Tuesday, December 10, 2013

11 Tips for Surviving the Holidays (reposted from my Patchwork Quilt blog)



That holiday-pang hit my stomach the first October after Daniel died. Greeting me at an arts and craft shop were gold and silver stockings, a Christmas tree draped with turquoise balls and a wreath of pinecones and red berries. What was this? And was "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" playing as well? It was only October.

I had anticipated that Christmas and the holidays would be tough. In fact, I'd wake on those cold mornings after Daniel died in February and be grateful that it was still months until his August birthday and even more months until Christmas. I dreaded living both without him. I would have preferred to have been steeped in cow manure. At least then I could take a hot bath with sweet smelling bubbles and be rid of the stench. But bereavement isn't that way. As those who had gone on before let me know, you have to live through it.

Christmas came. I did live through it. It continues to happen as do the other significant days of the calendar year. Daniel never arrives at any of them although his memory lives on. By incorporating him into these days of festivity, I can cope.

Some of you have your child's birthday and/or anniversary day within the November through January season. These days, in addition to the holidays everyone else is celebrating, make the season even more complicated and painful, I'm sure.

I offer eleven tips I've used to survive the holidays. Some are my own suggestions and some are borrowed from the many who walk the path of grief.

1. Know you will survive. Others have done it and you will, too. Keep in mind that your first Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day will not be easy.

2. Find at least one person you can talk to or meet with during the holiday season. Perhaps this person has gone through a few Thanksgivings and Christmases before and can give you some helpful ideas that have worked for her.

3. Things will be different this holiday season and perhaps for all the rest to come. Don't think you have to do the "traditional" activities of years past when your child was alive. Your energy level is low. If no one in your household minds, skip putting up the tree. Forget spending hours making your holiday cookies.

4. Spend the holidays with those who will let you talk about your child. You will need to have the freedom to say your child's name and recall memories, if you choose to do so. Your stories about your child are wonderful legacies. Tell them boldly again and again.

5. If going into the mall or stores brings too much pain, shop for gifts online or through mail-order catalogs. Thinking everyone is happily shopping at the malls with intact lives while your heart is crushed is terribly tough. Go easy on yourself.

6. Getting away from the house is an idea that worked for my family. The first Christmas without Daniel we went to a nearby town and lived in the Embassy Suites. The kids enjoyed the indoor pool and breakfast buffets. Christmases that followed were spent at a rented cottage on the shore and the Christmas we rented the beach house, we were able to invite extended family to join us. We all shared in the cooking.

7. Create something to give to those who have helped you throughout the year. I made some very simple tree ornaments with "In Memory of Daniel" stamped on them and gave them to friends that first Christmas.

8. Decorate the grave. Put up a plastic Christmas tree with lights. Sometimes being busy with decorating the grave gives a feeling of doing something for a child we can no longer hold.

9. Do something in memory of your child. Donate to a charity or fund in his memory. Volunteer. My oldest daughter Rachel and I volunteer at the Hospice Tree of Remembrance each December and share memories of Daniel as we spend this time together.

10. If your bereavement support group has a special candle-lighting service to remember the children in your area who have died, attend it. Doing something in memory of your child with others who understand the pain these holidays hold can be therapeutic.

11. Spend time reflecting on what the season is about. Everyone around you may be frantic with attending parties, services, shopping and visiting relatives. Perhaps you used to be the same way. Now you may want to avoid some of the festivities. Give yourself permission to excuse yourself from them. Light a candle in your favorite scent. Record some thoughts in a journal. This is great therapy, too.

One day you will wake up and it will be January 2. The holidays will have ended. You will have made it. If you are like me, you will find that surviving the tinsel has made you stronger and although you may cry, somewhere within you, you will feel that core of new steel.

~ Alice J. Wisler
[First published about twelve years ago, about four years after Daniel's death.]

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Where Do You Belong? Finding Home




“To be accepted, to find home, to belong.”

How often I have realized that so much of living revolves around this theme. No matter who we are or where we grew up, we want to feel needed, accepted, cared for. We desire that place where we can take off our shoes, relax, that place where we can be ourselves, and belong.

The need to belong is a universal theme, a basic human necessity and I use it in my novel, Still Life in Shadows. To portray this theme, I chose to set my story in the fictitious North Carolina mountain town of Twin Branches. Gideon, who is one of my main characters, has come to this area after running away from his Amish home in Pennsylvania. He knows what it’s like to leave home and community. He understands what it takes to adapt to a society removed from his own.

Yet Gideon has carried some of his old rigid thoughts and beliefs about God with him. As he learns the ropes of working as a mechanic at Ormond’s garage, he realizes that he can be just as judgmental as his father and those in his Amish community that he couldn’t wait to leave. On his farm in Carlisle, life revolved around the Ordnung: order, rule and discipline. Here in Twin Branches, Gideon longs to fully embrace the freeing love of Jesus Christ. But in order to do this, he knows that he has to forgive.

I grew up as a missionary kid and pastor’s daughter in Japan. I have been in churches and among Christians all my life. Yet, I see how guilty we all can be when it comes to having pride and lack of humility. We forget to put on the nature of Jesus like we read about in Philippians 2. We neglect the passages that we are not to judge, but to love. “Make love your aim” (I Corinthians 14:1) seems far removed from us on days when we are filled with strife or disharmony in our own communities. And for those times when we see our shortcomings and beg to be forgiven, there are times when we feel we don’t deserve it. We have been a disappointment to our very selves. Sometimes being able to forgive ourselves is the hardest task as Gideon learns when his brother comes to visit and when he has to make that unexpected journey back to his roots.

Kiki, my autistic teen character, also strives to belong among her peers. She has some disadvantages, but in spite of them, teaches Gideon more about God’s grace than he could learn from any adult. Kiki is quick to love, eager to accept.

In Still Life in Shadows, I want my readers to know that they are each loved by God and that as a shepherd He carries us in his arms, close to His heart. No matter who we are, no matter how far we might feel from Him. He asks us to bow down and worship the One who knows our name, the One who has our very name tattooed on the palm of His hand. The One we belong to.

Come, stop running, take off your shoes, rest, and learn from Him. He always welcomes you.

Read the reviews for Still Life in Shadows and get a copy today.

[First posted at River North Fiction on October 28, 2013)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why is Waiting on God a Way of Life?



But those who wait on the Lord
shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings as eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)


I used to think that the person who would do all of this soaring in the sky was doing it AFTER his waiting was over. So as a waiter, I sat and hoped and prayed. Weary, I read how one day I would run and walk without the burdens of wondering and waiting.

The other night as I sat under a crescent moon on my porch stoop, I saw it all differently.

Now.

Because although we do have to wait, and often painfully long, God is a God of now.

He is calling us to live now.

Even in our waiting, He doesn’t go on vacation or cease to listen to our cries or leave His throne.

He grows us.

We grow while we wait.

In fact, my waiting has produced some of the best growth and spiritual character. In spite of waiting I can still live today. I can still experience joy and contentment (as the Apostle Paul wrote of). I am learning in the waiting room of God. I cling to Him. I have also felt the needs of His people, praying often for others who must wait, dear friends old and new who have asked me to pray for their really tough circumstances.

Last night I promised God that when He answered one of my prayers in this waiting room, that I would not feel as though I was done with needing Him or trusting Him. I promised that I would not grow cocky or overly proud or think I had accomplished anything. I told Him that I would still love Him, still seek His face, and still know desperately that I need Him. Always. And that I can do no good thing without Him. I told Him I would never want what He has taught me to be taken away from me.

I felt as though the clouds of my mind had parted. It was a growth spurt.

Today, as I was going about my usual writing and wondering when God was going to act, I received a wonderful surprise. I received an answer. I was given a writing assignment from a publishing house to write for them! I rejoiced. I wanted to run, to soar.

Hallelujah! At last!

Happy, I was eager to celebrate with a hunk of chocolate or drink that special tea or even open the bottle of champagne. God had heard my cry, God provided me with work!

Yes!

But the truth is, this is not my first time to have to cling to God and wait nor will it be my last. I still have other areas of my life to wait over.

Yet this time around, instead of wanting to hurry up the wait or push it aside or hold my breath until it leaves, I'm learning that waiting upon God is not at all ONLY a season. The truth is, it is a way of life.

Before I thought once my prayer was answered, I could kick up my heels and I'd be done with waiting. (I used to be young once and I think youthful minds think this way.)

Now I see the value in waiting, the beauty in growing, the honesty of a cultivated-by-God heart.

Dear God, I am your servant. I belong to you.

And I wait.

Because you are a God worth waiting for.

~*~

Are you waiting?
What are you waiting for today?
What do you want to learn as you wait upon Him?




Monday, September 16, 2013

Take Time to Regroup: Finding your Goals and Aspirations




I originally wrote this at the end of 2012 for the new year. But now that we are more than halfway through 2013, I thought it appropirate to take another look and see how we've been doing with our writing.


Take Time to Regroup: Finding your Goals and Aspirations for 2013

Discouragement. To authors this is a loaded word, heavy with feeling. Discouragement can last for weeks, sometimes months. It can start with something as simple as one bad book review or a book signing that ends in only a few sales. Discouragement can kick in when viewing royalty statements that show declining book sales. It can fester into more anguish when receiving simultaneous rejections. Discouragement can seep into the crevices of our minds and cause us to lack any zeal to write another book. Or plan a book event. Or praise God.

Despair.

Doubt.

If God called me to write, then why is the path such a hard one? This is not the glamorous life I thought writers were entitled to!

Help!

As if the career aspect wasn’t daunting enough, there is more to the struggle. Writers have others lives besides trying to make their characters come alive. They have children to care for, children with problems, children with attitudes; many have marriages, and in-laws and water bills and ovens that conk out right before Christmas. They’re affected by rising health insurance costs, illness, spouses losing jobs, and relatives who don’t understand.

In our despair how easy it is to run off course. Pretty soon we forget who we are. We forget who loves us. We forget to look up and expect of God. Our world becomes small, consumed with how badly things are going for us. Perhaps you haven’t sunk into the dungeon or the feeling like you are swimming uphill. Or perhaps you are there right now.

What to do?

It’s time to call a meeting with your CEO. It’s time to regroup. And what an appropriate time to do this—right at the beginning of a new year!


WALK--- Pull away from your computer and take time to go to a place where there are no reminders of work. A walk at a nearby park always helps me. As the endorphins kick in, my mind clears. When I breathe in the scent of honeysuckle or see the black-eyed-Susans or feel the breeze and hear the rustle of the tree leaves, I am refreshed. I am reminded of who I am and of who God is.

Open your heart to God. Cry out to Him. Then spend some time focusing on your passions. Ask yourself: What led me to write? Recall past milestones that deemed as signs of God’s calling on your life. Have you perhaps gotten off track? Are you spreading yourself too thin? What are your priorities? Are you doing what you feel led to do?

The other day when consumed with family issues, writing woes and wondering if the world was going to end according to the Mayan calendar, I thought about who I really want to reach with my written words. As I walked over a path of crumpled brown leaves, I was aware of the types of people I have a deep concern for. Broken people. Those who like me, have had a child die. In the weeks to follow, I set out to do more with this part of my writing and created another online grief writing course. I sent letters to those in support groups about my new devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning.

When you return home from your walk, write down what you learned during your time of reflection. Keep a journal; you know that writing out your questions, hopes and dreams is therapeutic. I confess that my reflections are currently not in journal format, but rather, written on slips of paper secured with a large paper clip. I keep these in a desk drawer. I also include the date. It helps to look over these pieces from my heart every so often and marvel how God met each need in His time.

SURRENDER --- There is a bench in the park where I walk that holds more meaning to me than slats of wood framed with metal. This is my Surrender to God Bench. On numerous occasions I’ve sat on it as a symbolic action that I am giving a particular struggle over to God. I like to walk, time myself and keep up my pace, but when I am hit with an “a-ha” moment during one of my meetings with my CEO, I have to sit down to show that I can slow down. The very act of resting at this spot and committing my burden to Him is a sign that I want to give every area of my life over to the One who loves and knows me best.


LEARN --- Although I write a lot of fiction, there are times when I need the guidance of a non-fiction book to encourage me. Authors need the valuable lessons recorded in books by Christians—from how to write better stories to how God teaches, loves and showers His grace and mercy upon us.

Read something new by an author new to you. Stretch your mind. If you always read fiction, try a little non-fiction and learn. Think. Be challenged to grow.

TRUST --- Take time to know that you belong to Him first and that He wants to teach you even in the midst of what looks to be bleak. He works in the winter when all appears dead to the human eyes. But the glorious spring shows us that He has not been silent; He has been creating all along and working behind the bare scenes.

As you get to know yourself better through your times of regrouping, get to know God better. Learn to listen to His voice more than you listen to your own fretting. Dive into scripture about how much He loves you, cares for you and is growing you. Increase your trust.

ASK --- Whenever I ask God for some encouragement, He provides. Don’t neglect to ask Him. The reply might not happen immediately, but wait for it. God will send you what you need.

Just recently I received a letter from a reader that came out of the blue. Here is some of what Blake wrote after reading my novel, Still Life in Shadows:

“Dear Alice,
Just to write to say I loved the book about the mechanic and the little autistic girl.

It was real to me.

I’ve tried to read other novels, but most of them aren’t real. I felt yours was real through and through.
The book helped me deal with my dad. He’s been long, long gone; but bitterness lives. Your book helped me to talk it out, cry it out, let it go. I can only say thank you.

Perhaps I can help my kids see a better dad than I saw. They say they love me. I generally hated and despised my father. He was rough. Thanks for writing.”

This letter came with a twenty dollar bill (I love unique fans) and boosted my spirits. Once more, I was reminded of how readers play an important role when they take the time to reach out to an author. And yes, I certainly was grateful for that enclosed bill—another blessing! The monetary gift also served as a reminder that God does take care of all my needs and to stop wasting time worrying. (“Do not worry about tomorrow.” Matthew 6:34. “I tell you, do not worry about your life.” Matthew 6:1)

BE THANKFUL --- When you are filled with zeal and ambition, you’re a fun person to be around. When you’re gloomy, you most likely won’t exhibit that happiness. Don’t deny your feelings, but know that during this season of aggravation, you need to be around others who can lift you up. Hang out with positive people. Other Christian authors who know the industry might be able to supply you with resources as well as the affirmation you covet. They also can be instrumental in praying for you. Let these people know that they have made a difference in your life. Many of my writing friends have stepped beside me to offer the words I have needed to hear during my season of despair. I treasure their positive messages of love. They are like a cool cup of water for this parched woman walking in the desert.

BELIEVE --- “You are a work of art in progress,” I wrote in my new devotional and like to sign copies of my book with this phrase. The other day I asked myself if I believed what I tell others to grasp. It is easy to toss out hopeful lines to those around us or to write them. Sometimes we need to read our very words about how valuable we are to God and believe that they are true.

It’s a new year! Make sure you aren’t just recycling your old writing goals or your old discouragement. Look up! God send manna from the sky; lift your head so that you won’t miss what He has in store for you in 2013. Let this be the year that you walk, surrender, learn, trust, ask, are thankful, and believe!

[First published in Book Fun magazine.]

Friday, September 13, 2013

Don't Give Up!




"I can't take it anymore. I just want to give up."

Sound familiar?

It sounds much too familiar to me. Life can be overwhelming. Whether you are in pain over the death of a loved one, or suffering from a breach in a relationship, angry over the loss of a career, or brought to your knees from financial woes, there are days when fighting to put one foot in front of the other gets weary. You have tried and tried with that relationship. Nothing seems to work. You want to feel human again after a break-up. Or you want so much to love yourself after you've been abused, rejected or betrayed. Your heart may be barely beating after you've had to tell a loved one good-bye. You may be wondering where God is. You may think you will never see the sunlight like you once used to.

When we are in the throes of sorrow or fear, it's easy to tell ourselves negative statements. Soon our minds are a receptacle for untruths. We doubt. We fear and we live out of our doubts and fears. We waver and can't seem to stand. We dismiss all the truths we once knew about God and His love for us.

We become liars.


Today, as I thought about my current financial deficit, a butterfly on a bush caught my attention and I stopped to view her work as she fluttered around each flower. I was about to do my usual begging and pleading to God when instead I thought, I am rich. And as I continued my walk, I said, I am rich because I get to walk on this beautiful morning.

The bank doesn't think I'm rich. The world might not. But we know that richness is more than numbers in a bank account. I began to come up with statements using the first words, "I am rich".

I am rich because I get to watch the sun rise over the Carolina pines.
I am rich because I have felt the ocean on a summer day.
I am rich because I have seen forgiveness.
I am rich because I know the Giver of Life.
I am rich because I know without God I will fall and fail.

I hope you'll give this exercise a try!

Spend some time listing the ways in which you have been blessed by God. In spite of your current sadness, look up. Even if it all seems hopeless, know that you are priceless to God.

The Apostle Paul stresses to keep our thoughts on things that are praiseworthy, pure, true.

Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

There are days when you might feel that you are not only drawing near to God, you are counting on Him for your every breath.

Negative thoughts damage, make us feel unworthy and before long, we forget that we were bought with a price. Negative statements are not life-giving.

Do this instead: Tell yourself words that heal, that encourage, that bless you and help you to remember that He who gave you life, is your life. And when you live each day with the words He has meant for you, you can walk with hope.

Don't give up!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Stop Looking Over the Fence; Look Up!

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 13:40 (NIV)

In a kindergarten class a little boy was eager to tattletale on his classmates for their behavior. His wise teacher confronted him with the words: “Jimmy, just worry about yourself and you’ll be busy all day.”

Right about the time that we think we’ve put jealousy and envy behind us, we realize, even as adults, that we have not lost the capacity to be petty. Our childish ways are still operating as though on the kindergarten playground.



The Bible is in tune with our human frailty. Countless passages encourage us to put on the mind of Christ and to renew our methods of thinking. Look up! Our hope comes from looking in the direction of Heaven where our help comes from. By lowering our eyes to view the pits in the ground, we forget that God cares for us and provides for our needs. When we seek God, the focus turns from our weakness to His provision, to His mercy. He is eager to equip us so that we can do wonderful things to bless others. It is in the reaching out to others—not in the envying of them—that we are at peace.

PRAYER: May I be a cheerful giver, a compassionate listener, a faithful friend. Let me be the one who shows others that I know of your great love for them and for me. Teach me your ways, O Lord. Amen.


Alice J. Wisler is the author of five novels and one devotional on grief and loss, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache. Read all the reviews here.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Swallowed in Grief: What Can You Do To Help Someone?



Life isn't for wimps. Life is one tough ride.

Many ask how they can help those suffering a devastating loss. Of course, I offer them a copy of my new devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning.

When others find it helpful, I am grateful that the message of the book has been embraced. The following is a viewpoint from one reader:


I decided to read this book not because I'm in grief or heartache but because as a pastor's wife I wanted some "inside" information on how to help people going through grief.

I know that sometimes it's hard for us, who have not known devastating grief, how to comfort or help those going through a rough patch in life.

Now, Alice Wisler has known grief and heartache. She writes encouraging words with scripture to help those in their time of need.

These book is more like a "grief" devotional with a Prayer, a Reflections to Ponder . . . a very encouraging read!

I especially liked the "devotional" on page 111, No Perfect Life. Sometimes we see people who seem to have it all . . . "Their marriages are intact; their children are healthy. They've got good teeth, bosses who value them, gardens filled with flowers, loving friends and savings in the bank. Life seems peaceful and easy for them." (p. 111)

We, incorrectly, assume that these types of people have it.all.together! But when we look closer and get to know these people we see that they are going through some very human rough patches in life. Be careful not to look on the outside. Consider that grief hits every human. If you're struggling with getting out of bed every day then you should begin reading this book before you even consider moving your head off the pillow.

This is a wonderful, encouraging read for everyone. And it would make a great gift for that person who is struggling with grief, sickness or loss of a loved one.
~ Review posted at Deeper Shopping.

Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache by Alice J. Wisler

Go to Deeper Shopping to get a copy of Getting Out of Bed in the Morning today!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You'll See Him in Heaven: Why it's a cheap shot

It was not the first time someone told me this and I suspect it won't be the last.

Talk about bittersweet.

I suppose I should explain. I'm talking about when people hear that your child died and immediately----I mean without even pausing to take in a breath----say, "You will see him again in Heaven."

Is that supposed to make it all okay?

Tell me, what exactly do these kind folks mean when they toss out that line?

If I were to watch a mother or father crying over the loss of an infant that only breathed for a few moments or a son or daughter who lived to be forty, I would never say that line.


It's a cheap shot. My opinion. To me, it makes it seem as though there is no reason for tears. Or makes it seem that if I had real faith, I wouldn't be sad.

Don't get all ruffled up now. It's not that I don't believe. You see, I do believe in Heaven. I wish more was written about it in The Bible. On many days I wish for just a glimpse. When I'm at the ocean and the breeze blows and the waves dance against the shore, I feel I'm closer to Heaven. Or when I go for a walk and the scents and sights of spring fill my vision, I think, "Ah, this is heavenly."

I believe when people die they go to Heaven. The criminal on the cross next to Jesus was promised he would be with Jesus in paradise. Love is perfect there because the Creator of love, God the Father, lives in Heaven. There is no sin, no sorrow, no tears and no human frailty in this place of eternity.

Yet sometimes I wonder if those who tell me not to worry, that I'll be with my son again in Heaven, are not using their God-given mind to think, to ponder.

Do you really think I am going to be serving animal crackers and reading bedtime stories to my Daniel in Heaven?

There will be reunions, yes. But I will never be Daniel's mama on earth again. Gone is the dream every mother holds and that is to watch her little baby grow up. That ended for me with Daniel's death at age four. When he died, so did my need to buy Cocoa Puffs for him.

I was thirty-six then. I'm fifty-two now. That's been a lot of time for me to wonder and pray and think, and oh, yes, bite my tongue. Especially when well-meaning folk try to cast off my pain by quipping, "We'll just think, you'll see him again in Heaven."

"If Heaven is going to be just like earth where I have to take out the trash, worry about paying bills, and discipline my kids, I don't want it," a mother said to me.

Some seem to think Heaven is an extension of earth. That Heaven to many will be a repeat, only without mosquitoes and a place where consuming a pound of milk chocolate won't make one fat. Many act like it's going to be where I can see my Daniel again as he was on earth. Folks, that little body that took a beating to cancer is gone. It is no more. The Bible promises we'll get new bodies, and I imagine that they won't age. In fact we probably will all look the same age----young and flawless, like the women in all those Oil of Olay commercials.

So before you tell a mother who is sorrowful over the death of her dreams, who is questioning who she is now without her son or daughter, who dreads Christmas because it means one less stocking to fill, who has seen her family diminish in size, and who has a hard time putting one foot in front of the other on most days---even years later----THINK!

There are so many healthy and nurturing ways in which we can comfort each other. Consider them. Instead of giving a pat, "Well, you'll see your child in Heaven," why not sit down, hold a grieving mother's hand, and listen?

You just might cry when you hear her aching heart. Don't you think Jesus would be weeping if He were seated next to her, too?

She knows she'll see her child again in Heaven. Right now she needs more than that reassurance. She has to learn how to live the rest of her life without him. She has to conquer sleepless nights and inappropriate comments, criticism, and push herself to believe that she will get a day free of tears.

Let her know that she is going through the hardest journey a mother ever goes through.

Let love coupled with understanding be how you bring comfort.

~ Alice is the author of five inspirational novels and the new devotional on grief and loss, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache. Read the reviews and order a copy here.

[This post was first posted at Alice's Patchwork Quilt Blog]

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Five easy steps for writing your own psalm


Where are you, God?

How long, O Lord?

O God, why have you rejected us forever?

In this trying season of my life (I am tempted to call it The Year of Nothing Good), I find myself asking God not so much where He is, but what is He doing. I feel like Pi in the movie, The Life of Pi. "What do you want from me?"

When I open my Bible for some comfort and guidance, I turn to the Psalms. I see that many of the psalms are a deep cry to God. There are not at all trite. The psalmist is in clear agony, even danger. He doesn't understand what is happening or why. He fears. He groans. He weeps. His tears are his food day and night. Even so, he looks to God, the creator of heaven and earth. He knows where his help comes from. He knows that God is close to the brokenhearted. He may not "feel" God at all. In fact, often, he doesn't. The psalmist knows he can be honest with his Lord, authentic; he has no time for pretending; he lets his raw guts show.

Writing through pain is healing. That has been proven and that's why support groups and psychiatric hospitals use writing as a way to connect to our feelings. When my son Daniel was in the hospital for cancer treatments, I wrote in a journal about what he was going through and about my feelings. When he died at the age of four, I let my agony gush over the pages. Writing provided therapy. It released the bottled-up fear, sorrow, questions and doubts onto pages that were able to contain them all and hold them safely. A journal is a safe place and when we are in the seas of anguish, it can be just what we need for respite.

I discovered the value of writing my own psalms. I found both freedom and clarity in putting my own heart onto paper in the form of a psalm. Digging into the psalms provides an excellent way to be stirred by language, emotion, imagery, and God's faithfulness and wonder. By using the templates of the psalms from the Bible, you'll discover how composing a psalm can energize your writing, and your life.

Here are five easy and simple steps to get you going.

1. First, read the psalms. If we want to learn to write anything (romance, sci-fi, historical, etc.) we must spend time reading what other authors have written. Read a few psalms silently and then pick a few of your favorites to read aloud.

2. As you read, note the patterns, and emotions. Psalm 74 wonders if God has rejected His people forever. Psalm 77 starts with desolation but ends in remembering the mighty acts of what God has done in the past, while Psalm 150 is complete rejoicing.

3. Allow some of the lines that grab you or speak to you to be memorized. Write these lines on notecards and keep them by your place of work or stick them to the bathroom mirror. Psalm 34 verse 18 might be where you are today and like me, you might have underlined it and let it be your daily mantra: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

4. Get your journal, a notebook, or a sheet of paper and start with a string of words based on your mood. Are most of the words ones of praise, lament, or a little of both? One practice you can try is to borrow a line from a psalm and use it to jumpstart your own. Start your verse with this line from psalm 69: "Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me."

5. In my writing classes I have participants write a psalm of woe and one of beauty. Usually the one of woe is easiest to create. There is, after all, much sadness in our world and in our lives. Children had died, relationships have been torn, jobs have been lost, trust betrayed. With each sorrow, we are able to find room for it on the page. A psalm of beauty sometimes pushes us to have to dig deep. Even if you aren't feeling particularly hopeful, push yourself to be observant of the beauty around you. Start by jotting down what you are thankful for.

Although you can use single sheets of paper for your creations, I would suggest that you keep a notebook or journal of your creations. Add to them. The more you pen your own psalms, the more adept you will become.

Read them aloud; edit if needed, by changing a word or phrase. Share as you see fit. Most of all, let your psalms draw you closer to a God who loves you.

~ Alice's next three-week online Writing the Psalms workshop starts August 5. Read more about what this course offers at her website.

Broken Psalms: Expressions of Grief and Loss is a writing workshop held in Forest City, NC (Rutherfordton County) on August 17th. Join the day! Read more here.

Alice's new devotional is filled with the psalms. See what others are saying about Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache (Leafwood Publishers 2013) here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Broken Psalms: Expressions of Grief and Loss



There are days when we just want to pull the covers over our head and not have to be anywhere. Or do anything. Or think.

We feel as though a sea of sorrow has raged into our lives. We are desperate. Desparing. Sad. Confused.

God, where are you? God, how can I carry on? What do you want from me?

Sometimes we hear Him bring words to mind: I love you. I will never leave you or forsake you. You belong to me. I carry you close to my heart.

Other times we hear nothing. Some days we open our Bible and gain strength. We fight the temptation to believe the lies that God does not care or than He is tired of our tears.

We remember that He has made us and knows us better than we know ourselves. He loves us with a perfect and everlasting love.


Broken Psalms: Expressions of Grief and Loss is a workshop where the psalms are used as a method of dealing with our grief and losses. In this workshop we'll take a fresh look at the psalms and create our own. We'll share from the depths of our hearts and discover how writing our heartache helps us to heal.

For more information on this all-day workshop taught by Alice Wisler, click here.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Where's My Mother of the Year Award?

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble." ~ Psalm 46: 1

With orange juice spilled over the kitchen table, Playdough in the cracks of the hardwood floor and a pacifier floating in the toilet, I wanted to scream phrases like, "How much more of this can I take?" and "I am not a maid!" and most of all, as the characters in Peanuts do, the long and profound, "AAUGH!" As I wiped the kitchen table, dug out the Playdough and retrieved the pacifier, I muttered, "Surely I deserve an award for mother of the year."

When I decided to become a mother, I envisioned days of cuddling my newborn and bathing her as serene music filled the air. As she'd grow older, I envisioned playing Ring Around The Rosies with her and a group of her neighborhood friends. I'd be a loving mother, anxious to nurture and praise my child. I'd never raise my voice.

The truth was, as soon as I become pregnant with my firstborn, I realized this was not how I had pictured it at all. I gained an enormous amount of weight, had heartburn and felt the most excruciating pain as I prepared to push my daughter from my body out into the world.

Continually, with each passing day, I am reminded that motherhood, especially when it involves preschoolers, is not a glamorous profession. How could it be when it starts with a growing belly, timing contractions and later waking up to cries at two a.m.? (A mother's cries as well as the baby's.)

"It is the daily routine things that can drive me crazy," a mother I recently talked with expressed. "I get tired of having to make sure my four year old has brushed his teeth, make sure that there are clean clothes that I have laundered for him to wear and I am especially tired of making sure I stock the pantry with nutritious items to pack in his lunch for preschool."

Does anyone care about what we mothers have to go through? Do our seemingly menial tasks mean anything to anybody? Our husbands may come home with a promotion or an award and a paycheck. We don't get any of these to show that what we do is noteworthy and valuable.

I used to expect the Ed McMahon of awards to mothers to come to my door and present me with a plaque that read: "For All Your Remarkable Hard Work." Others in the neighborhood would crowd around my front lawn, beaming at me and applauding my daily, grueling commitment to motherhood.


There was a time in my life when I felt I really needed to be recognized and presented with a motherhood award. It was immediately after my adorable four-year-old son, Daniel, died following cancer treatments. I wished I could have sunk into a hole in the sticky floor and not had any responsibilities. Not only was my grief consuming and agonizing, but I had to care for my surviving children, six-year-old Rachel and fifteen-month old Benjamin. On top of that, I was six months pregnant. If ever I felt I needed support, help, an award, it was then. Losing a child, your own flesh and blood, has to be the most difficult aspect of motherhood. Three months later, adding to the demands of parenting two kids and the suffering over the loss of one, arrived a new-born Elizabeth. Where was that award? Could there be a more appropriate candidate for it?

As time went on and no one called to invite me to tell my story on Oprah or on James Dobson and there was no excited crowd with cameras knocking at my door with the engraved plaque, I began to reconsider this award idea. Would an award given by those who heard my story really be sufficient? Even my closest friends did not know the agony of my situation and if they were to list the detailed reasons as to why I should get this motherhood award, they would come up short. They would leave out the darkest parts I had kept secret, therefore unable to know what was really going on with me.

Those of us who do not have ill children or disabled children to care for would not know what kind of inclusive award to give to the mothers of these children. We don't see the day-to-day struggles that consist of severe behavioral troubles, extensive trips to the doctors', the constant administration of medicines and the fear the child's future may not be bright. We can't know all that goes on when we don't live with these children.

Only God knows our individual pain. The only true award of genuine value could be from Him as He knows all we have been through. Our self-worth lies in knowing who we are in Christ. We are loved and are precious to Him. We have been given a gift, the valuable role of mother, with all its triumphs and trials. We are servants and serving Him through doing the daily grunge-work for our kids. Jesus said that whoever would be greatest in God's kingdom must learn to be servant of all. Within the realm of mere humans, is there any greater example of servanthood than motherhood?

While we may at times, be hopeful the award is coming soon, the reality is no earthly award presented by a human could measure up to what we are really worth. If we truly believe God sees all and knows all, then we can rest assured the award in Heaven will be the best and worth the wait. "Well done, my good and faithful servant," will be glorious music to our ears. And we won't even have to be holding a mop to receive it!

But meanwhile, as you scrub the blue marker off the bedroom wall, know your humbling job as a serving mother is pleasing to God.


Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/34209
Article first written in 2004 by Alice J. Wisler

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why do Christians Avoid Grief?



Ever been given a pile of manure and called it "beautiful" or while holding your nose, said that the colors were "certainly a nice shade of brown"?

That's often the way we handle grief associated with death.

We don't want to look at it too deeply for fear that we might just realize something.

Something like just how crushing and paralyzing it all is. How much it stinks. How devastating having it around can make us feel. How we wish it wasn't near us, around us, in view.

So we push it aside and act like it's something not to be dealt with. We call it all sorts of names, even to the point of making others believe that the death of a loved one isn't sorrowful or often debilitating. We sugarcoat death and the impact it has. Why? So that we can continue on in our illusions of happiness and pain-free existences?

As a Christian, I have heard it all. When my four-year-old son Daniel died after treatments for cancer, there was an outpouring of empathy and sympathy. Cards, flowers and home-cooked meals filled my kitchen and dining room table. Sometimes I tried to give the gift-givers a little token of my heart. I thought it was only fair. They'd given me a vase of yellow roses or a pan of lasagna. So I'd present them with a bit of my honesty.

"I miss Daniel so much."

"I'm not doing so good."

"I feel abandoned by God."

Few let me speak and weep.

Few.

Most felt they needed to tell me a thing or two. They did.

"God doesn't give you more than you can handle."

"Just think, God needed another flower in His garden and He picked Daniel."

"Oh, honey, you aren't angry at God. Disappointed, but don't use the word angry."

"Daniel would want you to be happy."

"Haven't you been sad long enough?"

"Be glad you have other children."

"This too shall pass."

When the visitors left, I was left with a new image of myself. I felt like the ogre you see in horror movies. If I were really a Christian, I should be able to handle this and not feel so engulfed by sorrow. Perhaps if I were closer to God, I would be able to deal with this much better. If I were a strong Christian, I wouldn't ache and cry myself to sleep.

Time passed. I read some books on grief and loss. I listened to other parents who had also buried children. I felt the warmth of those who knew this journey and shared it with me and were not too tired to answer their phone at midnight or 1 AM.

My logic changed. I realized that I was not, nor had I been, shunned or disciplined for being sad. God was not punishing me for my anger or my woe or my helplessness. Experiencing a realm of emotions that were like heavy scribblings bouncing here and there, in fact, was normal. It was normal to miss my Daniel. It was normal to wonder why and ponder and ask the hard questions.

With time, I grew bold.

Now after 16 years, I am equipped. I have learned that most people are uncomfortable with grief. They will react with platitudes and trite phrases that do absolutely no good. I don't let them bother me. For my years have not been empty years of just surviving; I have done my time. I have grown, listened, heard, learned, studied, felt, and lived.

God is no foreigner to sorrow. Jesus suffered. He was shunned. He wept. He had religious leaders toss platitudes at Him. Words weren't all; they had to go for the death sentence.

When I read about His life on earth, words pop out at me, words like "grief" and "sorrow". When I read the psalms, I thank God for letting that book be available to me. What a comfort it has been to read my own fears and longings, my own heartbeat of humanity and frailty in the pages of the Bible.

Yet, many Christians still don't get it. They can't seem to enlarge their hearts to encompass sorrow. They run from it; they hide. They can't walk side by side with the visitor that unexpectedly rams herself into their presence---that uninvited visitor that appears and stays and stays long after any guest should----three days.

If we could view grief as biblical, as spiritual, as a very real and important part of living, then perhaps, we would open our hearts to more of what God has to teach us as His children. If we could realize that grief is not the enemy; rather, avoiding it is what traps us and captures us so that we are prisoners.

Can we?

I was going to end this article here, but I can't. It's because I can't leave the manure alone. Sure, it is putrid and smelly, but if that is all we see, then that is all we'll ever get. There is another way to look at manure. After it has dried, when spread over fields and flower beds, manure does its best to help things grow. From the stench of today come the robust and sweet-smelling flowers of tomorrow.

You really can't avoid that from our despair, beauty happens. That's what God does. But if you avoid the manure, you will never see how it can actually grow your soul.


~ Alice J. Wisler is the author of five novels, three cookbooks, and the new devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache. She teaches writing through grief and loss workshops. Read more here.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Much of life is adapting





Combat the negative thoughts by telling yourself affirmations
each hour. Hopefully you will start to believe them.
Sometimes in our frustration with our situations, we
need to find ways to channel our negative energy. Walking
at least three miles a day helps me. Jog, play tennis, play the
saxophone, mow the grass. Get out there and get moving.
Befriend the poor, the hungry, the widow, the fatherless,
the prisoners, the alien. Find someone else who is suffering
and affirm them in the love of our Lord.

Reflections to Ponder
Keep a journal. Studies show writing reduces stress and
if you write at least five times a week for twenty minutes
you will notice the affects.

Also, try to envision your current situation as you
would like to see it. Picture your kids getting along with
your new spouse. Imagine peaceful conversations and the
acceptance of each other. Pray for this to take place and
keep praying that one day it will.

Prayer
“What matters is not what we feel like praying
about, but what God wants us to ask him for. Not
the poverty of our own heart, but the riches of the
Word of God must decide how we are to pray”
(Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 157)


When You Walk
As you walk, think of those in the Bible who went through
transitions in their journey and learned to adapt. Moses
is a great example of someone who was brought up by
God for a specific mission—to deliver His people out of
captivity in Egypt. Yet, even though God spoke to him
in a burning bush, Moses pleaded with his Lord to send
someone else to accomplish this task. Moses didn’t accept
or adjust to God’s plan for him overnight. It took time for
him to grow into the role and be transformed.
Do you believe that God can transform you in
your situation?

~ This is an excerpt from the devotional,
Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache
by Alice J. Wisler

Monday, May 6, 2013

Happiness? An entitlement?




“When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing
Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims
upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and
turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so
it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when
your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and
what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a
sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After
that, silence” (18).




We might conclude that we aren’t the ones with the
problem. We might neglect to remember that we do live in
a sin-filled world where, often, things are not as we believe
they should be. We believe we are entitled to the happiness
others feel and since our present turmoil keeps us from
happiness, something is therefore wrong with God.
Even Jesus asked His Father why He had been forsaken.
I think we can assume that Jesus felt abandoned.
Yet we know the outcome of the Crucifixion story. God
was working in the midst of the agony and pain Jesus suffered.
Can we trust that God works even when He seems
silent? Can we believe that He sees each tear, perhaps even
numbers them as He has the hair on our heads?

Reflections to Ponder
The fear of being left out in the cold grips us. Spend some
time focusing on the promises we are given.

Excerpt from Getting Out of Bed in the Morning

Friday, May 3, 2013

Moving from self-blame to God's grace



It was a myth to believe that we would be protected from life’s sadness. We live in a broken world and just as others go through seasons of anguish, so shall we. There are signs of suffering all around us if we open our eyes to them. I used to think bad things only happened to other people. Then one day my son died. Up until his cancer diagnosis he’d been a healthy boy. What caused the tumor? Doctors had no clue. As a mother, I wondered if I’d done something wrong during pregnancy. Was it because I got food poisoning during my sixth month? It must be my fault, something I could have controlled.Sorrow happens. How will we handle it? Will we ask God to come alongside and walk with us through it? Or will we continue to blame ourselves until we can barely hold our head up?

The sheer vastness and devastation of sorrow is summed up in this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Sorrow makes us all children again—destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing.”

Allow yourself to ask the tough questions. Many of these hold no understandable earthly answer. Can you live with not knowing why?

Prayer

God, I pray for a respite from my tears and questions today. Meet me in my struggles.


~ Excerpt from Getting Out of Bed in the Morning
To order your copy of Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache, click here.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

God, meet me in my tears



Chances are, you are spending time in tears and questioning.
Something I’ve found helpful is writing your questions
on a sheet of paper or in a journal. Don’t judge them
or yourself, just freely write. Unleash them, release them
from your heart and mind onto the page. Think of this as
a service you are doing yourself—letting the pent-up emotions
flow onto the paper through your hand. Let the paper
share some of your woes for a while so that you don’t have
to carry everything inside your heart. Bottled up grief can
make our hearts heavy; sharing it with a friend, even the
friend of a journal, can alleviate some of our confusion,
frustration, or loneliness.

Next, open your Bible to the book of Psalms and read
a few of the ones that pertain to sorrow. Read them aloud.
Read the verses that speak to your heart over and over.
Mark the verbs that you can relate to. Some that deal with
tears and crying out are Psalm 18, 61, and 40.

Prayer
God, meet me. Meet me in my tears. Bring others
to walk with me. Sustain me. Lift me up. I want
to believe that you are close to the brokenhearted
(Ps. 34). Help me in this time of need when it’s
hard to see straight and even more difficult to have
hope. Amen.

~Excerpt from Getting Out of Bed in the Morning by Alice J. Wisler
To order your copy, click here.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Stop Looking Over the Fence; Look up!



Take a moment to read both Psalm 121 and Psalm 123.

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Proverbs 13:40 (NIV)


In a kindergarten class a little boy was eager to tattletale on his classmates for their behavior.

His wise teacher confronted him with the words: “Jimmy, just worry about yourself and you’ll be busy all day.”

Right about the time that we think we’ve put jealousy and envy behind us, we realize, even as adults, that we have not lost the capacity to be petty. Our childish ways are still operating as though on the kindergarten playground.

The Bible is in tune with our human frailty. Countless passages encourage us to put on the mind of Christ and to renew our methods of thinking. Look up! Our hope comes from looking in the direction of Heaven where our help comes from. By lowering our eyes to view the pits in the ground, we forget that God cares for us and provides for our needs. When we seek God, the focus turns from our weakness to His provision, to His mercy. He is eager to equip us so that we can do wonderful things to bless others. It is in the reaching out to others—not in the envying of them—that we are at peace.


May I be a cheerful giver, a compassionate listener, a faithful friend. Let me be the one who shows others that I know of your great love for them and for me. Teach me your ways, O Lord. Amen.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Challenge for Easter



In my new devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning, I offer a challenge. I ask my readers to get to know God better than they know their own troubles.

The tendency might at first be to think, Oh, yeah, I already know God well.

But how well do you know about the following:
* Your bills
* Your finances
* Your coworkers who drive you crazy
* Your neighbor who runs over your lawn with her car
* Your spouse's irritating habits
* The new house your friend just had built
* The sound of your children complaining
* The sound of your own voice complaining

Do these things---some of which might lead you to worry or become depressed----consume your thoughts? Do you get wrapped up in them?

Do you know how God loves you? Do you understand how much you mean and matter to him? Can His love and attributes come to mind and renew your mind over all your despair and confusion? Can you let that happen?

In Getting Out of Bed in the Morning, I also ask readers to "Push aside all the jargon you might have grown up with—“christianese”—certain phrases you’ve repeated that you aren’t even sure how to explain to a nonbeliever. Read the Bible, perhaps pondering on one passage over and over so that you can fully grasp its meaning for you. Discover ways to express both God and faith in your own words."

For example, can you tell the Resurrection Story in your own words? Can you explain the meaning of Jesus' death on a cross and coming out from the tomb in a fresh way?

Start with one word. Crucified. What are others words you can use in its place? Think: What does it mean to be crucified?

Continue on with other words and phrases we use excessively at Easter-----salvation, died on a cross, rose again, died for my sins, was buried in a tomb.

This Easter spend some time finding new and fresh ways to express how excited you are to know this Jesus Christ who loves you. Read your favorite Easter passage from a new translation like The Message.

Consider how you might tell the story of Jesus' death to someone who has never heard it, or to someone who is not a native speaker of your language, or to a child.

"Discover both God and faith in your own words!"

I challenge you!

To order a copy of Getting Out of Bed in the Morning, click here.

[This post can also be found at Alice's Patchwork Blog.]

Friday, March 29, 2013

Practicing Contentment




Today I'm posting all of chapter thirty-seven from my devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning.



I am not saying this because I am in need,
for I have learned to be content
whatever the circumstances.
—Philippians 4:11


If it were easy, there wouldn’t be so much written
about how to do it. Paul doesn’t talk about the
pursuit of happiness. He’s focused on a higher accomplishment.
Being content is the ability to be satisfied with
what one has, whether it is a little or a lot. Once we have
reached the ability to be content, we have reached a high
goal. There is a peace that comes with being satisfied. It
causes one to refrain from looking over his or her shoulder
at others, desiring what they have. By no means does the
ability to be content mean that a life is trouble-free; rather,
in spite of those pesky circumstances, the heart can say,
“I am at rest.”

How do we go about obtaining this goal? I think it
comes from knowing and loving Jesus more. Those who
have gone through turmoil often have a high level of contentment.
They’ve experienced the worst fires and storms.
They’ve seen God’s provision, His grace, His mercy. These
blessings are rooted in their core. They aren’t rattled
because they look back and see what God has done in their
history. They trust He will again act. They sing, “It is well
with my soul.”

They also look for ways to be sustained along the way.
Their answers may not come immediately; but as they
wait, they know that God will give them His comfort, His
love, His presence.

Reflections to Ponder
Read Psalm 145. Take some time to write your own
response to it.

Prayer
You are faithful to Your promises; You are loving
toward all You have made. You uphold all those
who fall, and lift up all who are bowed down. I
thank you, Lord, for Your faithfulness to me.

When You Walk
Commit this to memory as you walk:
The Lord sustains the humble. . . . (Ps. 147:6)
`

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Far more than birds




Worry.

Fear.

Doubt.

Our human frailty creeps in when we are most vulnerable.

We feel inadequate and unprepared for tomorrow.

Finances are low. Bills pile up. People have betrayed us. Decisions need to be made and we don't know how to handle the situation.


What will I do?

How am I suppposed to live?


Jesus asked why we worry. He asked us to look at the wild flowers and their beauty.

He asked us to look at the birds of the air and note how they don't worry.

"Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6, NIV)

"And you count far more to him than birds." (Matthew 6, The Message)

Can you make your life a dance unto God, showing others how much you trust him?

Bask in who he is instead of worrying about what you aren't.

He is more than enough for today.

Don't let worry wedge its way between you and God's capable hands.

Look up! You are not a plastic bag blown by the wind! You are valued! (Getting Out of Bed in the Morning)

You are in good hands.

"Oh, how he loves you and me."





Monday, March 25, 2013

Access Denied!



Stop the negative thoughts from taking root. Hang a sign for your brain to see: Access Denied!

We remember that our God is not one who changes with our thoughts or our feelings. As fickle humans, we slide between feelings of happiness, joy, trust, sadness, and dismay. One day, usually a sunny spring day when the purple lilacs are in bloom, I might feel optimistic, carefree, and my trust in God soars. The next day, I might wake with a headache, back pain, and a heavy heart because of a friend’s recent diagnosis. In all honesty, I find myself admitting, “I don’t feel God.” But the good news is God is not a mere feeling. He isn’t any stronger because we feel Him or any weaker when we don’t.

So, in spite of our sorrow, we hope. I often think that we are creatures of hope, somehow believing as Orphan Annie did when she sang, “Tomorrow! The sun will come out, tomorrow!” We hope that each new day will be better than yesterday, that it might be the day for things to change for the better. And when we run out of that feeling of hope, we rest in the knowledge that God is forever God—His promises do not change, His faithfulness reaches beyond the stars. His truth sets us free.

Finally, brothers
and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever
is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything
is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such
things. Whatever you have learned or received
or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into
practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
(Phil. 4:4–9)

Excerpt from Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache by Alice J. Wisler



Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hope!




In life there is much sorrow, but there is also much hope.

The Bible speaks of faith, hope and love. (I. Cor. 13:13)

"What does the word hope mean to you? . . . Pray for those who have no hope." ~ Getting Out of Bed in the Morning

Let hope surround you today.

Breathe it in.

Share it.

Live hope.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Just a minute and a half of your time



I had fun creating this video for my devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning. I hope it conveys some of what my new book is about and what my desires are for it to achieve.

Please take a minute and a half to view the Broken Psalms video. No sound, just words and some photos.

Order a copy of Getting Out of Bed in the Morning today.

Does God sustain us in our losses?



Getting Out of Bed in the Morning is available now on Kindle.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

God's Waiting Room




Perhaps it has been days, maybe months, possibly years.

We are in God's waiting room.

Waiting, of course.

Again.

Learning as we wait.

Dependence on God. Trust.

Growth charts.

But, oh, waiting can be taxing.

We want things now.

Often, in our waiting we don't see the reason for having to wait. So we moan. Groan. Wonder.

Sometimes we doubt.

Oh, Lord, how long?

When?

Why?

Then we listen.

Nothing.

We long for God's audible voice.

In the quiet, we are nudged to silence.

In the silence, we are reminded: "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

Relax. Chill out. Stop fretting.

Take a few breaths.

Be still.

Still to thank God for who He is.

Still to praise Him for being sheltered by His wing.

Thank Him for being a Rock, a Redeemer, a Fortress, a Father.

Be confident that He is working His purpose out.

Waiting in His waiting room is a time to bask in His love.

Believe He will call you out from waiting.

When you are ready.

Meanwhile, be still.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

How do you trust? What is rejoicing?





"Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
for he has been good to me." (Ps. 13)

When You Walk
Think about ways you can rejoice in your salvation.

~ Excerpt from Getting Out of Bed in the Morning
Now on Kindle!

Monday, February 18, 2013

What is a Giving it Over to God calendar?





Keep a “Giving It over to God” calendar where you can see it each day. On this calendar (make sure it has large squares), place a mark or some emblem to signify a problem that you are handing over to God. You could write the letter “J” for jealousy on the square for today, meaning you are giving over to God your difficulty with the problem of being envious of your neighbor or friend. Or perhaps you will write the letter “F” because you need to give over your refusal to forgive, and now is the day to do that. As you place these markings on your calendar, ask God to take your difficulty or your sin and teach you how to grow out of it, away from it, and toward His likeness. Like a baby, we have to be weaned from our dependency or patterns into healthier mature attitudes.


Growing up means change. Where we once doubted, we now see. Experience has opened our eyes. We have experienced God’s grace, forgiveness, love, and power; and so when a new situation arises, we have this history with God to bank on. He was with us when our spouse left. He provided for us when we were let go from our place of employment. He sent comfort when we received the devastating diagnosis. He has been with us all along. He will continue to be with us so that we can live, even thrive. Although we have not seen Jesus in the flesh as the disciples did, we have been privileged to walk in His spirit each day.

~ excerpt from Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache
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Monday, February 11, 2013

Tips for Making Life Work

Below are some tips I shared recently at my Broken Psalms presention. These can all be found in Getting Out of Bed in the Morning.

Seclude yourself in a room where no one can hear you. Set a timer for three minutes and let yourself think about your anger. Scream, rant, and rave. When the timer dings, stand up, take a breath, and then partake in another action. Each day, anger may build up. Allow yourself time to deal with it and release it.

Pretend Jesus is your walking partner today. Envision Him as a person dressed in exercise gear. His strides match yours. What does He say to you? What do you say to Him?

Keep a journal. Studies show writing reduces stress and if you write at least five times a week for twenty minutes you will notice the affects. Also, try to envision your current situation as you would like to see it. Picture your kids getting along with your new spouse. Imagine peaceful conversations and the acceptance of each other. Pray for this to take place and keep praying that one day it will.

List your blessings—the things you are grateful for, the people who are in your life, the experiences you have enjoyed, the hobbies that bring you comfort. Keep a running list. Keep it by your beside and add to it each day.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How Do We Stay Uplifted in a Chaotic World?




Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
—Psalm 31:9


Being kind and gentle in our grief is important so that we can be a friend to ourselves. We may feel so exhausted from the couldas, shouldas, and wouldas that we reprimand and berating ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made and the guilt we feel. Even in our agony, we must be kind enough to push ourselves out of bed and get moving so that we can focus on our healing. A friend who fractured her leg told me that she firmly believes a healthy attitude helps us heal. As she goes to rehab sessions, she focuses on the positive.

On your bad days, tell yourself that no matter what unhappy circumstance you are in, you will not give in to playing the role of the victim. With God on your side, you are not a hopeless wreck. Even if you hear the old adage, “God helps those who help themselves” and feel that trusting in God is not “doing enough” to remedy your situation, refrain from self-loathing and harsh judgment. And by the way, although people toss the “God helps those” reference around like a familiar Bible verse, there is no verse in the Bible that matches it. ~ from Getting Out of Bed in the Morning.

How do you keep a positive attitude in light of God's grace and mercy? What helps you?

[Read the reviews for Getting Out of Bed in the Mornning]

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Psalm of WinterPrayer




I call this tree "Great Tree" because it seems enormous. A few weeks ago I held a contest, asking blog followers to name this tree with something more captivating than what I called it. The contest ended on February 3 and the winner has been announced today---Barb Shelton of Texas came up with Psalm of WinterPrayer.

Congratulations, Barb! An autographed copy of my new devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache, will be sent to you soon.




Thanks to all, for submitting entries. I appreciate them all!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Getting Out of Bed in the Durham Herald-Sun: Comfort in Heartache


A devotional of ‘comfort in heartache’

Alice Wisler hopes to help others deal with loss with ‘Getting Out of Bed in the Morning’


BY DAWN BAUMGARTNER VAUGHAN; dvaughan@heraldsun.com; 919-419-6563


DURHAM —

In the wake of the death of her 4-year-old son Daniel in 1997, Alice Wisler formed a grief organization to help other parents. Also an author of several fiction books, Wisler’s latest is a devotional. “Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache” (Leafwood Publishers, softcover, $13.99) is a collection of 40 devotionals for those dealing with various kinds of losses in their lives.

The idea for the devotional was formed as Wisler, who lives in Durham, went on walks, and each devotional includes ideas for contemplation while on a walk. It also includes a prayer, Bible verses and Wisler’s own personal stories of life and loss.

Daniel, who died after eight months of cancer treatments, would have been 21 now. The anniversary of his death is Feb. 2. What Wisler’s book shows, and what she experiences, is that “there is a God that sustains us through misery.”

What’s helped her be sustained is being around other believers who encourage and support her, Wisler said. A member of Blacknall Presbyterian Church, which she joined in 2002, Wisler has found that other members are willing to learn about Daniel and acknowledge his death.

“Bereaved parents want acknowledgement,” she said. They’re still grieving their child and still missing their child, always. Parents don’t want a pity party, Wisler said, just the acknowledgement that attending something like a celebratory event is hard.

Through donations, 106 copies of “Getting Out of Bed in the Morning” were sent this week to Newtown United Methodist Church in Connecticut, the community where 20 children and six adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December. Victims included church members.

Writing has been a form of solace, great peace and hope after her son’s death, Wisler said. She hopes people will find encouragement from her book, with a message to point to God. It helps to see what God has to say about bereavement, grief and fear, she said, and “how we can live in spite of the suffering.”

Below is an excerpt from “Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache” by Alice J. Wisler:

(Pages 44-47, devotion Seven)
“Rescue Me!”

. . . my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, O Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you. — Psalm 88:9

Observing a temper tantrum in a child is no easy feat. We watch a child asking for a cookie, and then when denied she continues to beg, and then the begging leads to wailing. Nine times out of ten, kicking and screaming follow. Sometimes the only way to stop the escalating behavior is to pick the child up and hold her until she, at last, is exhausted and settles in her parent’s arms.

As adults, often we’re still like a child. We vacillate between wanting to pull away, storm out, go our own way, and wanting to be rescued from ourselves. Somebody hold me, help me take my eyes off of me and my dilemma and focus on something else.

At times, like a child, we get to a place where we are totally out of sorts, unable to even see or think clearly anymore. Life seems to have swallowed us whole. We are in dire need of help. Open your eyes and look to the One who is standing beside you, His arms outstretched. He wants to pick you up and hold you until your tears and frustration cease.

When a mother came back home from a Mary Kay party with more makeup on than she usually wore, her four-year-old daughter stood at a distance for a moment before running into her arms. Then smiling into her face, the child said, “I know it’s you, Mommy! I know you’re in there.” While you might put on a new fa├žade in the form of a different hairstyle or article of clothing, you can’t fool those who are closest to you. They still recognize you. How much more acquainted with you is God! He knows you better than you know yourself. He loves you more than anyone ever can or will.


Reflections to Ponder
Close your eyes and spread out your hands. Lift them up over your head. Stretch them out in front of you, palms up. Imagine God reaching out for you. Spend a few moments in silence. Listen for God’s stirrings in your heart. Close and then open your hands as though you are giving your concerns over to God. Read aloud Psalm 88:9: “. . . my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, O Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you.” In response to this verse, read also Psalm 18:19: “He [the Lord] brought me into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

If you feel overwhelmed by what you feel your life is lacking or what you think is not right, jot down your concerns. Sometimes releasing your pent-up discontent helps because you are getting it out of your mind and letting the paper hold the weight of it. What troubles you? Can you put your fears on paper? Do you believe that the Lord will counsel you as you seek Him (Ps. 16:7)?

Prayer:
Save me for I am drowning.
Save me for I worry.
Save me for I fear.
Save me for I am consumed with despair.
Save me, O God.
You have rescued me
from drowning, from worry,
from fear, and from despair.
Thank you, O God.

When You Walk:
Find a park to walk to and a place to sit. On a note pad, list what you know about God to be true. How will you implement these truths in your daily life?

[Excerpt courtesy of author and Leafwood Publishers]


WHAT: Author reading, “Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache” by Alice J. Wisler. There will also be soup and cornbread.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to noon, Feb. 9
WHERE: Blacknall Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall
1902 Perry St., Durham

Printed in the Durham Herald-Sun in the Faith and More section / January 31, 2013
Copyright 2013

To read reviews and order Getting Out Of Bed in the Morning, click here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

God of Mystery



Twenty-six

God of Mystery

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. ~Isaiah 55:8

I grew up on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie mysteries. Mysteries entice us to try to figure out who committed the crime before the detective knows. While that’s fun, seldom do we want our lives to be mysteries. We want answers. Now.

When my son died, I wanted to know why. I will always wonder why he didn’t get to live. I doubted the effectiveness of prayer for a long time after his last breath, because not only had he prayed for his healing, but so had I, his father, his grandparents, and countless people around the globe. There are other things I also don’t understand about why things in life happen the way they do.

God doesn’t have to tell us why he allows what He does. He’s God. He never promised that he would explain all things to us. He wants us to trust that He holds the answers, just as He holds our lives. I wish that God would fill me in; but then, when I stand under the multitude of stars, I realize just how small I am. Of course, He doesn’t have to share his ideas with me. Who am I? Even so, I often bellow out at Him, expecting Him to tell me what he’s doing. Then, I’ll conclude, that even on a good day, my tiny mind probably couldn’t handle His thoughts anyway.

You might be like I was. When Daniel died, I had to go over all the details leading up to his passing. Metaphorically, I was like a stomper of grapes; over and over my feet crushed them out of their skins into liquid. I left no grape unsmashed. I wondered why things ended the way they did with Daniel’s life and wrestled with many issues. Did I get the answers as to why Daniel died? I banged on Heaven’s door, so to speak, begging for God to show me why my four-year-old had to die. Did I get the answers as to why Daniel died? Eventually, I placed my questions in a box, sealed it, and stored the box in the attic of my mind. It was unnecessary for me to continue asking. Yet, since I am a wrestler by nature, I needed to ask in order for me to heal. Now there is no need to open the box and take out the mysteries and look them over. Time has passed and I have moved beyond those struggles.




I ask God to wipe my frustration away and to let me know I can keep going in spite of having no answers. I can keep looking up even though I know that He does not always heal. He does not always spare the lives of loved ones. On some days that scares me. Why wouldn’t a perfect God want an infant with a heart condition to be healed and live?

If we view ourselves as children—loved and cared for—does that make it easier to trust Him as the One who desires our trust, who longs for us to come to Him and exercise our little faith even in the midst of despair?

What a relief it is to stop trying to figure God out and to, instead, deepen our trust in Him so much so that we can truly believe with a childlike faith.



Reflections to Ponder
Some are not interested in walking with God. From youth on, they have an idea of God that is, at best, filled with partial truths. Their concept of God might be that of a stoic controller who rains on everyone’s parades or a jolly Santa-type, dishing out gifts. Many haven’t bothered to get to know the true and living God, the father of Jesus Christ, a man who was ridiculed, a friend to the lonely, a healer of broken hearts.

Have some of the things you’ve been told about life as a Christ-follower been found to be mistruths?

The God of the Bible is a God of mystery. Can you accept not knowing the whys and hows of your life? Can you trust a God you might not always understand? Do you have a “mystery file,” a page in your journal where you store those things that have happened that you have no answer for?

Prayer
Lord, I wrestle. I don’t understand. Help me as I grapple with the things I don’t comprehend. May I lean on You so much that my trust and love for You grows.



When You Walk
As you walk, lift up your face to the sun. Note the sway of the tree limbs. Feel your heart beating. Take a deep breath. Be aware of the many ways God has orchestrated nature and all living things, including you. Could you create a tree, a flower, an insect? No, that is not your place. Let the God of mysterious creations fill your veins with the assurance that He is God.


~ From Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache by Alice J. Wisler
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