A Higher Place

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Mom punched in the numbers and waited for the ambulance to arrive. She was having intense abdominal pains and the vomiting wouldn’t stop.

I got the call, and for the next six weeks sat by her bed and watched her slip away. We talked about everything from the distribution of her material possessions to the best shampoo for shiny hair.

She reminded me to make sure her grandchildren got everything she had planned for in her will, and to make sure I wore lip liner when I went out in public.

We cried.

We laughed.

We watched her “stories” on the overhead television.

“Isn’t this wonderful that we know what’s coming and we get to spend these last few days together,” she said.

It was wonderful in one sense, but there was nothing easy about it.

Excruciating pain eased only with morphine.

Vomiting the contents of a blocked intestine.

Loss of dignity for a woman who wouldn’t even go out of the house without makeup and matching shoes.

I just finished reading the biography of Nelson Mandela– Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage about his fight against apartheid in South Africa. He said that he had many teachers in his life, but the greatest of them all was prison—that prison molded him into the man we know today. Mandela said he learned about life and leadership from many sources, but the twenty-seven years he spent in prison became the crucible that burned away all that extraneous.

Richard Stengel, who wrote his biography, asked Mandela how prison had changed him. How the man who went into prison in 1962 was different from the man who walked out in 1990.

His reply? “I came out mature.”

I think that’s what happened to me during those last six weeks with mom.

A few weeks after mom had left for heaven, I was speaking at a conference with my ministry partners Gwen Smith and Mary Southerland. Mary looked at me and said, “You seem to be at peace.”

“I’m not sure if I’m at peace or just numb,” I replied.

I was still numb from mom’s death, exhausted from the six weeks of watching her fade away, and wrung out from the pressures of being the lone child taking care of all the details. But there was more.

“As odd as this sounds,” I replied. “I think I grew up over the past two months.”

It might seem strange for someone my age to say, “I think I grew up.” But that was the best way I could describe what I was feeling. I echoed Mandela…“I came out mature.”

Oh friend, we will all go through difficult times. Hard situations. Painful circumstances.

Jesus promised it: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

But don’t allow yourself to grow bitter.

Allow God to make you better.

To grow you up.

To settle you down.

To mature you spiritually and emotionally into the person He’s created you to be.

Sometimes I wish there was another way. But even Jesus had to face the cross.

I spend a lot of time in airports. And if I am flying on United, I might have to go from North Carolina to Texas get to New Hampshire. If I am flying Delta, I might have to fly from Charlotte to Atlanta to get to Chicago. All this going backwards seems like a waste of time, fuel, and money to me.

But the truth is, the airlines have hubs. Places where connections are made. Sometimes I have to go south in order to go north.

And friend, sometimes God has to take us down to the hub of difficulty in order to get us to the destination of spiritual and emotional maturity.

It could be that the painful death of a dream will give birth to new and better dream–one better than you ever imagined.

It could that be your lowest point in life may lead to the highest place God wants to take you.

So let’s lock arms and grow up a little more today.

How has God used a difficult situation in your life to “grow you up”? Leave a comment. Let’s compare notes.

Your Scars are Beautiful to God

26 Responses to A Higher Place

  1. Margaret May 22, 2015 at 4:39 am #

    God came to me the night my dad went to Him in heaven, God new how much my dad ment to me, All God said was I am your heavenly Father I will take care of you, and He sure has these last 11 year’s
    Thank God so much for all my family,but most of all being here for me

    • Bree May 25, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

      two months ago, my boyfriend of four years and I separated. We grew up together through college, graduations, weddings, summer trips abroad, failures, jobs, etc. I thought from the very first moment I met him that he was my soul mate. After half a year of being friends, he finally decided to take the next step and date me. We immediately hit it off and spent every day of the next three years in non-stop communication with each other. Through trials, tribulations, and through several moments of coaxing on my end- I finally pushed him away, I wanted marriage so bad that I didn’t care that over and over he asked me not to pressure him, yet I did. We finally broke up after he had had “enough.” We talked for a month after that but slowly have been losing touch. In all of this, I have leaned on my girlfriends, the Girlfriends in God book, religious movies, songs, and scripture. God has truly changed my heart and has REDEEMED me. I want to thank you. Thank you for your words, your encouragement, and for reminding me that I am worthy and someday will be loved the way I should. God is soo good. Even though our dreams die, God has a plan for us and it is through your story that I have found hope. I am hoping to go to your conference in OR this coming October. Thank you.

  2. Melanie Whitaker May 22, 2015 at 4:48 am #

    So good. As one experiencing death of dreams even now, this post encourages me that there is life even in death. Thank you.

  3. Miranda May May 22, 2015 at 7:10 am #

    Thanks for this today, Sharon. As I sit here the tears are rolling down my face. My 20 yr old son went to be with his heavenly father on the 5/5/2015. He battled cancer for a few months. It is a tough journey but such a comfort knowing he was a Jesus follower and his passing was absolutely beautiful. Since then, I am experiencing a different me, maybe more matured as you say!

    • Sherie July 22, 2016 at 7:28 am #

      My daughter was 5 she made sure she was baptised and said yes now I belong to god she loved bible stories of Mary Joseph and she donated her last bit money to in hospital church to buy new pencils and paper to hang on the wish tree she wanted to be better and go home to mammy I believe she is in that higher place I miss you chlouise xx

  4. Lynn Hoff May 22, 2015 at 7:18 am #

    For the past month, I have had my Dad and Step-Mom taken to the hospital by ambulance. Step-Mom, was very anemic and Dad has Alzheimer’s and he was very under weight. Dad is now in a nursing home getting care he needed and filling out and my Step-Mom found out she had cancer, which she had to have surgery to remove a good share of her colon. She is now home by herself, which she hasn’t had to be for over 50 plus years. Even though I haven’t been treated very well by her, I have been trying to help her out since, which has caused a rift between my husband and me. He feels I should tell her to find someone else to cry on, but she is family before he was(he is my 2nd husband). I have forgiven her and part I want to be able to protect my Dad too from anything she might do too. She something has had a vindictive streak in her. I feel this all an answer to prayer from God, because that morning before this all happened, I was looking to physically removing my Dad from the home to get him some help, but I was told I couldn’t legally do it, and then that night, both needed the ambulance. thank you for your ear! God Bless you three for all you do!!

  5. Ruth Ann Arion May 22, 2015 at 7:27 am #

    Eight months ago my husband passed away after a 22 year battle with lymphoma. Now laboratory tests show that my 88 year old mother has some type of cancer. I will be taking her to an appointment with a specialist in a few days. I feel as if I have been doing well coping with my husband’s death, but I am needing God to lean on even more. I have no siblings so I will be my Mom’ sole caregiver. Not to mention when she passes, I will not only be a widow but also an orphan.

  6. volanda May 22, 2015 at 7:28 am #

    My son was accused of armed robbery last May….at the time he was at a track meet at his school. …the person saw him the next day at the store getting a pizza and called the cops, and he was arrested, my son was 15 at the time. Our world seem to have stopped. …the accuser lived three houses down from us, so I finally couldn’t take anymore of the rumors, the mistreatment of my son by the judicial system who has never been in trouble for anything and despite him having a solid alibi, was still treated like a criminal, I marched my son down to the man’s house and asked him to look into my son’s face and tell me is this who robbed you……he said no the cops just arrested him to see what he knew….he apologize and was embarrassed……needless to say after a long summer my son went to trial and the accuser didn’t show up and all the charges were dropped….I was a praying mama, and an uplifting mama for my son….I really grow ed up and I aged as well. ….that battle proved to my family that not only is there a God, but a merciful God who got us through. ….

  7. Pearl May 22, 2015 at 8:15 am #

    Over the last 2 years I have been placed in places I thought were impossible. I have done things I thought were impossible for me. But God decided to grow me up to make me a better Christian. It is through these difficult times you really get to experience God. He works through Fears, doubts, and misunderstandings. I think for me at least it is to say when there is no way or person or solution, there is always God! 2nd Corinthians12:8. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I like the lyrics to this song. When answers aren’t enough there is Jesus. He is more than just an answer to my prayer. My heart will find a safe and simple refuge. When answers aren’t enough He is There!

  8. Tracy Dickerson May 22, 2015 at 8:28 am #

    As I was reading your story it made me think of the relationship that I had with my father – he was a drug addict. Growing up I experienced watching my father phsyically and verablly abuse every women in his life, especially my mother. That is until she got up the strength to finally leave. Afterwards, he became something and someone totally out of control.

    Don’t get me wrong I was a complete and total “daddy’s girl,” but over time I stop respecting him. During his final days (years) with us my relationship with God seemed like it was being pushed harder than it ever had before. I was forced to finally take the blinders off and see my father as someone that was broken for the very first time. During that time I prayed harder than I think I ever have asking God that whatever His will let it be done to help stop the pain that my father exepereienced.

    During that time I was able to see God’s work not only in my lift but also in my father’s. Don’t get me wrong I don’t know if he ever truly excepted Christ as his Lord and Savior, but what I do know is that the pain that caused him to do the things that he did for so many years was finally gone. My father died of a heartattack in the kitchen of his mother’s home.

    This is when I say that “I grew up!”

  9. Dolores May 22, 2015 at 8:35 am #

    I met a young woman who has cancer of the lymph system. She loves the Lord so much and is trying to have the Faith in God she needs to have for her 3 younger children. When I visit her and give her little Mother’s Day gifts and buy McDonald’s hamburgers for her children, a part of myself is dying and maturing.

    I find myself now, not needing as much as I used to. I guess @ 66 yrs. old, I am growing up.

  10. Rachel May 22, 2015 at 8:38 am #

    This lesson has been so prevalent in my life for the last year.

    Pregnant with our second child, we discovered at 20 weeks- our son would not survive outside my womb. Medically an abortion was our best choice, but God had other ideas. Together my husband and I prayed and fervently sought God in our circumstance- He gave us peace and strength to carry our sweet Jack until delivery. Jack didn’t survive the labor, but we have such peace knowing he rests in the arms of Christ.
    As a couple, our faith and love for the Lord has grown exponentially through our experience and even our marriage is stronger. When people ask about Jack I have the opportunity to share the love of Christ and to testify of God’s faithfulness.

    My experience with the life of my son has forever changed my relationship with my Lord and I am grateful He has allowed me to “grow up” in growing closer to Him

  11. sabrina May 22, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    I am in the middle of a divorce after almost 19 years of marriage. I am raising 4 kids on my own with their dad just doing the minimum to still be called dad. I’m sure you can hear the bitterness in that statement. I Basically everything I thought to be true has blown up in my face. I see God’s hand all around me even to the point of two weeks before all this happened. I still just want to curl up in a ball and cry that it is not fair. How can this be happening. How could someone you loved so much who loved you too turn into what I am now seeing. I know all these answers in my head but man my heart has some catching up to do. Trust is so hard when your life is spiraling away from all you have ever known. I have always felt I had such a faithful walk and now that I don’t know how long the money will last I’m not so sure. God is totally wanting to take me places I am not comfortable and is wanting me to pursue him not the marriage I had. I’m a slow learner.

  12. Jan May 22, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    Thanks so much for this and now I understand. I never knew Dad’s parents because they died before I was born. 10 years ago, my parents and I relocated to care for my Mom’s parents. 6 months after we arrived, my Grandfather passed from cancer. Not long after that, my Grandmother developed Alzheimer’s/Dementia and struggled with it for approximately 5 years. The week before Nanna died, Dad’s oldest sister passed away. Then Dad passed away one year ago this coming Tuesday from cancer as well. All the while, I have watched my Mom struggle with Parkinson’s. I have had the privilege of watching her care for everyone. However at the same time, I have watched her suffer. Even though the disease is slowly draining her of her strength, it is bringing us closer together. After Dad died, Mom and I started having “the talks”. How long should we stay in the house and can she physically stay there? What do we keep or give to someone else? Money, cars, all that stuff.

    I have intentionally not taken the lead with these decisions because they are Mom’s. I still have her to lean on and be a daughter too. But this has also caused me to see that God is using these events to grow me spiritually and emotionally. I have become an adult in more ways than one.

  13. Sharon May 22, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

    When my daughter died at the age of 18, it changed my life dramatically. Things just aren’t so important, people are what we need to care about. God is good, all the time!

  14. Pat S May 22, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    After leaving an abusive relationship, I decided to go back to college and finish my degree. I worked full-time and went to school part-time for seven years. The day after I signed my contract for my first teaching job, I was told that I had cancer. The disease turned out to not be cancer but sarcoidosis. The sarcoidosis affected my lungs, and after teaching for three years I had to go on disability. I could not believe that God had allowed me to work so hard to better myself and then have to quit. I had a mortgage payment and a car payment,, I did not see how I could make ends meet.

    Over the past two years I have seen God at work in my life. He has shown Himself to be a
    great provider. My bills have always been paid on time and I was able to pay the car off a year early. I have really grown up in my faith. My life is far from easy but I now know where my true help comes from.

  15. Bonnie May 22, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    All my life I had the feeling that there was something “out there” that could happen and when it did I wouldose my faith. Then my beloved dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer spread to the liver. Unless God healed him it would take his life. I walked around for weeks feeling like I had been punched in the stomach. My dad lived almost 9 months and was able to be out and about most of that time. At some point I prayed, “Lord, whatever is about to happen, give me the strength to bear it.” After my dad’s death, which was much easier than receiving the news of his diagnosis, I was able to look back and realize that God has answered my prayer. His grace had truly been sufficient. And now I no longer fear that there is something out there that could cause me to lose my faith. I have “grown up.”

    Sharon, many pancreatic cancer patients have the rapid diagnosis-to-death trajectory that your mother did. God would really have had to work in me in that case–those months we got were such a blessing to me. My heart still goes out to you for what you experienced.

  16. Grace May 22, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    I have been living in a town since 1981 that when I first saw it , i said : here I do not want to be buried…….and this place has cost me dearly…….and today niot even my children want to visit it …….but I was so set against this place and literally prayed and prayed and when we had to come here was like Gideon and asked for that what was impossible ……it became possible ….. but I have never enjoyed living in this community……..or area or have ever even faintly felt that I belong here….. I have and still on an ongoing basis experience jealousy from people and have for self protection learnt to live under the radar !!!!!…… I am not young (66 years old)…….. those that call themselves friends are so gleefully pleased if i have some mishap……All I ask is; Lord why here and for such a long extended period of time…..What more do I have to learn………. My children refuse to come and visit me here ……I desperately would want to leave …… but my property do not sell and if I do get a buyer ……. it is way below the valuator’s valuation…….. I am stuck for years and years in a place where it feels to me of being of no return……..

  17. Jeanette Moore May 22, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    This reading help me to take a look at how much I grew up even at my age after the sudden death of my husband. It brought me closer to God wanting to seek and find Him more and I did. My desire was and still is wanting to learn his word walk in his light and that people see His spirit in me at all times. Because I am so grateful that He allowed meto have and share love like that, I know the only place I’m gonna get that type of love again is from God, if God chooses to send me someone to share that with again.

  18. Olive May 22, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    our son passed away from pancreatic cancer in Oct. 2013, he was divorcing his wife and had moved in with his Dad and I. Since that time his wife and 2 daughters have tried to make our lives miserable. They had another funeral home take him out of his casket and had him cremated to get back at us. We have been in will contests, I was charged with undue influence by her. The trial was held in April and she lost all claims, but has filed an appeal. I know if the Lord was not in my corner I would have lost my mind, months ago. No parent should have to bury their son and even worse to watch him suffer and be unable to do anything but love him and try to help him cope with the pain. I know for a fact he is with the Lord and his Mamaw as we saw and felt his soul leave his body. Praise God for that and we will see him again.

  19. Michelle May 22, 2015 at 10:55 pm #

    Yeah, I am growing. It’s slow growing. Or is it slow going? Either way it is happening. I lost my job a few years back and fell apart. I got a new job but was struggling with depression, anxiety etc. I started going to church and reading the bible just to get my mind of my cyclical catastrophic thinking. But I still struggle with letting people near me or know anything about me and nobody knows I am a Christian. Fear is still apart of my life but I am getting braver. I just figured out what authenticity is. Letting people know who you are-being honest. I’ve never done that. I pray to be that way some day. I lived 52 years without God and it is a learning process especially since I was abused in childhood and trusting others is a struggle. Your post really touched me–I have your book– I will read it again.

  20. Sharon Forbes May 23, 2015 at 8:42 am #

    I know God has pulled me down this past year to year and a half to help me become more mature. I have had two major health crises, a bad bacterial infection that has left me with a colostomy, and then, having to deal with breast cancer, where I had my left breast removed, and have just finished up many months of chemo, followed by radiation. All of this taught me that I need to take better care of myself,I am extremely overweight,(although I’ve lost 60 lbs. during my illnesses!) and I know this was a wake up call from God. As I am getting my energy back, I am trying to do more and more, I know I need to be more active. I pray more now too, not just for myself, but for many, many others. I will continue to strive to improve, one day at a time.

  21. Tammie Jones May 25, 2015 at 8:22 am #

    We recently moved. After serving in the same church (my husband is pastor) for 17 years, we are starting over at another location. My grief over leaving 150+ people and the church I have known and loved all these years has been large and at times unbearable. I have even questioned our decision, knowing full well the Lord ordained our move. Finding your blog today was a balm to my soul. Though I dont think this has been my lowest place, it is certainly in the top 5 for my life. Thank you for the reminder that the destination is always maturity of our faith. Our Pilot knows the best path to get us there and we must trust.trust.trust.

  22. Kelly May 26, 2015 at 8:03 am #

    My now 6 month old was born with a twisted intestines (called a volvulus) and had developed a hole in her stomach because of that. She had to have emergency surgery and stay in the pediatric Intensive care unit for 3 1/2 weeks. Most of that time she was intubated and hooked up at anywhere from 3-11 IV’s. She survived and is doing amazing now…far better than any of the doctors expected or predicted. Through those 4 weeks God did a work in me. I was forced to lean COMPLETELY on him. Not knowing what each day would bring, I would have to grow in trust. He changed my perspective. He drew me closer to him and I (and my husband) most definitely matured! He reinforced that HE is in control…no me, not the doctors. He has us in the palm of His hand. And He is faithful. He showed me how his word has power to bring healing, peace, strength, restoration. He brought my husband and I closer to each other and to Him. I thank God every day for both of our children and for his faithfulness. I also thank him for the work he has done in me. Though it was really, really hard, He brought us through. I know that I am not where I need to be but thank you God, I am not where I used to be!

  23. Amanda May 27, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

    “Sometimes God has to take us down to the hub of difficulty in order to get us to the destination of spiritual and emotional maturity.” I think this is exactly what has happened to me. The past 2 weeks I have been trying to figure out what is different about this “hub of difficulty” than any other “hub of difficulty” in the past. I now think it’s that I’ve matured.

    Six months ago, my husband lost his job. Six months of trusting God literally on a day to day basis, not able to think or plan on tomorrow(s). My life has been consumed with worry, anxiety, complaining, that although God has been good and has provided for us these past 6 months, when what you thought and believed was a blessing and answered prayer from God turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, hope and trust seem foolish. But that is exactly what I had to do – trust and hope and believe that what God said/says is true and real. “Never will I forsake you. Never will I leave you.” I had to repeat those words daily, hourly until one day, I realized there was something different. Something was different in me. Our relationship had grown and I had grown. I had spiritually matured.

    And even though we still live day by day with more unknowns confronting us, I know that God is already there, I need not to worry because He has everything already planned. All I need to do is trust that He is holding us and won’t let go.

  24. Rhonda May 28, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    Wow, just skimming through many of these posts absolutely has blessed me. While driving home last night from the gym there was a song on the radio by gospel singer Hezekiah Walker called God Favored Me. It took me to a place in that car that I realize now that I truly needed. I am a widow of 4 years now. My husband passed away at the age of 39 and during that time we were separated but still loving parents to our (10 year old at the time) and still friends. I went through pure HELL from his mother as she told me “he would still be alive or could have dealt with his illness had I been a better wife”. Yeah, she went there. Guess what? So did I. Needless to say my daughter and I have no relationship with her and I must say I’m so okay with that. She did everything she could to break my spirit and me as a person but guess what? God favored me. I lost my home a month after my husband passed and had to move rather quickly. There’s so much more to my story but I realize today God never left me alone. His word says he would never leave us nor forsake us. He’s been better to me than I’ve been to myself. My precious daughter is 14 years old now and the spitting image of her father. She is an exceptional student with a 3.6 gpa and heading off to high school in the fall. I couldn’t ask for a better child. I mean who in there right mind wouldn’t want a relationship with such a great kid? Regardless if she was a not so great kid. She’s all that’s left of her father. It totally blows my mind but she lacks for nothing. We miss our loved one deeply and would give anything for him to be here with us, but God had other plans. Rob needed a kidney transplant and passed away due to complications. I currently am an ambassador for Lifeline of Ohio and make it my business/mission to spread awareness regarding organ, eye & tissue donation in his honor. I think often how this woman (his mother) tried her hardest to belittle me, make me out to be this monster of a person to all that she came in contact with and still God favored me. I’m so blessed right now. Yes, I have struggles as we all do but I wouldn’t trade my relationship with the Lord for anything. I have hate in my heart for NOBODY. I count it all joy and allow the Lord to fight my battles. I just sit in awe of all that God has done for me and what is to come. He loved me when I couldn’t love myself. I’m so grateful to my village that has supported me and my daughter. I can’t begin to give God enough praise and honor.

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