Good Grief

I find myself in a season right now where I am grieving losses. Not so much the big losses, like the death of a loved one, but the little things that will never happen again or perhaps never had the opportunity to happen. My children question me sometime when I use the colloquial expression “good grief!”. Is grief really good? I think it is good; or at least, a normal process.

According to Wikipedia, “grief is a natural response to loss. It is the emotional suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away. The grief associated with death is familiar to most people, but individuals grieve in connection with a variety of losses throughout their lives, such as unemployment, ill health or the end of a relationship. Loss can be categorized as either physical or abstract, the physical loss being related to something that the individual can touch or measure, such as losing a spouse through death, while other types of loss are abstract, and relate to aspects of a person’s social interactions.”

I passed by a park some time ago, and I felt this pang of sorrow that I would never be taking my children to play at that park again. With 3 adult children and a teenager, this is not a recent loss. It’s been a number of years since I’ve taken any of my children to that park. But for some reason I’m feeling that loss now. I grew up in an Italian family, surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles and others in the Italian community. I lived almost at the end of a dead-end street, with the mountains, pond, and meadow being my playground. I am grieving the fact that I couldn’t give my children that same experience, since I moved to the city, married outside of my culture, and cousins are few and far between. I’m not regretting those choices, and much has been outside of my control, but I feel a sadness that my children could not experience what I did. Other losses have been greater. The #MeToo movement has revived painful memories from decades ago that I am finally admitting and grieving over. Sometimes it takes us a long time to be aware of and face what we lost.

Aging also brings with it a gradual loss of abilities, friends, possessions, and experiences. I remember hearing that in a typical 80-year span, the first half of one’s life is generally characterized by gaining (an education, a job, spouse, a house, a car, children) and the second half is typically characterized by losses (you retire, the kids move out, you downsize, your spouse may die, your health deteriorates, etc.) Loss is an inevitable part of life. Sometimes it’s particularly painful, such as when relationships with loved ones take a turn for the worse. I believe that grief is a God-ordained process to face the reality of those losses, release our emotions, and recover from them. How can we heal if we can’t even admit that we lost something?

I’m not a psychologist, but I know two things. One, that all people experience grief and loss in their lives. And two, that there is someone who not only is acquainted with grief, but who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; and that man is Jesus. He understands what it is to suffer loss better than anyone else can, and He is in the unique position to comfort us when we are grieving. In fact, he invites us to cast all our cares upon him, for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). I love the comforting words of John 16:22 (NET) “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” I look forward to that day, when my grief will be replaced with joy in the Lord’s presence!


Homeschooling and the Winter Blahs

As a homeschooling mom, late winter is the time of year I dread the most. I’m usually okay until mid-January, then I often descend into this tired, touchy, wanting-to-hibernate state until the end of March. Then when spring arrives, I get that second wind to go on. It’s very predictable. It doesn’t help to be living in the Great White North where cold, snow, and gray skies wreak havoc with your emotional well-being!

Fortunately, the last several years have been considerably better for me. As I reflect on why that is, I’d like to share some things I have done that may help you as well.

  1. Unless you’re fortunate enough to be living in some warm, sunny location, you could probably benefit from Vitamin D supplements, especially during the winter. The ideal source of Vitamin D is through regular exposure to sunlight, but if that is impossible for you because of where you live, you will probably need supplements.
  2. Winter would be a good time to have a more relaxed schooling schedule. Let the children sleep in (within reason). Sleep in yourself if it makes you feel better. A rested mom is going to be a nicer mom 🙂 Plan your academics so that the more intensive study times happen earlier in the school year when you have more energy and enthusiasm. Leave more room for fun learning activities, reading books, or watching movies together.
  3. Take a walk outside every morning. If I can do it with the nasty weather we get here at times, you can, too! Enjoy the scenery; listen to the birds; take time to commune with God. It’s amazing how a short walk outside can lift your spirits! If you have little ones, take them with you, or plan some other outdoor activity with them such as tobogganing, playing in the snow, or going to the park.
  4. Plan for more days or weeks off in the winter. We start our academic year mid to late August, but then take time off throughout the school year. This is especially important in winter, when a break is needed the most!
  5. Start a fun personal project in January eg. learn to paint; start a blog; plan your summer vacation. Do something just for you, that you will enjoy. Carve out a time slot for this activity every day.
  6. If you’re living in a cold place, this would be a great time to take a vacation to somewhere warm if finances permit. It’s low travel season, so flights are not so expensive. You could plan your family vacation for the winter instead of the summer; better yet, plan a getaway for you and hubby if there is someone who can watch your children.
  7. Refrain from making any life-changing decisions if you are more emotionally vulnerable at this time of year. There have been many February’s in which I have wanted to give up homeschooling, but by April I had changed my mind 🙂
  8. Last but not least, take time to read your Bible and inspiring devotionals. Pray through the Psalms, read Streams in the Desert, or read the devotional book I wrote especially with homeschooling moms in mind (Stress-free Homeschooling: 31 Days to a Healthier Way of Thinking.)Win the battle against those negative thoughts by building yourself up with the Word of God!

What about you? Have you struggled with the winter blues? Has anything helped you cope?

The Secret to Happiness

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

There are 3 brief but powerful commands in this short passage of scripture:

  1. rejoice (when? Always)
  2. pray (when? Continually)
  3. give thanks (when? In all circumstances)

I believe that these 3 commands are the keys to happiness.

What does it mean to rejoice?

It means to be cheerful or glad; to exult in something. We can rejoice in the Lord, in his presence with us, in his victory over evil, in our heavenly reward awaiting us, in the faith of others, etc. We are commanded to rejoice always, and we can do that, because regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, God doesn’t change. He is still loving, still forgiving, still powerful, still our Father. No one can steal our hope or our salvation from us. We are accepted in the beloved. We can rejoice always! We can choose to be glad/happy at all times because we have something to be happy about!!

But even as we have a heart attitude of rejoicing in the Lord, we live in a broken world. We suffer, and so do others. People lose their jobs; children rebel; spouses are unfaithful; unkind words are spoken. This is where the second command comes in: pray continually. Prayer is God’s provision for us to take our hurts and fears to the Lord and leave them in his loving hands. As we do that, our perspective changes from our pain to the Lord’s compassion. He’s the only one who can fix the mess that we find ourselves in. He’s the only one that can change the human heart. As we pray about everything, we are able to release those burdens to the Lord and experience rest and contentment in our souls.

The third command is the last, but not least. Why does the Lord command us to give thanks in all circumstances? Proverbs 15:15 says “All the days of the oppressed are miserable, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.” He wants us to be happy! He wants us bless us with an abundant life! But we need to have an attitude of gratitude in order to experience that happiness. If we have a victim mentality, a poor-little-me attitude, we’re going to be miserable. It’s so easy to focus on what we don’t have; what we want and are not getting at this moment; what our children are doing that is displeasing to us. But if we cultivate the habit of thanking the Lord for what we do have, and what he has already blessed us with, we are going to have a continual feast! Notice that the verse says to give thanks *in* all circumstances, not *for* all circumstances. If you’re going through a difficult trial, you may not be able to thank him for that trial, but there are still many blessings that you can thank him for in that trial!

Are you unhappy? Then ask the Lord to give you the grace to cultivate these disciplines of rejoicing, praying and giving thanks. But be patient; it’s definitely not an overnight process! As you practice these three keys to happiness, slowly but surely you will see your happiness quotient escalate!

The Story Behind Stress-free Homeschooling

There was a time with three young children to homeschool that I was feeling overwhelmed and depressed. Some days were better than others, but I just found myself under this dark cloud that I couldn’t seem to escape from. I decided to speak to my doctor about it, and he suggested anti-depressants. He sent me home with a video about anti-depressants to watch, and told me that if I wanted to go on them, he would prescribe them for me. I’m very reluctant to take any kind of medication, but I was desperate enough to consider them.

That day I was at the pharmacy and the Lord directed my attention to a rack of books. There was a secular self-help book written by a psychologist. I began to leaf through it, and as I did, the Lord spoke to my heart that he was going to use that book to bring me healing. I bought it, and as I read through it, the Lord started bringing to mind many verses that correlated with the principles in the book. I felt a surge of hope, and the Lord directed me to adapt a form of journaling mentioned in this book.

He showed me that the negative emotions I was experiencing were the result of believing the enemy’s lies. I learned to identify the specific untruth that was associated with a negative emotion at any one time, then counter it with the specific truth from the Bible that would defeat that negative thought. I began to journal the negative emotions I was experiencing, the specific lie that was at the source of that emotion, and the countering truth from God’s Word. I did this for several months. Each day I would review what I had written, focussing on the truths of God’s Word. I began to feel much better and never went on the anti-depressants.

Over the years, as I meditated on those truths and they began to take root in my soul, they gave me a peace and stability in my walk with the Lord. The following verse became my regular practice:

2 Corinthians 10:5 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

The Lord then prompted me to write this devotional book, which was the fruit of learning and meditating on the truths that were so key to my healing. My prayer is that others who struggle with depression/negative thinking will be helped as well!

Psalm 107:20 “He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”