Monday, October 31, 2011

What I Have Learned About Winter

I am speaking this weekend at a Women's Wellness Day at my home church in Winnipeg.  The theme is Winter Wonderland, and I get to speak about how to deal with and get through the winter seasons of life.  Yes, there will be kleenex handy - I hope I can get through it without using a whole box.  :)

I am sitting here this morning going over my notes, and I'm looking at something I wrote and shared in church as a living sermon illustration for a message on suffering.  This was 5 years ago - 3 years after Neil passed away.  I thought I would share it with you today, and for those of you who will be at the Women's Wellness Day, this might be a bit of a sneak peek.

What Have I Learned

...About Myself?
I have learned that I can do anything.  It’s only through God who gives me the strength, but he does, and I can.
I have learned that the faith I have held onto my whole life is real, and with every testing that it faces it gets deeper.
I have learned that I am not in control of my own life, that God is, and that He knows what He’s doing.  He’s got plans that I need to fit into, and He keeps shaping me through everything I go through so that He can use me for the next thing, and the next thing.
I have learned that my job is the same as it’s always been – to keep my eyes on Him and obey.
I have learned that God has plans for me.  He has directed and shaped me, my whole life, for who I am now, and who I am going to be.  I had always thought that I would go to Bible College and get a degree, but I never had any real career goals (I still don’t!).  I took what interested me and ended up with a BA in Christian Ministry, figuring whatever I did with my life, I would be involved in a church somewhere and could use that education.  I have used it in many ways, and now I even have a real job that is directly related to that training.  I firmly believe that God gave me the interests He did because He sees the big picture, and knows where we will be and what He will want from us then.
I have learned that who I am did not end three years ago.  Tragedy shapes and changes you, but it should not define you.
I have learned that relationships matter.  I value my alone time, but God keeps telling me that I’m not allowed to be a hermit.  I have to let people in to help me and minister to me, so that God can bless them, and I need to be involved with people so that I can minister to them and show God’s love.

…About Life,
I have learned that it’s ok not to understand the reasons behind things.
I have learned that everyone dies.  That everyone will lose someone close to them.  That grief and loss are a part of living.  That death doesn’t have to be feared.
I have learned that there is always someone else who has gone through the same thing.
I have learned that you don’t have to have gone through the same thing to be able to comfort someone.
I have learned that death doesn’t define life – there will still be things to make you laugh.
I have learned that there is always balance between grief and joy, good circumstances and bad circumstances – sometimes we swing more one way or the other, but we never stay there.

And what have I learned about God?
 I have learned that that our faith is founded on something, someone, that is real and solid that can handle anything that we are asked to go through.
I have learned that He is faithful to what He has promised. He is unchanging and that means reliable.  We’ve heard His promises and they don’t always get tested until we face something hard.  But when you do, they prove to be solid.
I have learned that He comforts.
I have learned that He heals.
I have learned that He provides.  I never once wondered how we’d make it.
I have learned that although we’ve been taught that He is invisible, if we open our eyes in a new way, we can see Him very clearly in His body.  We the church are his body, and He has cared for me in very real ways using His body – the church.  Using you.  I needed help with things around the house, and He did them, looking a lot like some of the men in this room.  I needed to eat, and He fed us from your kitchens.  I needed hugs, and His arms felt a lot like yours.
I have learned that He uses times of tragedy to build community.  People are generous and sympathetic and think of something other then themselves – tragedies bring out the good in people.  He also uses them to cause people to think deeply about their own lives.
I have learned that he never gives you more than you can bear – He gives you the strength as you need it.
I have learned that he is gentle.  He gives you little bits to deal with as you are able, and doesn’t expect you to go through it all at once.  It’s aggravating in a way, because you think you’re doing so well, and then something else hits you, but it’s God’s way of spacing it out so you’re not overwhelmed.  People say time heals, but God made time, and it’s one of the tools He uses as He helps you get through the next thing.
I have learned that God is patient.  He knows that we are just human; He’s the One that made us the way we are.

Those are some of the things I have learned as I’ve experienced God’s sustaining grace.


Alexis said...

I remember this message from when you spoke at church. Was that really five years ago? And I remember being just fine until the end: "He gives you little bits to deal with as you are able, and doesn’t expect you to go through it all at once. It’s aggravating in a way, because you think you’re doing so well, and then something else hits you, but it’s God’s way of spacing it out so you’re not overwhelmed."

I hope the Women's Wellness Day goes well. I have no doubt that many women will leave the day blessed to have heard your message.

Dorene said...

Thank you, Carolyn, for sharing this. I remember so vividly, you sharing this in church. I can't believe that was 5 years ago already. Just like then, I needed kleenex, reading this now. Thank you for reminding me of how God is always with us, through everything. You are a beautiful person, Carolyn... Love you! xox

Mary Ann said...

Hi Carolyn,

It was so nice sharing coffee with you and Jen tonight, catching up. I had thought about coming to your conference and was going to ask if there was still room, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to show up on my own.

But I'm glad I got to read a bit of what you are going to talk about. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. It's not somewhere I allow myself to go in regards to my own life, because I'm not sure of what to do once I get there. I wish I had a faith like yours - a strong, sustaining faith, even after all you've gone through. I'm glad you have such a faith, and that it carried you through that winter season.

I hope that the retreat tomorrow is a life-giving event for all those involved. Bless you. Mary Ann