remind us, God is in every circumstance of our lives.

Genesis 8:1
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.

Genesis 50:20
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Matthew 19:26
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

2 Timothy 2:9
for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.

That evening left me encouraged.  I too want to be found like Nneka in the middle of life storms. She is living and moving forward in her new normal only via the grace and promises from our Lord.  

Thank you Nneka for inspiring me, being a Godly example and reminding me of God’s undeniable healing power.

Need prayer? kidmin.kelli@gmail.com 


Advertisements

Confessions of a Mama Who Misses Her Son

 

imageimage

I just returned from dropping off my baby boy at the New Mexico Military Institute. Heavy sigh.

Our family was blessed as the United States Merchant Marine Academy sent Kiani as a sponsored “prep,” to NMMI.  He’ll attend 2 semesters to prepare him for the rigorous military life at a Service Academy.

Kiani is my youngest child and he was sooooo ready to take his education to the next level.  Our family has already experienced sending our oldest off to school. My daughter Ilyssa is a Master’s College graduate, has a full time job and lives at home with us and my middle child, Jordan.  Jordan is entering his junior year as a Music major at Cal State Bakersfield.  I realize I have 2 out of 3 of my children still with me. So why am I sad?  I know I still get to be a “mom” to a daughter and son.  I know, I know, I know!

Not gonna lie…. I miss my son, my heart sill hurts and is swollen with bittersweet sadness as Kiani starts the next chapter in his life.

Anyone who knows me well can say it doesn’t take much to make me happy.  I don’t require a lot of attention, I coach softball, love to watch sports, love ministry, and I consider myself a low-maintenance type of gal.  I also have the privilege of serving the  families of my church, celebrating and supporting them in their good times and in their bad.

So as I begin to navigate the feeling of loss that’s welling up inside of me, I thought it would be easier than this.  Grief is felt when a loved ones dies, but it also manifests itself when there’s separation or major change.  We grieve what “used to be,”  a type of loss.

My heart is swollen as my mind replays the videos of Kiani turning on ESPN, opening and closing our blinds, parking his car, playing basketball and turning off all the lights before going to bed.   In all honesty,  I’m disappointed in myself as thought I’ve had over a year to prepare myself for his departure .  I also disappointed myself in January 2013 when my daddy passed away.  I was blessed to lead him to the Lord in 1993, so I know I’ll see him again and thought with all that knowledge, his passing is something I’d handle well.  But I found myself weeping more than I thought I would and the profound void I felt was horribly overwhelming.  Triggers like white Cadillacs, Costco and NCIS still bring tears to my eyes. I’m surprised by my reaction as I come from a line of very strong women, I’m a child of divorce and my mom and dad were married 4 times…each.  Survival mode comes easy for me as a coping mechanism.

The Sunday before his funeral, I remember waking up and looking at the clock.  It was 8:00 am and I remember saying to myself,  “Oh good, I can catch the 9 a.m. service at the local church in my hometown.”  As I tried to shower and get ready, it was like a wave of grief was simply poured over the top of my head.  Bawling uncontrollably  I said out loud, “I know, I know, I know, I know!”  I was telling the Lord,  “I know he’s in heaven, I know I’ll see him again.  Why am I crying?” The next thing I knew, it was 12 noon and I had a pile of used up Kleenex next to me on the couch.  To this day, I don’t know where those 4 hours went.

I concluded, it didn’t matter how much I prepared for the day when my daddy would die.  It didn’t matter that I was a Kid’s Director and worked at a church.  It didn’t matter I knew for a fact my daddy was in heaven.  It didn’t matter that I’d already buried my mom when I was 28.  It didn’t matter that I’ve consoled many families and counseled them on loss.

My body HAD to grieve.  God’s design is that the loss was to be released somehow…to Him.

So at this stage of being a mom, it doesn’t matter that I’ve known over a year Kiani would go away to college.  I am sad.  I miss him and my body is designed to grieve, whether I act strong or not.  Just like Kiani and all of our children, I remind myself they are DESIGNED TO GROW.  This is what the Lord has planned.   This season will pass and the days will get easier, but for now heading into my new normal without my baby boy can only be done as I surrender it all to my Jesus.  It is only through the comfort of my Savior and the hope he has given us that Heaven is eternal, that enables me to endure.

Here’s how I’m letting the Lord care for my Mama Heart:

There are two things that are helping me currently cope with missing my son.

The first is a wonderful support group created on facebook recently for us moms with sons and daughters prepping at NMMI for the USMMA.  There are many Empty Nest themed blogs and articles on the internet. Here are some examples:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/churchhomeleadership/celebratingemptynest.html?start=2

http://www.modernmom.com/c763efd0-3b35-11e3-be8a-bc764e04a41e.html

Maybe your blessed to be friends with other parents that are experiencing the empty nest syndrome just as you are, connect with them.

The second, but most important is God’s Word.

I love what Exodus 34:29  says, When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.

After spending forty days in the presence of the Lord, God’s word says Moses’ face actually glowed. According to Pastor Jon Courson, “Moses’ face reflected the glory he had experienced on the mountain.”

  • Spend time in the presence of Lord
  • Be still at His feet
  • Take time to pray
  • Worship
  • Spend time in the Word

When we do the above, refresh and re-energize, our gloom is replaced by a glow.

Moses spent time with the Lord and that is a simple example to me and to us all who are dealing with loss, grief, betrayal, sadness etc.  I want to be found a woman whose face glows. I pray that I can light up a room when I enter it and yet not know it, like Moses.

Isaiah 40:31  “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

 

 

 

Why You Should Stay Ahead of Your Kids Regarding Technology.

 image

Yesterday and today was my first time being on a web tv talk/radio show promoting one of my seminars, “Help! I’m a Parent of a Tech Savvy Teen.”  Thanks for having me Bakersfield.com

When talking about this issue, I’m referring to parents of teens and younger children.

From the feedback I’ve received, I’ve seemed to strike a chord not only with the parents who are my age, but the 20 something’s as well! These young men and women are telling me they wish they’ve had some sort of boundaries as they grew up with the world at their fingertips. Crazy!

Here are my reasons why parents should be ahead of their kids on technology:

  • Being educated keeps you in the know of what your kids are into.
  • It gives you insight into the world of your son or daughter.
  • It helps teenagers feel understood if parents have a clue or can relate to current trends they navigate every day.
  • It takes away the fear that can paralyze parents who don’t know how to benefit from technology.

Let’s be clear that I’m not promoting that parents become experts and start writing code. Bottom line, technology is NOT going away. I just pray for parents with high school or college age kids become empowered and that they don’t become that parent that wakes up to a world they no longer know.  I get it.  Technology can make one feel inferior in a heart beat.  But our God is bigger than all of the fears satan sends our way.  Parents DO have the power.  Dedicate 10-15 minutes a day and resolve to learn something new about social media or how to download music…whatever…just take the time and learn their world.

There’s a difference between being “up in all their business” and being aware of what your kids are into.  Helicopter parents…land the aircraft please.    One  benefit I’ve found with all three of my older kids is being educated about technology opens up opportunities for conversation. Your kids can even help you set up your Instagram account and be a filter for you. There are unwritten social rules about posting too many pics within thirty minutes etc.  Believe me, they’ll let ya know when you’re close to a violation.

 

image

Here’s the link to my interview.  How’d I do?

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ER-IKZpRXmo

 

Plan Something For Them Or They’ll Plan Something For You

IMG_0595

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”  2 Timothy 4:2

There are many challenges teachers face for those who teach Sunday School and unfortunately those challenges hinder many from leading in a classroom.  Below are normal tensions that are manageable simply by having a plan.  No child development degree needed.  Sunday school leaders across the nation are navigating their Sunday mornings well.  BE PREPARED!

1.   LESSON PREPARATION

I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22b

Realize teaching is a position of HONOR.

You don’t have to teach these children…you get to these children. Having this mindset is half the battle of fulfilling your commitment.  Ask to decrease as the Lord increases in you. If you’re a new teacher, pray against fear and for the Lord to calm your nerves as you help kids grow closer to you.

What does this look like?

BE PREPARED

This is done by reviewing your lesson on Monday for Sunday. Gather supplies before Saturday and put them in your class or in your car. Review the activity page and make copies for color pages early. Run through the lesson each day at loud or even in front of mirror. Fear takes its grip when the unknown is lurking around the corner.  Defeat that line of thinking and study your lesson. 

ASK QUESTIONS

If you’re concerned with anything..classroom supplies, curriculum or snacks, ask the person in charge about it.  Check to see that the supplies you’re assuming are in the room are really there. Make sure they work. Talk to someone if you have questions or need help setting up the tech you are planning to use.  Knowing these things are taken care of can ease your mind.

ARRIVE EARLY

This gives you time to make preparations that can only be made at the last minute. You can also ensure the room is as you expect it.

REVIEW GUIDELINES AND EXPECTATIONS

Especially if you are new teacher, every time your class meets take a quick minute to establish guidelines and expectations. Setting two or three rules or “traditions” for your classroom will save you from conflict later.

FOCUS ON RELATIONSHIPS

Learn the names of the kids in your class…parents too!  Think about how you feel when some one in authority knows your name? Tell kids about yourself, share appropriate life moments… even find a picture of yourself of the grade you are teaching. They may actually believe you were once a 2nd grader. Model the relaxed friendship you want kids to have with each other.

2.  PERSONAL PREPARATION

“Now it is required that those who have been given trust must prove faithful.” 1 Cor. 4:2

When you look out over a classroom full of “Turbo Tommy’s,” do you ever hear yourself saying. “Why I’m doing this?” Were you excited to volunteer for this ministry, or were you made to feel guilty or thought you’d fill a need?

There are many wonderful reasons to teach kids, but guilt and obligation are not on the list. Guilt may prod you along, but it will never empower.

How can you personally prepare? Take a deep breath and be honest with your answers.  

What does this look like?

TEST YOUR MOTIVE

Ask yourself, “Do I want to teach?”  Kids need and deserve to be taught by someone who enjoys being with them.  There are many personality or gift tests out there.   A good teacher says, “I choose to be here.” But a great teacher says, “I want to be here.”

LISTEN FOR YOUR CALLING

Ask yourself,  “Am I called to teach?”  To thrive in kid’s ministry, or any ministry, you must sense of calling from God.  Fast, pray and ask close friends and mentors to join in prayer with you.

EXAMINE YOUR HEART

Ask yourself, “Do I have a servant attitude?” You know if you’re a servant by your reaction when you are treated like one. Leading requires our time, discipline and commitment.

Teachers don’t teach because they have to, they teach because they can’t help it. If you are called, gifted, and motivated by a desire to serve, God has a group of kids waiting for you He has the perfect place for you to serve.

3. MANAGING THE UNEXPECTED

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  Proverbs 19:21

If there’s one thing you can count on when teaching kids, it’s that you can’t count on things going as planned.  

Has this ever happened to you?

  • Out of town guests…ALL ending up in YOUR class.
  • Snacks for 10 kids NOT 15.
  • Shortage of craft supplies
  • Parent helper is sick – AC isn’t working
  • Pastor goes over an extra 20 minutes.

Sound familiar?  The solution is all about ADAPTABILITY.  And realizing you don’t have to be perfect.

Ways to handle the Unexpected:

  • Knowing you’re lesson is VITAL. We should know it without looking at our notes. This is beneficial when behavior problems arise.
  • Think about why it is easy for your to share how you were saved? YOU KNOW why, because it is FAMILIAR.
  • Identify those “Turbo Tommy’s” & “Debbie Downers”  That way you can pray specifically for the situation and or avoid trouble.
  • Have a plan to handle interruptions.  Seek advice from your Director or Kid’s Pastor.  They have been in your shoes before and I guarantee they can share some tried and true methods that have worked for them. 

The bottom line: Kids should leave your class knowing Jesus a little better whether they’ve been there for 15 minutes or 90. Only God can make that happen each week. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you with the ability to make brief moments of time count for eternity.

4. DISCPLINE IN A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather. Serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13

When a child defiantly asks, “Why do I have to sit down? How do you respond? Most of us grew up with the answer being , “Because I said so!” How’s that working for ya?

If you know of a discipline issue that is hard to deal with, ASK the one in charge for support and ask how they have handled similar situations. Glean from seasoned teachers or volunteers.

God gives us the freedom to choose, so try this approach. Give kids a voice to make a choice.

LET THE KIDS CHOOSE THE RULES

It’s great to set guidelines with your class. To create a sense of ownership, et them have a say in the rules. Start with three basic suggestions:

  • Respect others
  • Take care of our resources
  • Participate with enthusiasm

LET KIDS CHOOSE THE CONSEQUENCES

Sometimes even when kids set their own expectations, they don’t live up to them.

It’s too easy and anyone can remove a child from the environment. But that also keeps them from learning and in my experience, a way out. Give two or three options instead:

  • You can either choose to participate with everyone or choose to spend time at the quiet table. It’s your call.”

Or give a choice of consequences:

  • You can either be my partner for this activity or spend time away from the group. You decide.”

If you’ve given choices and the child breaks the rule again, take away the privilege to choose.

  • Say, “I’m sorry. You’ve been given choices and the chance to make the right choice. Now it’s my turn.”

When you give kids power to choose, they’ll learn that they have power over their own behavior. And you won’t be seen as the disciplinarian.

Adapted from Keith Johnson, “Teacher Training on the Go”

What are some things that have helped you succeed in the classroom?  Please share!  I may use them in my next workshop.

Ever Been Wounded? How I went from the Pit to the Palace.

image

It is interesting to me that after 23 years of serving the Lord, that I am finally admitting that this thing called “ministry” has it’s ups and downs.  “Pit to the Palace” is a workshop that I lead at conferences designed to help kid ministry workers navigate their way back to the palace in times difficulty, disorder, pain, trails and suffering.

I have not only experienced life in the pit personally and survived, I have the privilege of networking with Kid Ministry workers across the nation and praying with families in my own church who have spent their fair share of time residing in the pit of pain.

What I have come to know these past few years that many of us, kid ministry workers,  suffer in silence and in isolation.  It was only after sitting with friend after friend, that my brothers and sisters in Christ become transparent regarding their trials.  I was shocked that they too experienced the pit caused by pain.  I concluded many hid their problems and wore a mask called, “I’m okay.”  We are ashamed of our circumstances and feel that we will be judged harshly if we admit to having problems.  After all, we are church volunteers or are on staff and we need to be an example to those we serve.  I lived that lie for for over 15 years.  I allowed my trials to confuse my mind about the power that our Lord Jesus Christ possesses.   I didn’t comprehend what it meant to have faith as I hoped in people and my unique strengths rather than our Lord.  I limited God’s divine power and forgot what Hebrews says about faith:

Hebrews 11:1 “ Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

When we are in the pit, what do we pray for?  I know I prayed… relief from the pain.  What keeps us functioning?  Hope.  There’s a motivational quote that states, “A man can live about 40 days without food, about 3 days without water, about 8 minutes without air, but not for 1 second without hope.”

The Lord blessed us, gifted us, gave freely to us, examples of people in the Bible who had great faith:

  • Enoch – taken up to heaven without dying.  He was known as a person who pleased God.
  • Noah – built a boat by faith and saved his family from the flood.
  • Sarah – she believed by faith that she was able to have a child in her old age.
  • Abraham – offered Isaac as an offering.
  • Isaac – it was by faith he promised blessings for the future of his sons Esau and Jacob.
  • Moses – by faith he chose to suffer, left the land of Egypt and parted the Red Sea.
  • Rahab – she gave friendly welcome to spies and was not destroyed with the people in her city.

There are many more examples of God’s power and promises all through scripture.  I was too busy trying to survive, protect, and function to notice and truly claim His promises and to appropriately apply them to my life.  So…..God allowed me to experience a life storm and ultimately my residence for a couple years, was in the pit of pain and suffering.  What I now know about storms is that though they are fueled by strong winds, dark skies, even thunder and lightening, they don’t last forever.  “…there is joy in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

Bottom line, when something difficult comes at you, realize that your faith is being tested.  It is only through the test is how you’ll learn to depend on our King.  Each test serves to help us deal with the next test or trail, if we abide and follow the Lord’s instructions.

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while if need be you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

Author, Debbie Alsdorf’, inspired me and helped me focus on His purpose in my life in her book, Faith Dare.  She bullet points the following statements about trials that kept me focused on the Lord’s promises and helped me inch and claw my way out of the pit and back into the palace:

  • Trials are tests of what you believe.
  • You are to rejoice in the fire of the trial.
  • You are to believe that God knows about the test or trial.
  • You are to believe that God is with you in the test or trial.
  • You are to believe that God has the power to change you through the test or trial.
  • You are to believe that since God is good, all his dealing with you is good – even in test or trials.

If you are in the pit today, whether the pain was self imposed or you are a victim of innocent suffering,  I pray you can realize that there are others like you,  that have their own Pit to Palace story.  You are not alone.  Jesus’ life is the prime example we could all glean from.  Allow the Lord to minister to you right now and help you surrender all your burdens. Starting today and everyday pray for healing.  Keep asking the Lord what is it that He is trying to show you through this, who do you need to forgive and ask Him to remind you of the many promises in His word.  God allowed this in your life for a heavenly reason.  What is happening to you, the Lord is working through you. Once you accept that fact, you’re one step closer to the palace.

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:5

If you had full anonymity…would you agree that ministry is hard?

If you had full anonymity…what else would you share with me?

Why does anonymity make a difference?

You do have anonymity and you have a safe place in Jesus.  Turn and fully surrender to Him. You’ll find your way back to the palace.

Here’s the link to Debbie’s book “Faith Dare”

http://www.design4living.org/store/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=43