Day 40: What do you do when your world falls apart?

Last year, members of Christ Church in Rochester, NY, wrote Lenten meditations and posted them on their Website, and this one — from Lucy Alonzo, an Episcopal deacon — is so very fitting for this final day before Easter.

And the journal page at the bottom? Well, it couldn’t be more beautiful or more perfect for today…

Christ Church

The Holy Saturday readings: Job 14:1-14 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24, 1 Peter 4:1-8, John 19:38-42

What do you do when your world falls apart?   On Holy Saturday, the disciples must have been in a state of shock.  Their beloved teacher who had healed so many, their Messiah, who had been greeted with palms as the Son of David on his entry into Jerusalem less than a week earlier, had been executed as a criminal!  What should they do now?  And what should we do when coping with disasters like the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, or any other time we feel that our world has crumbled? The readings for today show us some possible responses.

Job was a pious and upright man, but sudden calamities had killed all his children, stripped him completely of his considerable wealth, and ruined his health. In today’s reading he complains to God  –  an understandable response, though not particularly helpful except as a vent for his emotions.

In the Gospel reading, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus care for the body of Jesus, wrapping it with costly spices and placing it Joseph’s own new tomb.  Their choice was to do what they could to help, in the midst of their own sorrow  –  an appropriate choice for followers of the One who had commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Peter’s letter agrees with this approach, reminding us, “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

For all of us who wish to follow Jesus, I think that an extremely important example is the choice He made in the Garden of Gethsemane:  “Not my will but yours be done.”   This is difficult to say in the midst of a disaster, but in my experience it is a very helpful way to pray.  Luke’s Gospel says that after Jesus prayed this way in the garden, “an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength” (Luke 22:43).  An example I like is a little child crying about a broken toy while holding onto it with all his might; his father can fix it for him only when he is willing to hand it over to him.  It takes faith to entrust our problems to our Heavenly Father, but it does make it much more possible for Him to help us. 

I learned something about this as a freshman in college.  I had a huge crush on a very nice boy, a friend of my cousin, and had been hoping he would write to me. But instead he sent me an invitation to his engagement party, and all my castles in the air came crashing down.  (Years later, he became a state governor, and I realized that I could never have been the political hostess he needed!)  Anyhow I went to the chapel and part of my prayer was approximately, “Lord, obviously you did not want what I wanted, but I’m sure you have a better plan for me, so please take charge of my life and help me to do what you want.”  Well, God answered my prayer by touching me with his love;  I cannot really describe it, but for weeks afterwards I was riding my bike around campus singing the Gloria. Of course surrendering our will to God is an ongoing process, but I believe each step along that path brings help when we need it most.

The reading from Lamentations is the one that I find most helpful for desperate situations.  Jeremiah had been persecuted for prophesying to Jerusalem about the approaching disaster; when the city was destroyed it would be understandable if he had felt it served them right. Instead he wrote in Lamentations, “My eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of my people.” However he also wrote, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

So when our world seems to have fallen apart, let us do what we can to be helpful and loving, ask our Lord to take charge of the whole situation and say with Jeremiah, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases.”

The resurrection is coming!

Thanks be to God.

Oct 7 2009 All 015

Lucy Alonzo

I grew up in New Jersey and moved to Rochester to teach chemistry and general science in the City School District, after graduating from Vassar in 1959. After raising 3 children, I worked for the New York State Department of Health in TB Control until retiring. I volunteered with Penfield Emergency Ambulance for many years, and was ordained a vocational (permanent) deacon in the Episcopal Church in 1992.  I belong to Christ Church (141 East Avenue) and volunteer with the Refugee Program at Catholic Family Center. 

Lynda Pleckan

Lynda Pleckan

Today, we are blessed to have another journal page from Lynda Pleckan. Here’s what she has to say about herself:  

I live in upstate New York with my hubby of oh-so-many years.  Our family includes our daughter and son-in-law, and two of the sweetest granddaughters ever!

I am the administrative assistant at my church, and absolutely adore my job.  When I’m not working, you will usually find me blogging, scrapbooking, rubber stamping, reading, knitting, and spending time with my family.   Recently I’ve been dabbling in gardening.

My paper crafts blog www.PaperArtsCafe.blogspot.com  includes stamping and scrap booking techniques, and cardmaking and paper crafts. I write at  http://doodlelyn.hubpages.com/ about life and inspirational pieces.  I also started a new blog  http://www.journeythroughautumn.blogspot.com/.

To download today’s journal page, click here.

Here’s a glimpse…

Day 40

Day 39: The day it seems hope goes dark

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She slipped it into an envelope and through the mail, just on the chance that I’d include poetry in our Lenten project. She wrote how in 2012 a sudden, puzzling illness put her on life support. How her husband was told to prepare for her death. How this poem tells her story, the story of Rosanne Stiehler.

Like Lazarus,

I was breath-less,

bound up for the grave.

 

Like Lazarus,

my family wept,

four long days.

 

“Lord, if You would come,

she could still be saved!”

 

Like Lazarus,

the Lord showed up,

“Come forth!” is what He prayed.

 

Like Lazarus,

that vital shout

gave me life again.

 

Today, when all feels dark, He can give us all life again. When the past-due notices come on bills and relationships and old harmful habits, know that it’s not too late to start over. Know that Jesus, He paid it all.

May this holy weekend help make you whole.

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What could be better than a free necklace that celebrates hope?

HopeYou know how Kerry Hill so generously shared her story of hope? Well, the artist is generous in other ways, too. She has given me five beautiful necklaces to give away to you, you wonderful readers!

One of the necklaces will go directly to a woman who recently found out she has cancer. A mutual friend told me the woman was really looking forward to focusing on hope with us, and, well… I believe she needs one of these necklaces.

The rest of you, however, have a shot at the other four. So, are you ready to win?

Here are the details:

  • First, show Kerry some love. Go “like” her page on Facebook or comment on her blog. Let her know we appreciate her thoughtful gift.
  • Then, let me know by noon on Easter that you’d like your name added to the drawing. Either comment on the Simply Faithful page on Facebook or here at this blog post.
  • After dinner on Easter, when my 5-year-old comes down from his sugar high, I’ll have him draw a name from my favorite Blue Whale mug. I’ll announce winners the following Monday.

That’s it. Now, get started so you can win!

Here’s more about Kerry:

Kerry Hill

Kerry Hill is a mother of four gorgeous children, proud military spouse and speech therapist working for over a decade with children with special needs.  She and her husband are currently stationed in Texas.  She is the proprieter of Knot Far From the Tree, a socially committed company dedicated to honoring the special seasons in life by offering hand stamped jewelry and gifts at an affordable cost.  Portions of the proceeds raised are given to such organizations as The Wounded Warrior Project, Relay for Life, Little Elves for Little Angels, and many others.  Her works can be found at www.knotsofar.etsy.com.

Day 38: Abuse, an unplanned pregnancy — and a beautiful testimony of hope

So many people have generously shared their stories with us during this 40 Days of Hope project, and I’m just so thankful for each one. Today, Kerry Hill opens her heart and teaches us more about hope…

… oh, and one other thing: check back here around noon for a fun surprise!

Kerry Hill

Hope. Such a short little word, such huge meaning and yet so difficult to describe. I prefer to think that I have seen my darkest days in life, and that the future ahead of me is bright with hope. When I was at my worst, Christ saw me at my best. As the Footprints saying goes: “When you saw only one set of footprints, that is when I carried you.” I prefer to think of this time in my life as the time when He dragged me down the beach.

Rewinding back and looking at my life so far, I would not say I had any regrets. I would, however say I have a very large running list of things that I have learned from. I am of the belief that God isn’t finished with me yet, and that all of these life’s trials are present just to make me more like Jesus. At least I hope that’s the case.

At a very young age, I was in a car accident. Unfortunately it is one of my earliest memories. In the early 80s cars were made better and kiddos didn’t have to sit in the back seat. Seatbelts were optional. For some strange reason my mother strapped me in that day — and then proceeded to hit a tree head on. It is miraculous we all survived the crash seemingly unscathed.

A little further on in life I was a new car owner taking her first car to college. It was a Spring day, the birds were chirping, the music was flowing out of the speakers and energy was flowing through my body. The freedom of college. The freedom to do whatever a young spirit willed, without confirmation or permission of a single solitary person — not even God. I made a left turn and ignored the right away and crashed that car into an oncoming car. Thankfully no one was hurt, except maybe my ego.

I went on to make several decisions for my own life in my early adulthood — and not exactly consulting with the Master Planner. After college I became a speech therapist, working with kids with special needs — something I truly feel was in God’s plan for me. About four years after I had been practicing as a therapist, I thought the love of my life had come into my life and like most head strong adults I followed him — and again shared no consult about God’s plan for me. Initially I was happy in this relationship. I gave up my career, my credit score, my life’s savings all for one person, one man… who unfortunately was no good at all for me. This man was abusive not only to himself, but to me. He was a thief, a drinker, a drug addict and a liar — and I was deceived into all those things as well.

And along comes hope. I was blessed to find out I was pregnant with a baby girl. My mommy instinct took over and I straightened up and flew right. God gave me a precious gift, the gift of renewed appreciation of life by giving life to me. My daughter was born safely and securely and we built a life into the arms of awaiting family members. She was baptized, and all of a sudden the world made sense — because I started following the plans that God had for me, instead of living my own life. Now I had more than just my own salvation to think about. Now I had to think of how to steer a precious girl on the roads of life.

I am ever so thankful that through Christ we are renewed — He alone is our Hope. We can completely fail at our lives and yet He never really lets go, even if He has to drag us through the storms of life. For without Him and His plan, we are nothing but the tiny grains of sand on the beach.

Through faith, I asked God for my husband, the one he meant for me. And nearly three years ago, we were joined in wedded bliss. He accepts my daughter and raises her as his own. That is what Hope really means to me. I am ever hopeful to see the other ways that God will bless me with his divine plans in future days — and I have a feeling I haven’t seen anything yet.

Kerry Hill is a mother of four gorgeous children, proud military spouse and speech therapist working for over a decade with children with special needs. She and her husband are currently stationed in Texas. She is the proprieter of Knot Far From the Tree, a socially committed company dedicated to honoring the special seasons in life by offering hand stamped jewelry and gifts at an affordable cost. Portions of the proceeds raised are given to such organizations as The Wounded Warrior Project, Relay for Life, Little Elves for Little Angels, and many others. Her works can be found at www.knotsofar.etsy.com.

Due to a technical issue that I’m not even going to try to fix, this glimpse of Kerry’s journal page is not quite the right color. However, it gives you the idea of how pretty it is! To download and print your own copy, click here.

Day 38

Day 37: My brother-in-law’s accident and the mending, part 2

Today, a powerful lesson from my sister, Jaquita…

So we found out that Tony had a severe concussion, bruises and cuts all over (about 30 stitches). He had seven damaged vertebrae in his neck and back, torn ligaments in his right arm, a bruise on his left kidney and possible liver damage — but NO broken bones.

He left the hospital after just 36 hours but I had to wake him every two hours for another 48 to make sure he was coherent. I had to call our son in from college for a week to help me lift Tony up and down off the bed and to help him in the shower. But through it all I was positive that he would mend and everything would be back to “normal” in a few months. Well I was wrong.

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Photo by Lori Ostling

In the first year we saw probably 10 different doctors and specialists. Tony was on a horrible amount of pain medication. He lost his job of nearly 20 years. He was not the same man that he used to be. (I wish I had a dime for every time I thought that!) Over the first two to three years he became more aggressive, forgetful and more detached. All of his doctors kept saying it was side effects of the medicine or it was depression so they changed and added medication but he kept getting worse.

He had now lost three jobs. I finally called our family doctor and begged him to listen to me. I told him that I was almost to the point of having to put Tony in nursing home or something, I was afraid he would hurt himself or someone else. He was becoming too unpredictable and sometimes just flat out mean. In a nutshell, I was becoming afraid of him. I begged God to change him, to make him like he used to be…OK I admit, I was even a little angry at God.

The doctor finally recommended an endocrinologist. I had never heard of one and didn’t know what kind of doctor he was but I was desperate so I made the appointment. I see now that God directed us there but at the time I was too angry to see it. They did several tests and the doctor explained his theory that Tony had a tumor on his pituitary gland. He was right and started Tony on a very strong medication to make his body produce hormones. He said if the medication didn’t work it would mean brain surgery…

The medication worked but Tony was still not Tony. He lost two more jobs and then finally gave into having back surgery. In November of 2008 we filed for disability for Tony. He had seven major surgeries in 23 months.

It was while Tony was recovering from one of those surgeries that God had a talk with me! I was in my sewing room, moving back and forth from the cutting table to the sewing machine, and I was having myself a good ole’ pitty party! I was ranting on in the inside about how it wasn’t fair that Tony was not the same man that I had married.

As I stood at my cutting table, God softly spoke to me: “Why are you cutting up that perfectly good piece of fabric?”

“Well I am making a quilt out of it,” I said.

God then said, “I did the same with Tony. I sent my angel to save him and then I took the pieces and put him back together. He is not the same, just as that piece of fabric will never be the same, but he is my work of art and he is there with you. Remember that as you wrap yourself in the warmth of that beautiful quilt.”

Well, I was in shock and not just a little embarrassed! Tony is now doing great. The hormone medication is working, he is still on a lot pain medication but they have finally found a good combination for him. He was approved for disability. And I no longer HOPE for Tony to be back to normal! I have accepted God’s gift. (I know I am a little slow!) I have realized that my “quilt” has been pieced together with new fabric along with some of the old, but most importantly it is sewn together with love and HOPE!

The three sisters: me, Jaquita and Kathy. (Photo by Lori Ostling)

The three sisters: me, Jaquita and Kathy. (Photo by Lori Ostling)

Day 36: My brother-in-law’s accident, part 1

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Photo taken by Lori Ostling

Today I turn the blog over to my middle sister, Jaquita Lilich, to tell you about her husband’s terrible accident — the tearing of the pieces. Tomorrow, she’ll be back to talk about the mending. Be blessed…

Tony and I have been married 31 years and have had a great marriage. I didn’t say perfect, I said great. On Feb. 19, 2004, our lives changed forever.

Tony called and said he was on his way home from work. I was babysitting our friends’ 4-month-old baby and our 15-year-old daughter, Jessica, and her boyfriend were there with me. I said to Tony, “I hope I don’t burn our dinner. You know there is a baby here and I might get side tracked playing with her.” He said, “It wouldn’t be the first time I ate a burned dinner and pretended to like it.” I replied, “Don’t make me hang up on you,” and I did (playfully).

Jaquita with newborn Benjamin in 2007.

Jaquita with newborn Benjamin in 2007.

Thirty minutes later I was putting the dinner on the table, but instead of Tony walking through the door, Jessica came in from her bedroom. She looked like she had seen a ghost… She said, “Mom, some lady just called my cell from Dad’s phone and said that Dad has been in a horrible wreck! She said not to worry that she would stay with him until help came and that the highway patrolman would be calling you.”

Just as if on cue, the house phone rang. It was a highway patrolman. He asked if this was Mrs. Lilich. I said, “Yes.”

He asked if we owned a green Ford supercrew. I said, “Yes.”

He hesitated and asked, “How many people are in the vehicle right now?” I thought that was an odd question, but I said, “Just Tony, why?” He said, “Because we don’t expect to find any survivors. I just needed to tell the rescuers how many bodies to look for.”

I somehow remained composed enough to ask where the wreck was and to give him my cell phone number to reach me. I told him I was on my way. I was hoping that the woman would stay with him. I didn’t want him to be alone.

Jessica just looked at me and said, “Go find Dad. I will take care of everything else. Just let me know which hospital they are taking him to. The woman said he would be OK.” I said, “I will, but the patrolman wasn’t so positive.” Jessica said, “But the woman was with him and said he was going to be OK.”

When I got within a few miles of the wreck the patrolman called me again. He said, “The paramedics are at the truck. He is alive. They are cutting him from the vehicle and will transport him to Tulsa Regional Medical Center.” I said, “I will meet him there.”

My mind was racing. I don’t know how our minds do that in an emergency but I was thinking a million thoughts at once. When he arrived at the hospital he was semi-conscious. They took him immediately to begin assessing his injuries. He was strapped to a back board and had a neck brace on. He had cuts all over and was covered in blood… but he was alive. There was hope!

Tony and Jaquita at Colt's 1st birthday party. (2011)

Tony and Jaquita at Colt’s 1st birthday party. (2011)

Several hours later the patrolman came by to check on him and to return his wallet. I asked him about the woman who made the phone call; I wanted to thank her for staying with Tony. He said there wasn’t a woman there. The wreckage had been too dangerous to approach and no one was allowed in until haz-mat had done their work.

Tony squeezed my hand and I looked over at him. He said, “There WAS a woman. I couldn’t see her very well because the light was too bright. She talked to me and told me stay awake, that help was on the way. She told me that she had talked to Jessica and told her that she was with me. She said that I was injured pretty badly and she knew that I was hurting but I had to trust her and have hope.” Then, he closed his eyes again.

The patrolman put his hand on my shoulder and said to me, “Ma’am, I stand corrected. It seems as though there was an angel present there tonight. There is no other explanation. No one should have survived that accident.”

Join us tomorrow to hear how my sister holds on to hope in the aftermath — nine years later.

Day 35: When life’s plot gets confusing, have hope in the Author

IMG_1099Grandma Gregory could spin a tale like nobody’s business. She’d take a routine trip to the corner store and turn it into the kind of story that you’d asked her to tell again and again.

And when she started in on the stories about how tiny Daddy was as a baby, you could practically see the dresser drawer he slept in and the little doll clothes he wore.

So, you can imagine the kinds of letters she wrote to her children. One of my favorites is her party invitation to fill in a ditch. She promises games for the children and wheelbarrow and shovel racing for the adults.

In another letter, postmarked March 25, 1978, she wishes my parents a happy Easter. In it, she writes about how she cherishes her memories from the Easter of 1977 – the year the two of them dedicated their lives to serving God and were baptized. That Easter season, Grandma’s “dream of a lifetime” came true, she writes, before she goes on to encourage them:

“… we’ll come in contact with many things we don’t understand but read your Bible, keep your eyes on Jesus and your hand in his and he will take you through to the end.”

She wrote all of those things before sickness took her husband and diabetes took her legs, before terrorists slammed airplanes into the World Trade Center, before tsunamis raked away entire towns and villages and radiation threatened to poison the survivors.

Now, all these years later, I still find comfort and wisdom in her long-ago letter.

She reminds me to pray not only for protection, but for strength.

Grandma spent most of her life trying to crawl into God’s arms and trying to share his love with others. She was OK with not understanding everything, OK with not knowing how every story ended.

She simply trusted the Author.

Day 34: Adversity can be a blessing

These thoughts today from Amalia Pappano Plantone. She titled them “Adversity can be a Blessing” and I think you’ll find hope in these lines:

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Wise words on a hope-themed quilt made by Debbie Fogg.

Young and old, rich or poor, male or female, sooner or later each one will experience some kind of problem or adversity.  It is life!

The right alternative to handle a problem is the same for all kinds of people; prayers, faith, hope and complete trust in a merciful God, Who desires to help us.

Don’t underestimate the power of your prayers, put them and your problems in God’s Hands, and in a positive attitude expect the Grace of God to turn the adversity into a victory…

Amalia

I reside in Greece in a home my husband built in 1980 and attend church daily. I was married to a wonderful man, Cosmo for 56 years and raised 4 great children. I enjoy writing and working in the yard.