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3.30.2010

Comfort in Times of Loss



None of us can avoid the reality of grief. At some point in life, we lose someone who is dear to us, and we wonder how we will go on. For some, the grief is brief, or so it seems on the outside. For others, the grief is deep and long-lasting.

If you haven't lost a loved one yet, you probably know someone who has. What did you say? What did you do? Did you wonder if you were saying and doing the right things? This week, I finished reading a book that helped my perspective on grief. Best selling author Cecil Murphey has teamed up with Liz Allison have written a book titled "Words of Comfort for Times of Loss," a message to all who are affected by grief. I'm delighted to have received a complimentary copy of the book for promotional purposes.

The authors of this book know grief. They know loss. They know the healing process. In writing "Words of Comfort for Times of Loss," it's clear that the authors understand the needs of a grieving person. How is this clear? They've put together a book that's small and short with short chapters and peaceful pictures.

A grieving person doesn't have time or energy to wade through a thick volume of the psychoanalysis of grief. Instead, the authors have constructed a useful tool for both the grieving and those who want to know how to help. The pocket size makes it perfect for giving as a gift, and it would be such a blessing to receive it in place of a sympathy card. There is a place inside the front cover to inscribe who it is to and from for gift giving.

The best part of this book is that it comes from the heart. The stories are real and emotions are genuine. It addresses the feelings that society doesn't allow the grieving to talk about and it allows the grieving person a voice for that which he or she cannot put into words. It's well-written and touching.
Table of Contents
 
Little Joys
You're Not Alone
One Simple Thing
Accepting Help 
Make It Go Away
Why Did You Leave Me?
If Only I Had
What's Wrong With Self-pity?
Perfect Grieving
Am I Crazy?
Material Possessions
Facing Those Special Days

I have permission to share the following letters from Cec and Liz with you, I hope you are touched by their stories.

Why We Write About Loss

Liz's Story
On the morning of July 12, 1992, my husband, Davey, left home like any other morning—he kissed my forehead and hugged our kids.That afternoon I answered a knock at the door, sensing something wasn’t quite right. When I glimpsed the faces of Davey’s two best friends—they didn't have to speak—the looks on their faces said it all.

That day, after lunch with his race team, Davey had hopped into his helicopter and taken an unplanned trip to the nearby Talladega Superspeedway to watch a buddy practice. Attempting to land in the infield, he had lost control of his helicopter and crashed. Although paramedics airlifted Davey to a Birmingham hospital, sixteen hours later he was pronounced dead.

Immediately following Davey’s death, I had to work through my grief enough to plan his funeral and make hundreds of small-but-significant decisions, all while maintaining the time and energy to care for our two young children, ages one and three. Well-wishing friends hovered around me and frequently asked, “What can I do for you?

Most of the time, I could only respond with a blank stare. Looking back, my friends could have done many things for me, but they didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t know what to tell them.

I hope the insights I have gained during the aftermath of Davey’s death will help you as you struggle with your own grief.

—Liz
Cec's Story

Two weeks after my father suffered a mini-stroke, a massive stroke took his life. On the day of his funeral, my older brother, Ray, died of cancer. Over the next eighteen months, I lost two brothers-in-law and my mother.

On the Sunday after Dad’s and Ray’s funerals, a parishioner rushed up to me, hugged me, and said, “Pastor, I heard about the deaths. Were they saved?”

I honestly don’t remember what I answered, but I wanted to shout, “Does it matter right now? I hurt. I’m so filled with pain that I’m not sure I can handle the worship service today!”

In 2007, our house burned down. Our son-in-law, Alan, died in the fire. The next day, a neighbor pulled up in front of our burned house, got out of his car, and started to look around. “Where did he die?” he asked.

Through the years, I’ve met many like those two people. Maybe they didn’t know what to say. Perhaps they were so focused on what they cared about that they were unaware of my pain. Instead of helping me, those comments made me feel even worse. What I needed was compassion. I didn’t get that from either of them, but I can offer it to you.

That’s why we’ve written this book.
—Cec


Grand Prize Drawing
Post comments below this blog entry about your own grief process, about your loss, or about your thoughts on this book and have your name entered into my April 9th semi-final drawing to send one name to the final drawing from the publicist. Or comment on the entry titled "Practical Tips to Comfort and Encourage Those Who Grieve" to have your name entered.

Grand Prize Giveaway includes:
Words of Comfort for Times of Loss
Heaven Is Real
Gift Edition, 90 Minutes in Heaven
Journal
Pens
Potato soup
Oyster crackers
Dove silky smooth milk chocolate
Dove silky smooth dark chocolate
Ultra-plush spa socks
Large gel eye mask
 
This special grand prize giveaway is designed especially for someone going through a difficult time. The winner can keep or pass along to someone who could use the pick-me-up.
About the Authors:
Liz Allison was married to NASCAR driver Davey Allison until his tragic death in 1993. Widowed at 28 with two young children to raise, Liz faced the long journey of pain, loss, and grief with great faith. Committed to encouraging others, she returned to her work in TV reporting, has published eight books, and hosts a weekly radio show. Please visit www.lizallison.com

Cecil Murphey is an international speaker and bestselling author who has written more than 100 books, including New York Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper). No stranger himself to loss and grief, Cecil has served as a pastor and hospital chaplain for many years, and through his ministry and books he has brought hope and encouragement to countless people around the world.

Practical Tips to Comfort & Encourage Those Who Grieve

Cecil Murphey and Liz Allison, co-authors of Words of Comfort for Times of Loss, offer the following suggestions to those who want to comfort and encourage their friends who have lost loved ones. As you read the list, many of the suggestions will depend on your relationship to the person in grief. If you don't know the person well, the authors suggest you focus on the first nine tips.

Practical Tips to Comfort and Encourage Those Who Grieve

  1. Don't worry about what to say. Those in grief don't need words, but they need love and support during their bereavement.
  2. Never say, "I understand exactly how you feel." You don't; no one does. If you feel you must say something, try this: "I don't know how you feel but I care about you." That's honest and it conveys the right message.
  3. Listen more than you speak. Those who grieve may want to talk about their pain. They don't need opinions or advice. Become a safe haven where they can release their grief, vent, or say nothing.
  4. Sit silently with the grieving. Many people try to fill the space with words when the hurting person needs only a warm body with a caring heart.
  5. Don't hold to preconceived ideas about personal loss or the grieving process. Individuals grieve differently. Think of grieving as a sacred place and treat it that way without intrusion or instructions.
  6. Here's a wrong question to ask: "What can I do for you?" They may not know and practical things may be beyond their thinking at the moment.
  7. Don't say, "If there is anything I can do. . . " Unless you know something specific, keep silent. The question may add a burden to the grief-stricken person.
  8. Don't discuss the feelings and/or information the grieving person has shared with anyone else.
  9. If it seems important for you to communicate information, ask for permission. "May I tell. . . ?"
  10. If you know the person well, make a list of work around the house or errands that others can do. Show the list to your loved one before you arrange anything.
  11. Leave the list for others who visit and let them write their names if they want to do specific tasks. You can help others by providing a list of things they can volunteer to do.
  12. Never assume the grieving person wants help; always ask first. If the person wants help, follow through and do it as soon as possible. Don't add aggravation to the pain.
  13. Help ensure that the person sets aside rest times and do what you can to protect the time from all visitors. Sleep and rest may not come easily, but it's needed to deal with the added stress of grieving.
  14. Give the person spiritual space. The grieving may need time to be alone. Ask, "Do you want time alone?" If the person says yes, volunteer to handle visitors or answer the phone during those periods or help arrange for someone else to do those tasks. In the midst of chaos and noise, the hurting person won't be able to hear God or receive divine comfort. Depending on their need, help them have quiet time to listen for God's gentle and loving voice.
  15. If little children are involved, ask if and how you can help care for them.
  16. Don't neglect the children. They may not understand everything and feel confused. If the children are old enough to communicate, listen to their concerns. Answer their questions simply and honestly.
  17. When appropriate, pray for (and with) your grieving friend or loved one. When the words come from your heart, the hurting person can sense your love. Don't expect the grieving person to pray aloud unless he or she indicates a desire to do so.
  18. Allow loved ones to feel and to express their emotions—no matter what they are. Grieving is like a wild roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Good friends learn to lead when needed or to take the back seat and go with them for the ride.
Article used with permission from the authors as a part of their book promotional blog tour. Please do not reprint this information without permission.

About the Authors:
Liz Allison was married to NASCAR driver Davey Allison until his tragic death in 1993. Widowed at 28 with two young children to raise, Liz faced the long journey of pain, loss, and grief with great faith. Committed to encouraging others, she returned to her work in TV reporting, has published eight books, and hosts a weekly radio show. Please visit www.lizallison.com
Cecil Murphey is an international speaker and bestselling author who has written more than 100 books, including New York Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper). No stranger himself to loss and grief, Cecil has served as a pastor and hospital chaplain for many years, and through his ministry and books he has brought hope and encouragement to countless people around the world.

Grand Prize Drawing
Post comments below this blog entry about your own grief process, about your loss, or about your thoughts on this book and have your name entered into my April 9th semi-final drawing to send one name to the final drawing from the publicist. Or comment on the entry titled "Comfort for Times of Loss" to have your name entered.

Grand Prize Giveaway includes:
Words of Comfort for Times of Loss
Heaven Is Real
Gift Edition, 90 Minutes in Heaven
Journal
Pens
Potato soup
Oyster crackers
Dove silky smooth milk chocolate
Dove silky smooth dark chocolate
Ultra-plush spa socks
Large gel eye mask
 
This special grand prize giveaway is designed especially for someone going through a difficult time. The winner can keep or pass along to someone who could use the pick-me-up.

3.22.2010

The House that Cleans Itself

Spring Cleaning Help

Does your house clean itself? Mine doesn't.

I hate cleaning house. Well, it isn’t that I really hate the actual cleaning part, but I hate that it gets dirty again so quickly. For example, recently I spent a good part of a day cleaning, doing laundry, and baking. Then my two boys arrived home from school along with three teen boy friends. Within thirty minutes, there were shoes by the back door, crumbs on the floor and the Better Homes and Gardens scene was over.

Worse than keeping a house clean is keeping it organized. I consider myself an organized person, yet I still have days where I search everywhere for something I’ve misplaced. I’m always looking for new organizing ideas. Which is why I recently picked up a copy of “The House That Cleans Itself” by Mindy Starns Clark.

The back cover promised creative solutions to keep your house twice as clean in half the time and how to get your family on board in the process. Mindy Clark delivered on her promise. This is a terrific book! She has ideas for creating a flow pattern in your house and figuring out ways to minimize issues with clutter. She approaching organizing with common sense and applies innovative ways of thinking to her method. I enjoyed the book so much that I’m planning to pick up additional copies to share with friends.

One additional benefit to Mindy Clark’s approach is that she infuses the application with faith, and I love anything that integrates faith with everyday processes. Each chapter begins with a scripture reference. Throughout the book, the author includes examples from her own life and others experiences that help the reader apply the concepts. Each chapter concludes with a humorous embarrassing story from someone who has struggled with organizing.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for new cleaning and organizing ideas. It's spring cleaning season. Why not start fresh with a new method?

3.20.2010

Book Review- More Amish Fiction

Two weeks ago, I told you about a book I was waiting to receive for review. Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on it. If you're a fan of Amish fiction, you'll be happy to know that in addition to Beverly Lewis, Cindy Woodsmall, Wanda Brunstetter, and Beth Wiseman, there are other authors who will satisfy your craving for a bonnet fix, Mary Ellis included.

Never Far From Home by Mary Ellis

Emma Miller is restless. She’s torn between the life she’s always known and the life she’s never experienced. Growing up Amish, Emma hasn’t had much contact with the outside world until she begins selling her handmade goods and spun wool to a local shop. When she meets a handsome young Englisher, she’s face with a decision between following her restless heart and honoring her parents and the Amish tradition.

In Never Far From Home, Mary Ellis tells Emma’s touching story of love and faith. I enjoyed the book and Mary Ellis is a talented author. Those who love Amish fiction are going to love this book; however, those who are looking for something that sets this series apart from other Amish fiction aren’t going to find it. It’s the classic story of an Amish girl struggling between keeping her faith and getting baptized and leaving home to face shunning. How Emma Miller works out her dilemma is slightly different from some other stories, but it’s a little too convenient if you ask me. I won’t be a spoiler and give away the details. However it’s still the same Amish fiction plot. 

I was a little surprised by some of the modern conveniences that these Amish folks have. A little explanation would have helped since the Amish in my area don’t have refrigerators in their kitchens; outside in a little shed, yes, but inside no.

I know there are heaps of readers out there who can’t get enough bonnet fiction, so I know this book will be wildly popular in those circles. I’d give the author 5 stars for writing skills and 3 stars for originality.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Mary Ellis’ publicist for review purposes.

3.18.2010

How Do You Celebrate Craft Month?

March is National Craft Month. I know, sometimes the national months and days get out of hand. There is something on every day of the month. March includes a lot of other national celebrations too. For example it is:
  • Irish American Month
  • Music in Our Schools Month
  • National Frozen Food Month
  • National Nutrition Month
  • National Peanut Month
  • National Women's History Month
  • Poetry Month
  • Red Cross Month
  • Social Workers Month 
    I like to think of every month as National Craft Month, since I have way too many craft hobbies. However, it's nice to have a reason to celebration something. So far, I've crocheted and worked on scrapbooks this month. I'm hoping to get a sewing day yet before the end of the month. Or maybe a day to work on painting some of my furniture with an updated faux finish.

    Here are some ways you might decide to celebrate National Craft Month if you haven't already taken advantage of this excuse to devote a day to a hobby.
    1. Get out something you haven't worked on in ages. Haven't knitted since you were 12? Why not try again? Maybe it's painting or drawing, woodworking, or rubber stamping. Dust off those supplies and enjoy them. 
    2. Finish something that you've set aside. As you search your supply stash for suggestion #1, you'll likely encounter some unfinished projects. Choose one and finish it. You'll enjoy the satisfaction from completing something you started long ago.
    3. Try something you've never tried before. Most of us don't need a new hobby, because we're busy enough. But maybe it would be fun to take a class just to learn something new. Check  your local hobby store for a class schedule. 
    4. Clean out your hobby stash and downsize. Someone else could surely use those supplies you'll never touch again. For National Craft Month, why not pass your unused and unwanted craft supplies off to someone for their crafting?
    5. Check out some craft books at the library and then choose one activity to do with your children and their friends. There are tons of ideas that reuse and recycle for projects that cost little to nothing.
    6. Show others what you have made. If you've never participated in a MckLinky blog party, it's a ton of fun to link up your projects to someone else's blog. It's a great way to get new ideas. In fact, I'm going to give you a chance to link up today and show me what you've made during National Craft Month!
    All you have to do is find an entry on your blog that shows off a project you're particularly fond of. Then copy the link to that specific post (not your blog in general or we'll get frustrated looking for your project) and add it to the list below along with a short description. Then stop back in a few days to see the ideas and projects that have been added. Let's celebrate creativity together!

    3.08.2010

    Do You Have a Clutter Problem?


    Breaking the Clutter Habit

    If you had thirty minutes notice for unexpected company, how ready would your home be?  Would you have to conceal an embarrassing amount of clutter? I’m familiar with the mad clutter dash. I sweep the papers from the dining table into a laundry basket and stash it in any of four or five hiding places I would rather not reveal to my readers just in case any of you might be future house guests of mine.  Several days later when it’s time to pay the electric bill, I spread all the papers back out on the table in search of the yellow envelope, already having upturned three other stashed laundry baskets hoping it might be in there.

    I doubt I’m alone in my constant battle with the clutter habit. Getting rid of the surplus that litters our lives is a multifaceted process.  It isn’t as simple as dealing with stuff.  For those of us who are clutter challenged, we usually experience it in all areas of our lives—our homes, our minds, and our bodies.

    Environmental Clutter
    First, creating new habits that minimize clutter in the home requires a massive purge of junk. I start with sorting the things that are immediately troublesome and later move to sorting closets and storage areas. For me, the mail is a big source of trouble so I start there. As you sort and throw away (yes, I mean throw away), ask yourself these questions: Do I use this anymore? Do I have duplicates of things? Am I saving garbage? Do I have an emotional attachment to things even if they are broken?

    Once you deal with the clutter that is in sight, begin sorting your storage areas.  If you have a hard time parting with things, ask a friend to help you be ruthless in your purging. Once you establish some order, create new habits. Put things away when you use them; your mother knew what she was talking about! Do daily maintenance before bed every night and deal with the junk mail on the day it arrives.

    Mental Clutter
    Next, we need to look at mind clutter.  When our schedule is full, commitments, to-do lists, and responsibilities choke out any possibility of relaxing and undermine our housekeeping efforts.

    Media such as television and radio over stimulate our brains while noise pollution from traffic and machines add to the overload. We clutter our heads with worry, self-hatred, feelings of worthlessness, and stress. These usurp the energy we need for managing our habits.

    Combating mind clutter requires clearing the schedule enough to allow time to relax and rest.  Jesus understood the importance of getting away from the hectic crush of life. In Mark 6, he recognized that his disciples hadn’t had time to eat and he called them to come away with him “to a quiet place and get some rest” (vs. 31).

    Perhaps God beckons you to come away to where He can speak to you and you can rest.  You won’t hear him through the clutter.  You will have to make the time.  Unlike the junk mail and paper garbage that we have to sort on our own, God doesn’t expect us to deal with our emotional baggage all alone. He says we can give Him our worries because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:8). 

    Physical Clutter
    Many of us who deal with any kind of clutter also have excess weight on our bodies. Frustration, depression, mental pain, and low self-esteem lead to emotional eating, which breeds more depression and mental pain. Overloaded schedules leave little time for planning healthy meals or for physical exercise.

    Shedding those extra pounds requires a change in habits.  Start with something small that will motivate you to continue to create new habits.  Go for a walk during lunch hour instead of reading a book; or put away the chip bowl and sort junk mail while watching television.

     Whether you struggle with clutter in all three areas—home, mind, and body—or in just one area, victory begins with new habits. We grapple with disorder in our homes, fight the ever-growing quicksand of schedule confusion, and saddle our bodies with excess pounds accumulated by years of self-neglect.  But if we never make any changes, we’ll never know the sweet joy of living clutter free.

    I guess I’ve got some laundry baskets to sort.



    Reprinted from Michelle's August 2007 Wisconsin Christian News column.

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