Looking Back to Move Forward: Creating Lasting Change

It isn’t always easy to look back on our lives and review the mistakes we have made that hurt others and that have hurt us. Twelve step programs calls that “taking our inventory.” At certain points in our lives it is necessary to take stock of how we have lived, especially if we want to move forward and become better people. For me, that takes God—it takes admitting to him that which he already knows and then seeking first his forgiveness and then asking that he change me. At some point, we also need to apologize to those we hurt, which can be the most difficult part, especially if the other person is unwilling to hear.

I have made some royal mistakes in my life. Some would say I have sinned in a big way and that too is true. There was damage left in my wake. I took the hurt I carried and inflicted it on others. I lived unaware for some many years, hiding and numbing my internal pain in any number of ways. I did that until I began to recover from my own pain and could better understand why I behaved the way I did. And still, today I look back with sadness as I realize that some may never recover from our damaged relationships. I am thankful to those of you who have found forgiveness in your heart. I know it was not easy and you so inspire me to trust that God can and will repair all things, if we trust him.

It is never too late to change. I believe that God gives us as many chances as we need to get it right. After all, Jesus did say something about forgiveness—70 times 7. His forgiveness is limitless. I know we as mere humans may not find it as easy to forgive; however, if we can begin by admitting our own faults to God and accept his forgiveness, we may also find peace. I may never have the chance to tell some people how sorry I am to have hurt them, how sorry I am that things became twisted, and how much I wish things were different. But I can change. The best possible thing we can do is seek forgiveness and then turn our lives around.

Be different today. Let go of the pain you carry. Seek forgiveness and freedom. Show yourself you are transformed by what you do next.

©maggiemarcum.com

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The Darkness of Singleness

Living alone often can amplify the negative voices in our head because we have no one to counter them. Our feelings of discouragement, sadness, or incompleteness may overcome us at times. Being honest about our struggles isn’t always easy, especially if we already feel alone and unwanted. It may be difficult to believe that we are capable of change or that our lives will improve. We may be afraid to admit  to someone else what is going on because we fear judgement, when in reality; the people around us already know something isn’t quite right.  They may not know how to tell us, or they have tried to tell us and we couldn’t get what they were saying. We thought—you don’t know how lonely I am, you don’t know what it is like to not have that special person, you don’t know….fill in the blank. Continue reading

Searching for Meaning

I spent a good portion of my life searching for meaning and understanding about my life and the world in which I live. I tried everything—sex, drugs, rock & roll, with a trip into the cultic world of Scientology. I would like to think I was a ‘free spirit’ but in reality, I was simply lost. I grew up feeling invisible and kept hoping I would be noticed. Only problem with that kind of search is that I was noticed by all the wrong people in all the wrong ways.

In the business world I searched for some measure of success. Initially I just wanted a job to pay for my car and to get out of my parent’s house. I wanted to find some credibility after my California years of living free—except for the trapped in Scientology part! I went to work where I was told to work and I made a decent living, met a husband, and a few lovers along the way. Sex, drinking, and party party became the new mantra. Continue reading

From Unsettled to Settled

I have heard it said that the way a person decorates their home is a reflection of the things that are most important to them. For the past year my walls have been bare except for some sports memorabilia and a few crosses hung in my office area. The only thing I hung in my bedroom was a gift from a friend who lives on the other side of the world. Our furnishings too have been sparse. My home has been a true reflection of the empty slate of my life. It is a reflection of the somewhat aimlessness state of my being as I have prayed and sought God’s desires for my life in these post-retirement years.

This time last year I was homeless. I had packed up the belongings I felt I needed or those few things that I wanted to hold onto out of sentiment. I had given family, friends and neighbors who were in the process of resettling some of the things they needed for their homes. I threw away gobs of unnecessary clutter. And I gave everything else to charity. And then I packed my bag and left for the sunny skies of California to contemplate my future. I had no idea if I would return home to Virginia and even if I did, I wasn’t sure I would find a place to live that I could afford. It was unsettling to have no place to call home and no idea what I was going to do with my life. Continue reading

Less is More

We live in a society that focuses on having the next best gadget, the newest car, the designer outfit, and all that the ‘rich and famous’ have in their lives. We go into debt to prove that we have successfully attained a certain life-style. Our hearts sink a little when a new cell phone comes out and it isn’t time to upgrade our plan yet. We enter beautiful homes and begin plotting how we can model our house after their home. Or, we look at others and think, “I don’t know why she wears that same outfit day in and day out. What a mess!” We have become the people of envy, greed, judgement, and hollow existence.

We have forgotten that it is living a life of giving and caring that matters far more than a life full of things that may disappear in an instance. Continue reading

Celebrating Life

In the past week, between my church family and my work family, we lost four pillars of our community. The week will be a series of funerals and memories of people gone from our lives. It has been a devastating time for our church family in particular as we watch two incredible ladies, now widows, support one-another and comfort us as we try to find the words to say to them. My daughter said that she is beginning to see the people who have been around her most of her life, now depart this place.

Death is hard on all of us.

The personal loss comes on the heels of the senseless murder of nine Christians in Charleston. It seems the whole world is struggling to make sense out of the senseless. And it is senseless. It would seem from reading our Bible that God never planned for us to live this way and yet, here we are. Losing lives to the violence of relentless disease and illness—yes even mental illness—is difficult to grasp. And yet we have seen an outpouring of forgiveness, hope, and a belief in salvation on the streets of Charleston. What a model of what Christ means to those of us who believe in forgiveness and eternal life through him.

These can be overwhelmingly sad times for us left behind. Watching these women walk through their grief, I see the sadness in my sister’s eyes remembering the loss of her husband. When we say goodbye to another Godly man on Saturday, I will watch my daughter struggle with the reminder that her father died 11 years ago that day. As the world watches Charleston, we are reminded of other mass killings of not just the faithful, but the innocent young lives such as those we lost in Sandy Hook. It seems that death always surrounds us. And yet Jesus promised that with the Holy Spirit our sorrow would turn to joy and that because of Jesus we would be victorious over death.

“O death, where is you victory? O death, where is your sting? For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57, NLT)

And strange as it may seem, I have begun to find joy in attending funerals celebrating these lives. It is hard to explain, and I will try my best to share my sense of peace. Yesterday we celebrated the life of a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a steady hand in our congregation. Yesterday our church was filled with old-time members who had left for other congregations/denominations, but never left the family. There were gasps and hugs and smiles as the Body of Christ came together to share the life our brother Ken lived. God was pruning again and as he snipped a piece of the vine he brought forth the steadfast trunk that we would all know—he is still moving among the family. The family—HIS FAMILY—is still strong. We just don’t meet up every Sunday like we used to. Through his grace, we are still one family.

I love listening to the family and friends speak at funerals. We never hear the bad stuff at a funeral because just as Jesus cleanses our hearts, we cleanse our memories in honor of the departed. Last winter I went to the funeral of a friend’s father. They spoke about his military career and they spoke about his love for the Lord that trickled down throughout the family. His faith inspired sons to enter into ministry and others to simply devote their lives to following Jesus. Where there could have been great dread and despair in their loss, there was great hope. I left feeling better than when I came and inspired to go deeper in my faith.

I have talked with others after the funerals or memorials for devoted followers of Jesus and almost always I hear someone say: “I hope they say things like that about me when I die.” We want to be remembered for our good deeds. We want to know that we inspired others to follow Jesus. We hope that the room will be packed with friends from all over who come because they saw Jesus in us and because we lived the love he commanded us to live. We hope that our lives will be ones well celebrated. These God-inspired lives can motivate us forward if we ask God what he desires from us and if we are willing to make changes to live for him.

If you are struggling through the loss of someone dear to you, regardless of when that loss occurred, I urge you to seek Jesus and ask that he send the Holy Spirit that your sorrow become joy, knowing that you will one day be reunited with your loved one. I urge you to look into your own heart and life and ask his forgiveness that you might forgive others, including the one who has left you. Ask God to show you his love, to wrap you in his warmth, and to comfort you in your sadness. Ask that you may have the eternal life he has promised to those who believe in Jesus and chose to follow him. Ask that he would use your life and transform it into one of service and a celebration of life today. You don’t need to wait for others to celebrate the life God has given you—you can start celebrating and living it today.

Heavenly Father, I pray that my words are pleasing to you and that those who read them may find your peace and love today. I pray that we would all be one in you and you in us and that we would fix our eyes and hearts on you.

This is written in honor of Ken, Elsie, Scott, and John—Well done good and faithful servants.

Please read the book of John; Chapter 17, Philippians 3, and Hebrews 3.

 

Honoring our Parents Doesn’t Stop When we are Adults

As my baby boomer generation gets older, I am increasingly hearing stories of parental abuse and neglect of people my age and older. I remember my parent’s generation—a generation that planned for and expected to care for their parents. Today we buy expensive long-term care plans so that we won’t be a burden to our family or out of fear that our children won’t be there to care for us. Frequently it is women who feel especially trapped in these somewhat abusive situations just so they can maintain a relationship with their children and grandchildren.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) provides statistics that indicate this is the largest population of over 65s in a decennial history. By 2050 approximately 20 percent of the US population will be over 65—at least 19 million will be 85 or older. They define abuse and neglect as “intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or person in relationship with the elder.” They claim that most of those in such situations are women; women who won’t report out of fear that they will further be hurt or cast out by the family. I contend that abuse and neglect is not always intentional—it often is the result of children too busy or too concerned with their own lives to consider the needs of their aging parents.

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12 ISV

I have seen friends of mine do everything they can to care for an aging parent. It is not easy for them and it requires a good bit of personal sacrifice on their part. They take parents to the doctors, they help with groceries, they take care of their cars, and they worry every day about balancing care for their parent and care for their family. They often neglect their own care because there just isn’t enough time in the day, week, or month to do for themselves. God promises a long life for these care givers but if the truth be told, they aren’t so sure they will have enough energy left to enjoy their later years.

And sadly I have seen people, mostly women, taken advantage of by their children. I have spoken with so many women lately whose children see them as glorified unpaid babysitters, as maids, as drivers, and free landlords. Many of these women find themselves alone because of divorce or the death of a spouse who did not leave them funds for the future. These children have lost respect for their parents because they are aging. Many of these women are living on very limited fixed income and some are unable to work because of health issues or because they are caring for a sick spouse. They endure foul language and abusively critical comments from their children and they take it so that they can maintain some semblance of a relationship. Sadly, much of what I have seen is coming from their daughters who most of us would expect to be the loving compassionate caring ones. It pains me to see children living life well and neglecting their parents or ignoring their parent’s financial needs.

To honor someone is to respect an individual and to treat them as if they have value and worth.

I wish I still had my mom around to care for. I may not have done as good a job at showing her my love and respect as I could have. I did try to care for her in my own way by taking her out to things I knew she enjoyed, by having her over, or by learning how she cooked certain things that I might carry on the family tradition. My sister was the real care giver. She gave up her job, a huge sacrifice for her own family, to care for my mother. She was the one there when she passed over. She was the one that took care of the funeral arrangements and made sure mom looked good! I know that if she had outlived my father one of us kids would have taken care of her. It would have been hard, but today I would give anything to have that opportunity.

So what can we do? Start by talking to your friends who may be in an abusive or neglectful situation. Be gentle in how you ask questions as they will likely be defensive and in denial. If you can help them for a period of time, offer your home until you can help them find a new safe place. Maybe they just need a few dollars to make it through the month. Give it to them in a way that is helpful. Give them a grocery card. Better yet, take them grocery shopping and pay the bill. They can’t fuss too much in line. Make a fuss over them! Be there. Listen. Hear. Most of our friends just want to be heard and to feel valued again. Find out where they can get help in your or their area and direct them. If it is a full-on physically abusive situation, contact NCEA or local government organizations and report the situation.  You could be saving a life.

Part of just right living is to consider not only what is good for you, but how you can share your God-given gifts and talents for the betterment of others. NCEA has suggestions on how you can become more involved in your community. Maybe your church would want to hold seminars on this topic to raise awareness and to consider how they can help elders in and out of their congregations.

Let us not live just for ourselves but let us live that others may know God’s transforming love because we have shared it with them.