“Listen, most people aren’t looking for you to fix their problems or heal their pain, but your presence in the midst of it can make all the difference in the world… Oh, to know you are loved and not alone…” -Wendy M. Reynolds
A hard rain storm is hitting Greater Detroit and surrounding cities today. All freeways are closed due to flooding. People have been stuck for hours upon hours trying to get home. Some streets looked like Lake Michigan. Cars are abandoned, basements are flooded, thousands are without electricity, hundreds having to be rescued from cars sinking under water, people walking down the street falling into manholes because the manhole covers floated away. It is crazy. Now in comparison to places like Katrina or other places that suffered so much loss of life and a whole loss of community due to hurricanes, mudslides, wars- it doesn’t seem so bad. However, for the people experiencing this at the moment, it is bad.
While this is occurring, breaking news regarding the death of Actor & Comedian Extraordinaire, Robin Williams is hitting the airwaves. Robin, who has had many struggles with depression and addiction- who spent his whole life making the world laugh, took his life. I’m sitting here shaking my head. I wish I was shaking it out of disbelief. Instead, it is just out of sadness- sad that another person, who seeming gave his all to everyone else, died tragically and in despair.
No doubt, there will soon be Robin Williams marathons on TV, folks will talk about what a genius and a great man he was, and no doubt the issue of depression and mental illness will top the lists of topics for discussion everywhere. We will hear of the need for more access to mental health and more understanding about depression- how people need not be ashamed to seek out help… how it effects people of all ages, races, financial backgrounds… You know all the comments that pop up when we have a mass shooting or when someone famous commits suicide. Oh, it’s coming. And please don’t get me wrong, it’s all true and it needs to be said more often. However, what isn’t talked about much is how to know if your family member/friend is hurting and how to be a friend to someone who is suffering.
People, in one way or another, tell us how they are but way too often, in our society, we are too busy to listen. We have close friends who are facing serious battles but we often walk away from them leaving them with a quick “I’m praying for you” or “You’re strong, you’ll be alright.” We must be careful not to discount someone’s pain. We must return to a culture that values and prioritizes people- one that listens and cares deeply. We must be the ones who look for the family member or friend that has begun to isolate himself. We have to be willing to dig a little deeper- be willing to ask questions and peek behind the mask. We have to learn how to fight for one another and let folks know they are worth fighting for! We must be willing to fight for people more than we fight for anything else!
The rain storm in Michigan became problematic because it was too much, too fast, too long. Just like many of the problems and life storms people are facing today. It is just too much (health problems, financial struggles, past traumas, disappointments, relationship issues, grief, identity crisis, failing expectations, racial tensions, school, crisis of faith…), all quickly happening at the same time and seemingly never-ending. No wonder people slip into hopelessness- smiling and laughing on the outside while bleeding internally.
I know I say it over and over again… but people are hurting. They are overwhelmed- often stuck in their pain. Their insides are spilling out. Their circumstances are choking the life out of them. They are flooded with renegade emotions. They are loosing their passion- abandoning what matters most- their sense of self and their hope. Hopelessness is one of if not the biggest enemy facing people today and the best weapon to combat hopelessness is hope.
Check on your family and friends. Ask them how they are doing. Don’t just brush them off with the “Aww, you’ll be alright, I’m praying for you. I’ll see you later and we’ll talk then…” Don’t just Facebook, text or Twitter them. Show up in their lives. Get them out of the house. Bring some light into their lives. Take them out for a good meal. Let them talk. Turn your cell phone off. Value them enough to give them your undivided time and ear. Ask the strongest person you know, “How are you doing?” Check on your first responders in your life- the persons you and everyone else always turn to all the time for help. They often get left out or forgotten because they are the “helpers“. Be prepared to give words of hope over and over again. Be prepared to stick with them.
Everyone we know is facing battles. So make it a point to be kind to people. Take time to appreciate the ones you are blessed to have in your life. Verbally say “I love you” to those you love. Write a letter (send it by snail mail not email) and let someone know why you’re grateful they are in your life.
“Well, Wendy, all of that takes time and I’m no mental health counselor. That’s not my training. They need a professional.” Someone in your life may need counseling or medication and that’s okay. Let’s encourage them and help them seek it out. Listen, most people aren’t looking for you to fix their problems or heal their pain, but your presence in the midst of it can make all the difference in the world. It might not be easy loving folks through their issues- their crises, but it is worth it. Real friends love all the time- through good and tough seasons- through all kinds of weather, and a brother is made for adversity. He sticks with you when times are rough (Prov. 17:17). You don’t have to be a professional, just be a friend. See, when the rubber meets the road, love is what matters. Oh, to know you are loved and not alone… whew!
Take care of your heart and each other!
I recently told a good friend that I needed a “Waiting to Exhale” evening. You know the kind of evening where you can sit around on the floor with your closest friends, share some good food, and just be transparent- talk about life, laugh, cry, share your joys, your pain- offer the support that only a close friend can offer- say the stuff that only a real friend has the guts to say- hold each other accountable. Have you ever had one of those evenings? It seems that fewer people are. It’s unfortunate because people need it more than ever. So many people are in physical, spiritual, personal, and emotional crisis. They are falling apart and feeling hopeless. Folks are smiling on the outside, while barely keeping it together on the inside. They are going to church every Sunday and Wednesday, but are often leaving empty and turning to destructive habits.
Many of us don’t even know what is going on in our friend’s lives. Oh, we think we do. We read their status on facebook. We read their tweets but when is the last time that we actually “personally connected?” With texting, facebooking, twittering, and other forms of social media, we don’t even have to see each other. We are often deceived into thinking that we are connecting with one another when we send them a “LOL,” “OMG,” or “TTYL” in a post, text, or email. That’s ok sometimes and it’s ok for your associates, but it is a poor substitute to looking into the eyes of a friend in order to see what is behind the smile. We need to hear the voices of our friends. We need to hear the hearts of our friends- hear what isn’t being said in words. We have to be active in each other’s lives.
People are hurting and often dealing with all types of issues and illnesses. They are often afraid to show their pain out of fear of being too burdensome. A young lady told me recently, “When I showed my pain, people left. So, I stop showing it.” A young influential man who I knew died recently and no one seemed to have a clue as to how difficult life had gotten for him. People said, “He looked and sounded ok, so…” He had plenty of people who called him friend. He sent out a bunch of texts checking on other people but he himself was either left unchecked or unaccountable. No one attended to his heart- his hurt. He seemed to have had everything but at the end of the day, he had no one to honestly share himself with- no one to be transparent with.
Listen, we don’t get to stop being real friends to our friends- not if we’re real friends. Real friendship comes with real responsibility. We have to show up in each other’s lives. If your friend is experiencing illness, show up! Go sit with her while she receives chemotherapy or dialysis. Find a way to be supportive, EVEN if she says, “I’m good. I don’t need anything.” If your friend accomplishes something, show up! Celebrate him! Show up when stuff is going on. Show up when stuff is not going on. Plan an evening just to find out what is going on. Don’t fill the evening with unnecessary activities. Spend time exhaling. I know we all lead such busy lives, but at the end of the day, let the truth be said, you take time out for who and what is important to you.
We rally for church and political events- and we should! We rally for sports events (Go Detroit Lions!! Go MSU Spartans!! Excuse my shameless plugs). This week, let’s start rallying for the important people in our lives. Let’s cheer them on. Let’s help heal their broken spirits. Let’s laugh! Let’s encourage! Let’s pray! Let’s hold each other accountable for making better choices. Let’s help each other find a way out or a way through. Let’s help each other… umm… live. Yeah, that’s right. It’s that serious. Let’s take time to get in one another’s corner and honestly listen as well as honestly share of ourselves. Let the truth be told, you need it just as much. Exhale.
“If you want to survive and thrive- if you want to come back and live your best life- impacting and strengthening those around you, you cannot live in survival mode.” -Wendy M. Reynolds
Overall my life has been a pretty great. I am blessed with the most amazing parents who have been present in my life all of my life. I’ve met awesome people, attended a great university (Go Green!!), developed life long friendships, helped nurture the lives of children- I’ve had the opportunity to stand and encourage people. I’ve sat and listened to the hearts of people- hearts that have been joyful, confused, hurt, misused and often broken. I get to write words that will live on long after I am gone. I have been blessed by God and I’m grateful.
I’ve dealt with a few storms, hard times- you know, we all have- but nothing that really knocked me hard off of my feet- not until the new millennium rolled in. Whew Jesus! It felt like some where around 2004, the enemy started using my face as a punching bag. I can laugh about it now, but I was ducking and dodging. None of my Mohammed Ali moves were working. I don’t care how many times I’ve watched Rocky, I was still getting hit and knocked flat on my butt. I’d get up and WHAM, I’m knocked back down again. I was constantly grieving the sudden loss of family and friends, dealing with crazy people who had even crazier circumstances, my body was out of wack, my money was funny and well… need I go on? I went through a period that while I somewhat understand it, I’ll never be able to fully explain. Normally one would try to explain because you want folks to know that there’s a reason for all of this, but you know… I grew tired of trying to explain so I stopped trying. I spent 20+ years helping others- counseling them through their stuff. Now, I just had to get through my own. I knew that once I got through this… man, I was going to be like the six million dollar man- stronger, faster, better,…
A lesson that I learned in the midst of all of these times was: If you want to survive and thrive- if you want to come back and live your best life- impacting and strengthening those around you, you cannot live in survival mode. Life and the enemy of our faith can hit us so hard that at times we never truly think we can recover. Yeah, we find ways to get up and we stand juggling and balancing all of our life’s issues, finally reaching a point where we are juggling things without dropping them. Oh, but listen, this can be a most deceptive point. This is where fear often takes greater root. In this spot, you are afraid that if one more thing is tossed at you or if you take one more step, you’ll lose control over what you have finally learned how to juggle or maintain. You stand there juggling your issues- your money, your unsatisfying relationship, your unfulfilling job, your crooked boss, the death of your loved one- never really moving forward- afraid that if you do move, you’ll die or drop everything you have worked so hard to maintain. So, you don’t move. You don’t venture out to explore your life or your passions. This is a mere state of surviving and the truth of the matter is, the survival state will kill you. It’ll suffocate and cut you off and you don’t even know it. It’s deceptive because while you are seemingly maintaining, it is shutting you down- your passion, your faith, your voice- preventing you from walking in destiny- from unleashing your amazing awesomeness. Don’t let life’s circumstances force you into a survival mode when you are a conqueror… more than a conqueror. Take that step that is going to move you forward. Take the risk. What’s your step?
As you step forward, you will be met with opposition, often from the last place you expected to get it, but you have to keep moving forward. Force yourself to stay in the Word of God! Arm yourself with it. If there are times when you can’t pick the book up, play it (as well as uplifting music) on your CD player, iPod, iPad, computer… Remind yourself of who you are and what God promised. In addition, close your ears to negativity, write down your goals and don’t hang around people that belittle you, your goals, or your faith. Find a team of like minded people to keep you encouraged and accountable. Lastly, please guard your heart.watch out for offenses and other things that can trap you. Just like most vicious animals are known to attack the most vulnerable places of its victim, the enemy goes straight for the heart. He knows that if he can jack your heart up, it’s on! You’ll be swimming around in anger, confusion, bitterness, hurt, depression, sickness… things that are paralyzing and will place you in a state worse than you were before.
Listen, we are overcomers. Overcomers must be seen overcoming something. That makes sense. I get through each day by understanding who I am, to Whom I belong, by learning from my mistakes, by working hard, by putting one foot in front of the other and by realizing that victory- however I define it, is not something I have to search for. Yeah, let that sink in. I had to relearn to live my life from a stance of victory instead of in search of it. That one shift in thinking alone was a life saver.
Well, until next time, that’s all. Stay encouraged!
Originally posted on Higher Heights with Wendy M. Reynolds:
I’ve been sitting here writing and reading- trying to determine what it is I am supposed to share with you. I was going to share Psalm 107:2 with you today. However, as I read the whole chapter, I decided I couldn’t just share one scripture. Therefore the whole chapter is listed below.
This passage of scripture reminds me of the situations of life that we find ourselves in for whatever reason. However, it also reminds me of how God redeemed us. I forget sometimes that I have actually been redeemed. When you forget you have been redeemed, you allow yourself to stay in negative, unhealthy and unproductive situations much longer than you need to. Psalm 107:2 tells us “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” We should consistantly announce that we are the redeemed, Who redeemed us, what we were redeemed from, and what we have because of that redemption.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, redeem means: to buy…
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Today my Amazing Parents celebrate SIXTY (yes, that’s 60) years of Marriage! That’s a whole lot of love, a whole lot of commitment, a whole lot of faith, patience, passion, sacrifice, forgiveness, fortitude… LOVE. What a testimony of sticking together through thick and thin. These are the marriages and stories worth highlighting. This is what reality looks like if you work hard and love hard.
Their union has touched lives across the world and continues to do so. They will tell you that it hasn’t been easy- they are not perfect, but they each found something worth fighting for- each other!
Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! You are blessed and are simply the best people I know on this entire planet. I mean that! I love ya! Let the celebration continue…
The Proud Daughter of Percy & Harriett Reynolds,
This is your time- So shine. Be all that you can be.
Shine your light bright with all your might and the whole world will see
What you’re made of and Who you believe in
So spread your wings and begin to fly. Don’t you dare let the time pass you by.
Don’t be afraid to shine. Don’t be afraid to shine.
Some have tried to hold you down because they fear your light.
They are afraid that when you’re around, their’s won’t be so bright.
So they’ve hurt your heart in many ways in an attempt to make you go dim
But you just keep trusting in God- keep pressing ahead and those people. Well, don’t worry about ‘em.
You have so many gifts within and a purpose to fulfill.
You don’t have time to mess around with insecure people whose friendship and love are not real.
Don’t worry about what people say or when they try to get in your way.
There’s a greater work to do.
Each and everything you’ve been through has brought you to this day-
All the ups and downs- the good and bad- even the times you thought you’d lost your way.
The joy you’ve felt, the tears you’ve cried-
The best days of life and days you wished you had died.
The friends you’ve lost- the friendships that last-
The dreams of your future and the pains of the past.
You’ve learned that the life that you live is not just for you.
It’s something that you give to help others make it through.
When you shine, you show others how to shine as well.
You help them unlock the doors of their prison cell.
They will be free to fly as the butterfly or soar on eagle’s wings.
Shine your light to the glory of God above.
Shine your light and show the world Love.
Just shine. Don’t be afraid to shine.
© Wendy M. Reynolds