Thursday, April 10, 2014

An incredible story...

Today, you get to hear from a precious friend of mine as she shares her story of God’s grace in a very tragic situation…

"My name is Dana Salabor, and I am here to share with you how God helped me to trust Him during a very difficult time in my life.

Now to tell you my story…

Dana & Baby Kyle
It was early Monday morning, March 14, 1994. My husband Jeff had gone to work, and I was at home with our precious little four week old baby boy whose name is Kyle. 

Jeff and I had been married almost eight years, and we were just experiencing the joys of parenting. I had been up during the night nursing Kyle.

Now it was about 9:00 am and Jeff had already gone to work. I was up putting a bagel in the toaster for my breakfast, when I received a phone call from my husband's work saying that Jeff had been in an accident at work.  They told me he had a head injury and was on his way to the Med (Regional Medical Hospital).

I can hardly remember exactly what I did next. I just remember I was shaking all over and I didn't know what to do. 

Most of my family was out of town on two separate vacations.

Jeff's work called right back and offered to come and get me and take me to the hospital; they also went on to tell me that they thought Jeff was going to be okay.  I called Jeff's Mom first. And then I called my sister-n-law, Dawn, and she came to get me and Kyle and we went straight to the Med. 

I have a precious sister-n-law who loves the Lord and we prayed all the way to the hospital not knowing what to expect when we got there. 

When we arrived at the Med, Jeff's brother Greg met us in the parking lot and told us that Jeff had died. 

Of course, I was in complete shock. I didn't know what to do. So much after that is a blur. 

But I do remember God surrounding me with His love through family and friends at the hospital. I had to make the decision whether or not to go in and see Jeff. They still had him hooked up to the machines so that his organs could be donated. I chose not to go in and see him because I didn't want to remember him like that and I was afraid of what I would see. And also I knew that Jeff was already with the Lord. 
Dana and Jeff
I remember so many friends and family were there to help me through each day even in the midst of their grief. My family made it back as soon as they could. My Mom went to the closest airport and flew home and was able to be with me that night while the rest of my family had to make that long drive home. 

The next day was making the funeral arrangements. How do you even think about that much less do it? That is a pretty big blur too. 

That same night we had visitation. There were so many loved ones there. The line of people went on for hours. And God gave me His strength and grace to get through that night as I remember that I had literally cried all of my tears. I didn't have any more tears to cry.

I literally felt the Lord carry me through that night. I remember feeling like I was not really there going through it but more like I was watching myself go through it. I can't even put into words how I felt but I know that it was the Lord who was getting me through it all. 

The next day, which was Wednesday, we had the funeral. It was such a sweet home going. We had a closed casket with some precious pictures of Jeff displayed. God gave Jeff's oldest brother Greg the strength to do the eulogy. It was precious. Greg made us laugh by sharing some funny childhood stories and of course we cried a lot too. 

Two of the ministers and our Sunday school teacher whom we were close to did the ceremony. It was so touching. They shared the Gospel, and the presence of the Lord was truly there. The music was absolutely beautiful. I remember saying that day how sweet the services were. I also remember at the graveside after it was over saying, "I don't know how to say good-bye." And my precious mama said. "It's not good-bye, but I will see you soon." And she was right. 

Because of Jesus, I know I will get to see Jeff again. And this place we call earth is not really our home. Heaven is our Home! Phil. 3:20 says that our citizenship is in Heaven.

I am so thankful that as a teenager Jeff asked Jesus to come into his heart, and Jeff is with Jesus today. I will get to see him again one day.

A few weeks went by and we started working on the acknowledgement cards. I knew that I wanted to say something special to each individual but there were so many that it would have been so hard to do that. 

So God laid it upon my heart to use this as a chance to share His love and hope to everyone as well as to thank everyone. And He gave me that opportunity and the words to say in the acknowledgement cards that I sent out.

Kyle as a little guy...
Well, as the days and months and now years have gone on without Jeff, God has shown me a lot and He has grown me a lot too. 

I can remember wondering if there was ever going to be a day when I didn't cry.  God made himself so real to me during that time. I can remember crying so uncontrollably, and I prayed and asked God to please help me. I remember that a calmness rushed over me that could have only been from the Lord. It was so incredible. 

I can also remember telling my family and friends that I have accepted this and I know Jeff is with the Lord, but I wish I could just skip the pain. But I have learned that is not part of God's plan. The pain is part of the healing process. And God uses that in our lives to grow us and to help us to help others. We do have to go through it but He also promises to go with us. 

I know initially and even months after Jeff died, I had a peace and an acceptance even in the midst of the pain and loneliness. I thought I would skip the anger part of the grief process. But I didn't.

I experienced the anger but not until over a year after Jeff died. I was really mad at God when I started dating and even the thought of dating. I knew whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and I had already been down that road. I didn't want to go through that again. 

God showed me that it was ok to be angry. So I told Him all about it, and I gave it to Him. He helped me get through it and also to let go of the anger. 

Through the years, I have had many experiences and gone through many emotions of loneliness, frustration, anger, sadness (and the list goes on) that I have had to surrender to the Lord and I still do. Each day I have a choice. And the awesome thing is even when I make the wrong choice, God is so faithful and loving and forgiving. God has shown me that his grace is sufficient, and He gives it to us when we need it. He even prepares us for the crisis sometimes, but He does not give it to us beforehand. 

I would have told you that I would have been in a mental hospital had I known what I was going to have to face. But God in his goodness and mercy and grace was there and gave me His strength and His peace and He continues to do so each day. And I am so thankful!

God did help to prepare me for losing Jeff (as much as you can be prepared for such a loss). And He did that by drawing me closer to Him.

I never got to tell Jeff good-bye.  But, God did an amazing thing.

Before he died, Jeff and his friend Tim were on a plane ride to the mountains. Tim videoed Jeff, and this is what He said: “Dana, In case I don't survive, I want you to know that I love you!” And then he mouthed “I LOVE YOU! And if I don't survive I want you to remarry and just know that I will always love you and I will see you in heaven.” 

And Tim clicked off the video and then he clicked it right back on again and then Jeff said: “Oh, yeah, take care of Kyle for me.”

We knew we were having a little boy, and we had already picked out his name. I can't tell you how precious that is to me.

Jeff made it home safely from that trip to the mountains, but little did he know that he would go home to heaven to be with the Lord in just six short weeks.  

Well two weeks after their trip to the mountains, we had our precious baby Kyle. His name is Kyle Jeffrey. He is named after his daddy and my precious little nephew, Brandon Kyle. I am so thankful that Jeff was able to be there with me. He was such a proud Daddy. 

Then 4 weeks later Jeff went home to be with the Lord.

I know most of what I have shared with you is very tragic from our human perspective, but it is more than wonderful from a heavenly perspective.

I would certainly say that if I'd had it my way, I would have chosen not to go through any of the pain and loss that I have shared with you. But I know that I have to trust in the Lord and not my own understanding and have faith in Him and His Sovereignty. Because If I would have had my way about it, I would have not chosen this path.

And I also wouldn't have known the Lord in the same way, and I wouldn't have had to learn to trust Him.

~  I wouldn't know that He could get me through these difficult times.

~ I also wouldn't have seen that God could make something good come from something so painful and devastating.

~ I wouldn't have seen how God could comfort me through the most treacherous storms of my life. 

~ I wouldn't have seen how He could be my Husband, my best friend, a Daddy to my little Kyle, my comforter, my provider, and my all.

~ I wouldn't have known some of the most precious people in my life.

~ I wouldn't have been able to share God's love and mercy and His grace and peace in the same way. 

~ I wouldn't have known Jesus in the same way.

~ If I'd had my way I would have passed this cup of sorrow to someone more willing to receive it and I would have asked for a cross that asked much less of me.

~ And If I would have had my way I would not be sharing the awesome way that God has worked in my life and in my heart. 

~ I would have said there is no way that I could go through losing my husband, who was my best friend and my high school sweetheart and the father of my precious baby and still have a peace in my heart. And without Jesus there is no way! 

Dana with 20 Year Old Kyle
But my testimony to you is that because of Jesus, I can tell you that God is good and He loves me and He loves you and He sent His precious Son to die on the Cross for the whole world and now Jesus is in Heaven right now. God's word says that He has a plan for each one of us and they are plans for good and not for evil to give us a future and a hope. And that promise is for Jeff too and he is already experiencing that wonderful hope of Heaven.  

Well, this past March marks 20 years that Jeff has been with the Lord. And this past February, my baby boy turned 20 years old. Wow, how the years have flown by! He has grown up so fast. 

And to give you an update on my life…I was a single mom for over 8 years and then God blessed me with a wonderful, godly husband and a special father for Kyle.

Dana and Chris
His name is Chris, and we have been married for almost 12 years.  Kyle calls him "dad" and it is so precious.  Chris is truly a gift from God.  God was so good to allow me to love again when I thought I never could.  God truly is our answer no matter what we are going through!

Now I want to share with you the words of this beautiful song that I think speaks to all of us in the midst of whatever crisis that God allows us to go through. 


The title of the song is "If I'd Had My Way About It" by Janet Paschal"

If I’d Had My Way About It
If I’d had my way about it, I’d have danced in grassy fields and fragrant meadows, and risen in the morning just to hear the robin’s lovely melody. 

I’d have rested in wide spaces, and found a cross that asked much less of me. 

Never sailed in raging wind or troubled sea, if You’d thought it best to leave it up to me.  
But if I’d had my way, I might have been wading through the river when You wanted me to walk upon the sea. 

And if I’d had my say and all of my wants and whims and wishes, You knew how weak, how shallow I would be, If I’d had my way.

Chorus
I trust your wisdom over mine ‘cause You’ve proven over time that in my narrow way of seeing things I leave the best behind sometimes. 

I might not have stayed as close if I’d had my way. 

If I’d had my way, had my way, when You wanted me to walk upon the sea. 

And If I’d had my say and all of my wants and whims and wishes, You knew how weak, how shallow I would be. 

I trust Your wisdom over mine ‘cause You’ve proven over time that in my narrow way of seeing things I leave the best behind sometimes. 

I might not have stayed as close if I’d had my way. 

Oh- If I’d had my way.

If I’d had my way about it, I’d have only known Your majesty and glory, and passed that cup of sorrow to somebody else more willing to receive. 

I’d have written lovely phrases, inspiring lofty praises, and soared above my own humanity. 

Wounded wouldn’t die, hearts wouldn’t bleed, if all along You’d left it up to me.

Dana’s Words of Hope from the Word
Psalm 16:5
LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Mark 9:23-24
"'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

Isaiah 55:8-9
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Ephesians 3:16-19
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

1 Corinthians 2:9
However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"--

Psalm 56:8
Thou hast taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Thy bottle; are {they} not in Thy book?

James 4:8
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Isaiah 40:31
“but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Jeremiah 18:6
"O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
What does the worker gain from his toil?
I have seen the burden God has laid on men.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

2 Corinthians 1:2-7
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

Matthew 11:28-30
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Isaiah 61:1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.


Thanks, Dana, for sharing your amazing story of tragedy and of faith! Your life is a blessing to us. Your testimony inspires us and reminds us to press in closer to Jesus Christ.

(If you’d like to send a note to Dana or ask her a question, you can send it to me at "melredd82@gmail.com" and I’ll forward it to her!)

Blessings to you,

Melanie

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sometimes, life is painful...

I bumped into a sweet friend last week that I hadn’t seen in quite some time. 

Time has matured her beauty and warmed her smile. 

However, as we talked, she began to share with me how she’s been living with an unusual illness for many years now that gives her immense and constant pain.

Although doctors have tried all sorts of remedies and medicines, the pain still remains.  Day after day after day, my sweet friend hurts.  Month after month after month, her health distracts and disables her.  Year after year after year, there is discomfort, aching, and misery.

How does she cope?  How does anyone cope with chronic affliction?

Maybe today you are also experiencing constant pain physically like my dear friend…

Maybe your pain is emotional, deep within the depths of your soul…

Possibly, you are hurting over a broken relationship, a wayward child, a lengthy divorce, or a dying church…

Whatever your pain, it is real to you.  Incredibly real!   

And, it is unending.  

It is something that plagues you day after day, month after month, and year after year.

Most of us can get motivated to deal with short-term challenges and difficulties.  We endure well for a day or a week.  However, when the afflictions of life move into months or years, we begin to lose heart.

Where do we turn when our pain is unending?

What do we do when the road becomes long – much longer than we had ever anticipated?

Might I suggest a place we can go?  A place we can turn?

When we are in pain, we can go to the Healer, 
Almighty God, and His Word.  
(He created us, He loves us, He can help us.)

One Scripture that encourages my heart when life gets rough is Hebrews 12:1-2.

In the New Living Bible, we read:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
How do we continue forward in our race of faith even when life is painful?

1st - We remember all of the faithful ones who have gone before us. 
 ~ Think about that parent, grandparent, teacher, coach, pastor, or friend who kept the faith – no matter what came their way.

~ Look back at the Bible characters you love whose lives were marked with difficulty, but who stayed the course with God.  How did they cope?  How did they survive and succeed?  What gave them hope in the midst of pain?

2nd - We strip off any extra stuff that is weighing us down, things that are slowing us down and not helping in any way.
~ Are we watching too much TV, reading too many escape books, amusing ourselves into oblivion?

~ Are there people in our lives who are doing us more harm than good?  Can we spend less time with these folks?

~ Are we “medicating” our pain with food, hobbies, entertainment, work or anything else in order not to feel so bad?

3rd - We get rid of the sins that are tripping us up – those habits and issues that are like parasites in our lives.
~ Is there anything we are leaning on more than Jesus?


~ Is there anything unhealthy that we just need to let go of?

~ Is there a sin that we need to “kiss goodbye”?

~ Are we allowing some pet sin to control our lives?


4th - We FIX our complete focus on Jesus Christ and Him alone. 
~ Jesus is our ultimate example – the only One who perfectly ran this race before us. 

~ He endured much pain.  We can too.

~ He finished well.   We can too.

~ When you are discouraged, go over His story again.

Consider the words to Steve Green's song...

"And to all the things that have kept you away
That keep you defeated day after day after day
The heartache that nobody sees
That eats at your soul like a cruel disease
He who set the captives free
It is He, it is He who holds your keys"

5th - We just REFUSE to QUIT!

~ No matter how much it hurts, I will not quit.

~ No matter how tough it is today, I will not give up.

~ No matter what, I am going to keep on keeping on.

I don’t know where you find yourself today, but I want to encourage you – don’t give up.  Today is NOT the day to quit!

I close today with a wonderful video portraying a young man who refused to quit – even when he was in great pain.

Why not take a few moments to watch it…



Blessings to you as you hang on for one more day!
Melanie