Sunday, May 29, 2016

Advice and Help: The Uselessness of Planning Ahead!

One day we are here, the next day who knows? Everything changes. Everything can always get better if we look forward to tomorrow. All we know for sure is that we know nothing about what is ahead for us; therefore, we need to trust that every change that happens in our life will be for the best. Every day is an opportunity to change our lives, every second an opportunity to leave our mistakes, our sorrows and our fears behind. It is all up to us. We can choose to look forward to better times, or we can choose to be swallowed up by overwhelming circumstances. Let’s choose to have faith and to hold on through shaky times.

            What use is it for us to plan five or ten years ahead? Tomorrow we might be dead or then again maybe not. Think about job interviewers’ favorite questions: “Where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you see yourself in ten years?” The fact of the matter is that we have no idea where we will be tomorrow, let alone five years from now.

            Relationships might not last forever, but memories of these relationships do! Memories of being in love or of having good friends, a good teacher, a wonderful neighborall of these add up to the beauty that is our life. We need to live every moment fully and give our hearts completely. And when the time to say goodbye comes, we must be strong and know that we will have other chances to love and be loved. And we must keep in mind that every situation can teach us many things if we take the time to learn.

            I am confident that we will find happiness if we keep an open mind and an open heart. By giving a second chance to friendship, to love, to forgiveness, to opportunities that come our way, we give a second chance to ourselves. If we live with hope and a joyful heart, we will certainly find happiness I am convinced of this. By looking forward to tomorrow but living today to the fullest, we can ensure that we do not miss out on the best that can come into our lives.

Wisdom to contemplate:

“Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matthew 6:34)

“But the plan of the LORD stands forever, wise designs through all generations.” (Psalm 33:11)

“Entrust your works to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3)

“In his mind a man plans his course, but the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the decision of the LORD that endures.” (Proverbs 19:21)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Match this!: O Death, Where Is Your Sting?

When tragedies happen, when people we love die, we tend to wonder why God let it happen, especially if death seems unfair, untimely or just plain wrong. We hurt, our heart is overwhelmed with loneliness, and we long for the person who has died. We are sure that God must have made a mistake! Our emotions fluctuate madly, from sadness to anger, from rage to depression. We develop doubts about everything we hold dear, and we feel afraid. But, worst of all, we feel betrayed by God.

 In the book As I Lay Dying, Richard John Neuhaus talks about death and about grieving. He expresses many deep truths about this topic, but there are two statements that were specially striking to me: “There is a time simply to be present to death whether one’s own or that of others without any felt urgencies to do something about it or get over it. The time of mourning should be given its due.” and “This life is now coming to an end; this life never lived before and never to be lived again.”[1]

Grieving is something we all have to go through. The more we are aware of God’s love for us in our life and in our situation, the faster we will heal. Only God can and will bring healing to our heart. Only God will fill us with the peace we so badly need. Only God can surround us with His loving presence and help us from within.  All in His time.

            Dying is also something we all have to go through. Let’s think carefully about this fact: We all die. Yes, we are tired of hearing that, but think carefully. In one hundred years, almost every person currently on this earth will be gone everyone in Brazil, in Russia, in the USA. Even babies now in their mothers’ wombs, even they will most likely be dead in a hundred years. “How does this help me?” you may ask. “This does not help make things easier when someone I love dies.”

It may not help with the pain we feel, but it will help us not to fight with God. It will help us not to feel that He did something unfair or cruel. Once we understand that God did not do something cruel, but that death is simply something that we all have to go through because without death there is no life, then we can surrender our pain to Him. Then we can say, “Lord, I have no strength, and I feel as if I am drowning in my sorrow. Please help me. You are my everything, You love me, and I know You will help me out of this sorrow. Please make me whole once more. Please heal my heart.” This is the key that makes the difference between healing and moving on or drowning in our sorrow.

If we try to ponder these things in advance, then, when the time comes, we will be able to better bear the situation and remain afloat. When someone we love dies, the pain we feel is all about us we feel lonely, we miss that person, we have a hole in our lives. We ask questions. Will we survive the pain, or will we become the walking dead? Will we recover and become a blessing to others? Will we “finish our race”(2 Timothy 4;7), or will we be finished?

Jesus said that unless a grain of wheat dies, it will not flourish and grow into a brand new plant. (John 12:24) On earth, we are made brand new by God’s mercy but only if we are able to open up to His truth and surrender to His will. Only through death can we really flourish and be renewed to the fullness of the promise God gave us through His Son, Jesus.

Death not only brings new life to the person who goes to heaven, but many times death brings new life to the people who stay behind on earth. The death of someone we love makes us look deeply into our lives; it obliges us to reconsider the way we have been living up to that point. In the beginning, when we lose someone, we are overwhelmed by intense emotions: deep pain, immense emptiness and great sorrow. But this time is also a time of great grace. Happy the person who can say, “I kept faith, even when I said ‘I am greatly afflicted!’” (Psalm 116:10)

In times of great sorrow, we need to lean on those who are trying to reach out to us, trust those who are trying to console us and share their love with us. God is always reaching out to us through others. If we recognize our utter helplessness and extend our hand to hold the hand that is being extended to us, we will find comfort. In due time, we will find peace. And, little by little, we will heal and regain enough strength to carry on with our lives. Before we know it, we will be completely recovered, and we will be able to say: “Gracious is the LORD and just; yes, our God is merciful…Return, my soul, to your rest; the LORD has been good to you.
 For my soul has been freed from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I shall walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 116:5,7-9)

            God is not unfair or unjust when someone dies. He simply has called home a beloved child. We all have a different time appointed for our death. In the Bible, God reminds us that “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) How beautiful it is to know for sure that to die is gain. God is not being cruel when someone dies. All have died. All will die. We have to die, or else how could we come to Him? How could we enjoy the promises of heaven? The Bible also says: “All these died in faith...But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13,16) We have a life to live, a mission to fulfill, and when our time is up, we have a home to go to.

Wisdom to contemplate:

“But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction, and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace.”  
(Wisdom 3:1-3)

“But the just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. For the age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years. Rather, understanding is the hoary crown for men, and an unsullied life, the attainment of old age. He who pleased God was loved; he who lived among sinners was transported—snatched away, lest wickedness pervert his mind or deceit beguile his soul.” (Wisdom 4:7-11)

Note:  If you like this chapter please leave me a comment or send me an email!  

[1] Richard John Neuhaus, As I Lay Dying: Meditations on Returning (Basic Books, 2002), pp. 44, 30.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Are you there?

Dear friends in Singapore, Germany, Russia, Israel, Ukraine and Hong Kong: you are some of the people who visit my blog the most!  I know you have been reading my blog for a while now.  This makes me so very happy, you have no idea!  To my followers in: the U.S.A, Italy, Canada, Japan, China, France etc,  it gives me great joy every time I see your visits to my blog too!  

I would love for you to get in touch with me!  I pray for each of you with much love, and wonder about who you are. 

Please leave some comments or send me emails to :
Subject:Princess in Overalls

I will write back.  

Know that I pray for you.   

Please send me questions or topics about things you are interested in. Thanks for constantly visiting my blog!

Carolina Prada Akoglu

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Teenagers: The Importance of Obedience!

One of the hardest things for parents is to accept that their children are growing up. The second hardest thing is to allow them to be free to grow up, while at the same time keeping a certain degree of discipline, so that kids know their boundaries and limits because, regardless of what some people might think, boundaries are necessary and important in order for people to grow into responsible adults. After all, we encounter boundaries in all sorts of places and situations as we grow up and become part of a group. Society has many rules that have become official in the form of laws. These, too, are boundaries, and they govern most aspects of our lives. There are housing rules and regulations in our neighborhoods, bylaws in our cities, traffic laws on our roads and company rules and procedures in our jobs. So, the sooner we become used to having rules, the better our chances of growing into well adjusted people in the future.

            There is nothing wrong with having rules. After all, we are part of a universe that is governed by laws, such as the law of motion or the law of gravity. Scientists understand and embrace this fact. We live as part of a world in which all our actions carry consequences. There is nothing we can do to avoid the consequences of our actions. If I put my hand into a fire, I get burned. If I jump into a pool, I get wet. If I eat too much chocolate, I gain weight. Yes, of course, we can grow up doing as we please, but if we do, we will surely encounter many difficult and painful times that could have been avoided. By learning about limits and following rules, we guarantee ourselves fewer hardships in the future and an easier life much easier in comparison to how our life would have been if we ignored all the “rules.” Discipline teaches us about the consequences of our actions. In life, every action we decide to take surely carries a consequence. Some things change our lives forever, so wouldn’t it be better if we could learn to steer out of trouble before it is too late?

            In my opinion, as a daughter and as a mother, it is as important to give freedom as to demand obedience. In every area of life, discipline is necessary. To love does not always mean allowing the person we love to grow without any structure, rules or boundaries. It takes much more love to discipline than to let someone be completely free.

 Sometimes a parent will choose to take the role of the “easygoing parent” and refuse to discipline or impose any rules; this parent becomes the “cool one.” Then, the other parent desperately tries to maintain an equilibrium and avoid complete chaos, and so this parent becomes the “mean one,” always bringing order to the house. Of course, the “cool parent” becomes the popular one, and the “tough parent” becomes the “boring” one. I cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining an equilibrium in the house, for the good of the children and the health of the parents’ relationship.

Parents are teammates, not members of opposing teams. If the children realize that their parents are on opposing teams, they will try to take advantage of the situation. And this will create tense moments between the parents, tense moments that could have been avoided. Loving is not necessarily synonymous with being soft; to love our children is to teach them to live in this world in the way in which they will be most happy and well adjusted. To love is to show our children the straight path, hoping for the best but understanding that each child is an individual and therefore will follow his or her own way. All we can do is show the best path we know, and after that we must just trust God and pray.

            But if we have never even make an attempt to show our children any kind of path, then they will be vulnerable to all outside influences, both the good ones and the very bad ones. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that if we don’t teach the right way to our children, they will choose the right path on their own. What will happen is that other people will show them “a way,” “some way” or “their way” and, being of such a young age, they will follow. Often it will turn out to be that total outsiders peers, movie stars, movies, magazines, professors or older friends will be the ones who show our children “a way.” And many times these outsiders will end up teaching a child, who would otherwise have been good, how to be unkind, mean, ruthless and selfish. It is no coincidence our children were born to us. God chose us to be their parents for a reason. We were meant to teach them what we know concerning God’s wisdom, love and joy and if we don’t, we might be making the biggest mistake of our lives.

            Let’s pour a lot of good ideas into our children’s heads, so at least it will balance all the bad things they already hear! Freedom is important, but so is discipline. The best solution to the dilemma of giving freedom versus giving direction would be some kind of equilibrium. It seems as if I am just stating the obvious, but sometimes stating the obvious is what really helps. When our children are growing up, we must let them enjoy their age while at the same time teaching them there will always be some rules they must abide by. We must be their coach and their guiding light in the difficult road to growing up.

             God, our Father in heaven, has carefully designed a plan that will teach us wisdom, lead us to safety, protect us and give us many graces. But for this to come to pass, we need obedience. Now, how can we ever be obedient to a Father whom we don’t see when we have never learned to be obedient to a father and a mother whom we do see? Obedience is a consequence of love and trust. I trust my parents because I love them and know they love me. I obey God my Father out of love and trust in His amazing love for me!

Wisdom to contemplate:

“He (Jesus) went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them (His parents).” (Luke2:51)

“Happy those whose way is blameless, who walk by the teaching of the LORD. Happy those who observe God’s decrees, who seek the LORD with all their heart. They do no wrong; they walk in God’s ways. You have given them the command to keep your precepts with care. May my ways be firm in the observance of your laws! Then I will not be ashamed to ponder all your commands. I will praise you with sincere heart as I study your just edicts. I will keep your laws; do not leave me all alone. How can the young walk without fault? Only by keeping your words. With all my heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commands. In my heart I treasure your promise, that I may not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your laws.  (from Psalm 119)