Surviving seasons of sorrow and slobber.

By Erika Rizkallah

I thank God summer is over. Well, kind of. I live on the Southeastern coast and even though leaves are starting to fall and acorns litter the sidewalks, it can feel as hot as Hades.

From my windows I watch boats drift by with girls in bikinis dancing on the bow. I watch egrets stand as still as statues in the tall grasses at the water’s edge. I see fish jumping as they try to avoid the jaws of a gator who has no business being near my dock.

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I saw a lot out of my windows this summer but rarely got out of the house. Even though I can see the beach, I didn’t get a chance to spend even one day on it.

I know I sound like a baby . . . a little woe is me. But I don’t mean to. It’s simply that this summer season was hard.

So hard.

I watched the health of my loved ones deteriorate. I tried to provide comfort, safety and aid and I guess in that regard it was successful. We made it through but at times I questioned my own sanity.

And in the middle of it all, my husband ( bless his heart ) made a ridiculous decision. He brought home a puppy – a Rottweiler. Somehow he thought this would be a great thing, even though I’ve continually said, “Not one more thing that poops is allowed in this house!”

I told him I’d rather have a baby and he told me not to worry. I wasn’t going to have to care for this baby. No, he and my son would do it all. Yeah, right. He made it through a month before he realized he’d  made a big, messy, slobbery mistake.

Yet, in spite of all the chaos and sorrow, I watched God working out things for our good. It’s one of the promises I held onto through the tears, hospital visits and sleepless summer nights.

His plans are good. His ways are higher. His love heals our wounds.

I hope you know that friends. I pray you will cling to Our Father, keep your eyes on His son and understand that His grace is sufficient for us.

Here’s our promise . .  .

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Unexpected Enemies

By Erika Rizkallah

A couple of days ago I wrote about the Orlando shootings and prayer. In a comment to a reader I mentioned that one of Jesus’ commands is to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And then I thought, I’m so glad there are no enemies in my life.

Then, bam! All of a sudden I have one.

Don’t you just hate that?

Someone I began to care for deeply, betrayed and hurt one of my family members. His pride and inflated ego caused him to do and say some things that can never be undone. Though I’m not at liberty to discuss, I know it’s an opportunity to practice the command I mentioned to someone else.

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But I don’t want to. I don’t want to stretch and grow this way. I don’t want to encourage my family members to do the same because they’re not ready to forgive. It’s difficult because the unrepentant culprit is eaten up by his own need for vengeance. I don’t want to take the high road because it doesn’t seem fair.

I suppose that’s the point. Did you know many of Jesus’ commands were appalling to the hearers of his day? After all, the Israelites followed a tradition of law codes recorded thousands of years before.

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Jesus’s words flipped everything upside down; they cut straight to the heart of humanity. He was known for his phrase, “You have heard it said . . . but I tell you.” Whenever we read it we know he’s shattering the status quo. We know he expects something different of his people.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:38-39

In the ancient world, striking someone was considered more of an insult than a beat down. Jesus was a reformer encouraging his followers to lay down their natural rights to retribution. If I’m a disciple I must submit to his authority and do the same. I will but I still don’t want to and that’s ok.

I’ll get there eventually.

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It’s funny because today someone told me that my enemy said, “Miss Erika is the nicest lady I’ve ever met.” But it’s not me, it’s Him living inside me. Because of that I can trust Him to change this guy’s heart – and mine as well.

How about you? Do you find it hard to love your enemies?

 

 

 

6 Lessons to remember when your child is bullied

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23 (New Living Translation)

In my last post I promised to write out the lessons we learned about bullying. There are two types: One from Kat’s perspective (teenager) and one from mine (parent).

I’m breaking them out and giving our bully the nickname “Brutus” for easier reading and because I still love him.

Lessons Kat Learned

Don’t put too much trust in your friends – We all crave family in one way or another and research shows that teens value the opinions of their friends and peer groups above all else. Kat put all her energy into one group of friends and Brutus was her bestie. He’s also the most popular, so when their friendship crumbled . . .

Teens are apt to choose sides, much like adults do when close friends divorce. Making friends in multiple areas of life is essential for helping teens get through relationship adversity.

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Forgive people when they make mistakes – Forgiveness isn’t only a biblical mandate, it’s a life skill . . . and it’s freaking hard! In this case Brutus was unwilling; he’d built up weeks of simmering anger. He’ll need to learn how to forgive an offense. Kat learned to forgive herself and others as Jesus does.

Pay attention to warning signs – In other words, trust your gut! God gave us powerful instincts. Kat knew something was “off.” She noticed Brutus’ behavior change and repeatedly asked him if something was wrong. He denied it so she decided to trust his word despite contrary evidence.

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Lessons I learned (not including my husband because he just wanted to beat everyone up).

Be available – Like most parents, I’m busy. But years ago my other daughter endured a bullying attack so severe it landed her in the psychiatric ward of our local hospital. When you see your teen suffering or notice a drastic change in their behavior, drop everything. Be available day or night and seek a professional for help.

Listen and don’t judge – Although angry with Brutus, I leaned on Jesus. Who better to lean on than the one who forgives us all? I turned to him in prayer, trust and faith that he knows more than I do and would work it out because he loves all of us.

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Mother and mentor – Teens often don’t listen to parental advice despite our best effort. In this case we met with a trusted mentor who knows both kids well. This amazing woman validated all I’d said to Kat in our tearful late-night chats. That felt great!

She ministered to her which allowed me to step back from the situation. She comforted and encouraged Kat to endure through the trial as a strengthening experience. I can’t say enough about making sure your kids have Godly mentors in their lives.

Your turn: I’d love to hear any bullying advice you can give!

Love and lies: Have you gotten sucked into a gossip triangle?

Three weeks ago, my 17-year old daughter was the object of a severe bullying attack by several of her best friends.

She considers these kids her family and so do we. We love them like family, minister to them when the need arises and eat hundreds of pizzas.

They are all Christians doing ministry together.

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My beautiful girl (in blue) doing what she loves the most! None of these kids are involved in the situation.

Have you ever been hurt by people you’ve shared everything with?

If so, you know the pain and suffering she’s enduring – WE are enduring. When one member of God’s family hurts, we all do.

Gossip is an age-old problem and our situation began with an “innocent lie” (no such thing) between a guy and girl. My daughter took part in the lie in a misguided attempt to spare someone’s feelings. Then someone lied to another person, and the offended party learned about it through gossip.

It was the spark that lit a wildfire of lies, accusations and slander. Despite her confession and begging forgiveness, her name and reputation is ruined (for now).

According to the Bible, gossip is a sin and causes all kinds of strife. In fact the Apostle Paul writes about it in his letter to the Corinthians. He says, “For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorderly behavior.” 2 Corinthians 12:20

She got caught up in the middle of a gossip triangle that sucked her in and spiraled out of control.

The Gossip Triangle

Life is full of hard lessons and while attempts at forgiveness and restoration are finally being made, the damage is permanent.

Yesterday in my quiet time, I read from My Utmost For His Highest and the wisdom is a perfect fit. The author, Oswald Chambers says, “Jesus Christ never trusted human nature, yet He was never cynical nor suspicious, because He had absolute trust in what He could do for human nature.”

In my next post, I’ll write about the lessons we’ve learned from this fiasco. I hope it helps you keep your kids from being sucked into a gossip triangle.

With love and peace, Erika