Mother’s Day

The second Sunday in May.  A holiday created by man to honor mothers.  It sounds great, doesn’t it?  The stores are stocked with cards, balloons, cakes, and flowers.  Signs in pink letters are everywhere you look.  You really can’t escape it or forget.  This one Sunday of the year should be perfect, right?  Wake to breakfast in bed, flowers on the table, a lovely church service, maybe a trip to the lake or a hike or picnic…. Family togetherness, honoring mom…

But what if it doesn’t work like that for you?  What if you desperately want to be a mom and you have not conceived yet, or have been told you can’t conceive?  That was me 16 years ago.  It tore my heart out.  I wanted so badly to be mom, but I was not.  Mother’s Day hurt. The world continued with its socially accepted commercialism.

A few years later, with the help of medical science, I became a mom, and a couple of years after that, again with the help of modern medicine, I became a mom again.  I felt so blessed.  I finally “fit in” to the Mother’s Day crowd.  But alas, that too was short lived.

My son, my 2nd born, was diagnosed with brain cancer on April 21, 2006.  He died on May 18, 2006.  Mother’s Day that year is one that is etched into my mind forever.  Well, at least the evening part.  I honestly cannot remember the day time part.  I wish I could.  Perhaps it was happy.  Perhaps it was fun.  Perhaps I smiled early in the day that year.  But that night, my son started fading fast.  He was lethargic, not eating, not keeping any fluids down and had signs of dehydration.  On May 14, 2006, Mother’s Day, we drove my baby boy to the hospital for the last time.  I walked in while my husband parked the car.  His tiny hands were wrapped around my neck and his head was rested on my shoulder.  I can still feel those tiny hands sometimes.  The nurses and triage receptionists looked at us as I walked through the door and immediately escorted us to a bed in the ER.  That sounds great, doesn’t it?  No check in, no waiting room…. but it’s not.  When they do that, you know your child is very ill.  The next few days brought a flurry of procedures, surgeries, chemo treatments, etc.  He faded a bit more each day.  On May 18, he left this earth and went home to be with Jesus while my husband and I held him in our arms.

So, Mother’s Day is difficult for me.  Not only am I missing my son terribly, but I have the aching reminder of bringing him to the hospital for the last time on Mother’s Day.  Every year I think I will be able to smile, celebrate, become part of the socially accepted “mom’s club”, and every year I fall short, in a puddle of tears.

It’s been 10 years now since we lost our son.  We have been blessed with another daughter who is 8 years old now and miraculously, I am expecting my 4th baby this coming September.  This baby is a blessed surprise.  No doctor appointments, procedures, shots, etc.  I woke one day and was pregnant!  I thought, once again, this year will be different.  I am so blessed with my girls and the new life inside my womb that I will smile.  I will celebrate and I will be able to let my family celebrate with me.  But I was mistaken again.

Feelings of the past, present, and future collided yesterday and I was a wreck.  I cried for my baby that I lost.  I cried for my baby who is not born yet.  I cried for my girls who are with me and I cannot even be happy with them on this day.  I cried for my friend Jenny who died in December.  I cried for her children and husband who are missing her terribly every time they look at a “Mother’s Day” sign or card.  I cried for the ache they are feeling that no one can soothe for them.

I skipped church.  I kept busy all day doing chores and projects in the house.  I couldn’t sit still or I would cry.  At the end of the night, while talking to my husband, I realized that I will never fit into this man-made, commercialized holiday.  But a part of me still wants to be able to spend a day with my family and get a little spoiled.  (What girl doesn’t?)  So, after tears, conversation, prayer, and thought, we decided that I do not have to celebrate Mother’s Day in May.  Who said I have to anyway?  We will celebrate Mother’s Day in our family in August.  A month when such feelings of grief are not raw and attached.  Will it work?  I have no idea, but we are going to plan a day in August and try it out.  My girls can spoil me, we will do something fun as a family, I am sure I will think of my boy, but hopefully, it will be a smile on my heart instead of the gut-wrenching reply of that Mother’s Day night 10 years ago.  If Mother’s Day is a man-made made holiday, then this lady is going to change it!  And perhaps, without the commercialized hype around me, and the socially accepted posts streaming our computers, we will enjoy a peaceful, lovely day with just us.

For all of those who struggle on Mother’s Day, my prayers are with you.  There are so many out there that are silent.  That feel paralyzed.  That cry behind closed doors.  Remember that you are not alone.  God is always with you.  And you don’t have to have a May Mother’s Day or a Mother’s Day at all.  You are allowed to change the rules.  To those living without their moms, to those living without their wives, and to those living without a child or children, may God’s peace find you and wrap you up.  May He catch each tear and hold it in the palm of His hand.  May He enable you to celebrate in your own way and time, not according this this world, but according to what your heart needs.

And for all of you who still have your moms, children, and spouses – you are blessed.  Don’t ever forget how blessed you are.  Thank God for them every single day, not just on Mother’s Day.

 

The Peace that Passes Our Understanding

Prayerlessness.  This obstacle finds so many of us.  Why do you think we do not pray? Do not pray often?  Do not pray sincerely?   I can only speak from my own experiences.  I didn’t know how.  I felt inadequate.  I didn’t think I was good enough to offer up a feeble prayer to the Lord, the creator of the universe!

I tried.  Believe me, I tried!  I didn’t try often enough, it was mostly when life was hard I would find myself crying out to God for help.  Occasionally I would offer up a prayer of gratitude.  But in those deep, dark places of my soul, when I felt so alone and I had no one else to talk to, no one that would understand, that is when I really prayed.  I prayed through tears, through anguish, through frustration, through helplessness and hopelessness.  This went on for years.

And then…. something clicked in my soul.  I realized that God just wants me to talk to Him.  He wants a relationship with me.  He isn’t looking for eloquent or scripted, educated or rehearsed prayer.  He is looking for my heart, open and honest and every day.  I began this prayer journey with a new frame of mind.  I began praying all the time!  In the car, as I made lunches, at the grocery store, cleaning, doing laundry, etc.  Whatever it was that I was doing, if I was by myself, I prayed.  I just talked to God.  I told him what I was thankful for that day. I shared my anxieties and fears and gave them over to Him.  I prayed for my family and shared their worries with Him as well.  It didn’t matter what the words were or how they came out, I was talking to God.

Well, a curious thing began to happen to me.  I became peaceful, from the inside.  I am more patient.  I have less fear and less anxiety.  My faith is stronger and still growing.  The moment I realized that these changes were taking place was on May 18, the anniversary of my son’s death.  For the first time in 9 years, I was ok.  I wasn’t crying.  I didn’t have an anxiety attack.  I felt a peace inside me that I cannot explain.  I was actually confused!  I had become so used to wallowing in misery on this day and even the days leading up to it, that I did not know what to do with myself!  Another huge realization occurred just a few days ago, on Thanksgiving night.  I began to pull out all the Christmas decorations and boxes and I started to decorate at 8 pm on Thanksgiving!   My 13 year old daughter said to me, “I don’t remember you ever wanting to decorate for Christmas, and especially not this early.  We usually have to pull teeth to get you to take the decorations out.”  She is exactly correct.  I was deep in grief and I was not deep in prayer, allowing the Holy Spirit to give me peace.

I can’t explain it, but I couldn’t wait to decorate for Christmas!  It is our Savior’s birth!  What a glorious and exciting time! Again, I am experiencing a peace that I cannot explain.  I am not dreading the birthday of my son, who is with Jesus.  I am relishing in the birthday of Jesus.

God tells us in the Bible that we will have trouble in this world.  He tells us that Satan is a real force of evil and He will do whatever He can to stop the flow of peace and love between God and us.  Prayer is the strongest weapon we have against Satan.  Use it and use it daily.  You will begin to feel a peace that can only come from the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 6:18 says, “Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.”

My prayer for all of you is that you find your peace through prayer.  May God be with you on this journey and may He bless you daily as you pray.

Who Am I?

Who Am I? by Casting Crowns

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?

Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who You are.

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean.
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours.

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me?

Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who You are.

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean.
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours.

Not because of who I am
But because of what You’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who You are.

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean.
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours, I am Yours.

Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?
‘Cause I am Yours, I am Yours.

You Are Missed

To My Father-in-law,

So many things I have learned from you over the years.  Your optimistic outlook on all situations was a foundation of who you are.  You always saw the positive and always had inspiring words of encouragement to share, regardless of the situation.  Lending a hand was your specialty, even from 7 hours away!  From oil changes, to brake pads, to fan and light fixtures, to doors and insulation, you were ready and willing with a smile and a tool bag.  Moving 4 times with us didn’t deter you.  You arrived ready to carry the BIG STUFF and worked until the job was complete.

You taught us the importance of saving for the future, counseled us on investments and IRAs, and helped us set up college funds for the children.  You did all of this gently and with a humbleness that leaves me in awe.

You left an immense impact on our children.  You never declined a play time.  Horsing around, people watching at Panera’s, and walks through the neighborhood with the kids and the dog are some of their favorite memories.  You engaged them in a way only a Pop Pop can.

You have given me and our family so many memories, so many gifts, so many opportunities.  However, the greatest gift you have given me, your daughter-in-law, is the gift of my husband.  You raised a man who knows how to love and cherish his wife and family.  You taught him how to provide for us in a hard-working and humble way.  You showed him how to take care of our house and our cars.  You have given me my family and for that, I cannot thank you enough.  Your life will live on through my husband and my children.  Your lessons will be passed on to them.  Your gentle, humble, optimistic character will be a part of them.  They will know you because they are part of you.

Thank you Dad for the impact you have left on our lives.  While we will miss you everyday, we find peace in knowing that we will one day meet again.  Until them…

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  – John 3:16

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7

I Knew This Day Would Come

I dreaded this day and every year, for the past 9 years, I wondered if this would be the year.  Well, this year, December 9, 2014, was the year.  My son’s 10th birthday.  A joyous celebration to most.  A rite of passage in some ways.  No longer a little kid, into double digits!  So many exciting things to look forward to!

Except that my son died when he was 1.

I wondered if anyone would remember.  I hoped some friends/family would acknowledge.  We have always gotten some cards, phone calls, hugs, emails, or messages in past years.  For some reason, I was really worried this year.  I felt like this might be the year no one remembers.  And, I was right.  (Well, 3 people remembered – but that’s it.) We got no calls.  We got no cards.  Not even one email message or facebook post on our page.  I got a rose in the mail from my sister, which she sends every year.  I got a message from my mom and a hug from my boss.  (And I so appreciated each of those gestures.)  But, wow.  The world has forgotten.

However, my amazing story is this.  While the world has forgotten, God remembered.  Do you know how I know this?  I shared that I was wondering if this would be the year.  I really worried about it in the days leading up to Louie’s birthday.

The entire week before his birthday I was so sick.  I dragged myself to the doctor on Saturday.  After waiting for over an hour, the doctor entered.  He didn’t introduce himself, ask me my name or how I was feeling, or anything.  He glanced at the computer screen which listed my symptoms, (sore throat, tight chest and cough, on and off fever), and he began to lecture me on how I am not taking care of myself.  He went on to tell me that I shouldn’t need an antibiotic more than once every six years.  I am obviously ignoring other things that are happening in my body and not taking care of them.  (Did I mention I never met this doctor before.)  Anyway, after about 5 minutes of this and me trying to get a word in edgewise, I got up and left.  He never looked at me, listened to my lungs, or anything.  I walked out.  I cried.  I was so furious, angry, frustrated, and still feeling so sick.

So, I struggled through Sunday and Monday morning.  Monday afternoon, I left work early and headed to a new Urgent Care facility near my house.  I needed to feel better soon.  We saw a doctor who was so kind and caring. He listened to me, shared that his mom and wife were both teachers and he understands how exposed we are to germs, talked with me and prescribed the correct meds to help me out.  As he went to leave, hand on the door knob, he stopped and turned around.  He said, “I hope this doesn’t upset you, but I just feel like I should tell you that I had a son that died 13 years ago.”  He went on to share Scripture that helps him through, how he remembers his son, a camp that he runs to help other families and more.  I had tears in my eyes.  I thanked him.  He said, “You don’t need to thank me.  I just felt moved to tell you.”

I told him that we, too lost our son.  And that his birthday was tomorrow.  His words and his Scripture were just what I needed to hear.  He had no idea that we were “part of the club.”  There would be no way for him to know that, except for a nudge from the Holy Spirit.  We shared some stories and pictures.  Shed a tear or two and said goodbye.

As I was driving home, I realized that it doesn’t really matter if the whole world forgets my son’s birthday.  What matters is that God remembers, and He did.  And He showed me that He remembered through this amazing doctor.  A doctor I would not have seen if I had not fallen ill, if I had not had a poor experience at my regular practice, and if I had not decided to take a half day on that Monday.  None of this was a coincidence.

My heart still hurts that our human world has forgotten my boy.  But I rejoice in the knowledge that our Creator is with him and will never forget him or me!

Exodus 33:14

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

How does this make you feel when you read these words from Exodus?  It brings a sense of calm and peace to me.  I need to know that I am not alone in this difficult, stressful, crazy life that we live in.  The thing is, God has told us this from the beginning.  We are not alone.  He is always with us and always walks with us.

There have been many stressful situations in my life.  Some of them I struggled through without relying on God and others I had no choice but to surrender to God to carry me.  I remember the teenage years.  Oh how I wish I had turned to God then and asked him to guide me through the difficulties of growing, friends, boys, dating, independence and more. But I knew better.  I knew better than my parents, I knew better than everyone.  So, I made many mistakes.  I suffered and wondered why these years were so tough for me.

It wasn’t that I was totally apart from God, but I was not working on my relationship with him actively.  I was not listening to him or looking for him.  I was not studying his word or seeking his guidance.  Looking back, I now know he was with me all the time, but I was not acknowledging his presence.

Early in my marriage, I opened my heart a sliver to let God through.  We struggled through infertility, financial woes, work stress, and many other obstacles that newly married couples face.  Yes, I was beginning to scratch the surface of building my relationship with God.  And mostly because of how empty I felt not being able to conceive.  Like Hannah in Samuel, I cried out to God to give me a child.  God answered my prayers.  He blessed us over several years with 3 babies.  My relationship was growing stronger and I was witnessing miracles in my own life daily.  Miracles that were always there, but I was now more aware of them around me.

My 2nd child had a brain tumor, diagnosed at the young age of 16 months and died at 17 months. For those of you who have read my other blogs, you already know this story.  This was a turning point in my life.  This was the crossroad where I surrendered completely or turned and left God.  However, God had been preparing me.  He had planted seeds of faith from the day I was born and he knew that I would not turn my back on him.

How could I?  He had my baby now and would one day have me too.  Why would I want to turn my back on him?

So, desperate, aching, grieving,  and lost – I surrendered.  I let go of everything tangible in this world, I fell to my knees and pleaded with God to help me breath again, help me move again and help me live again.

I have felt his presence in my life every day since then.  If I feel stressed or strangled by circumstance, I just close my eyes and whisper a prayer and I feel him again.  I listen to worship music on the way to work and reflect on how God is working my life today before I even start my day.

God never left me, even in my most difficult days.  He lifted me up and made sure I could put one foot in front of the other.  And when I couldn’t physically put one foot in front of the other, he sat with me until I could.

The more I study God’s Word, the more I realize I don’t know!  And I am invigorated inside.  I want to learn more.  I want to experience more.  I want to be more, for God.

And, knowing that his presence is with me wherever I go, how can I fail?  I just need to listen to him!

Happy Birthday

I laid in her (Meagan’s) bed at bedtime and she asked me why we didn’t have a fun birthday party for me.  We did have cake, (thanks Aunt Denise!), but that was it.  No presents this year, no big hoopla… and for those of you who know me, I am all about birthdays.  She wanted to know why no one got me presents, why we didn’t even invite anyone over and have a fun time.  She just broke my heart.

The above paragraph was written by me, 7 years ago.  My son had just been diagnosed with brain cancer.  We had been in the hospital since April 21 and were discharged on April 29, for the first time.  This was one day before my birthday.  April 30 came and went that year.  I felt blessed to have my baby boy home with all of us, even if for just a short couple of days, but I was physically and emotionally spent from the roller coaster we were thrown on less than two weeks prior.  I didn’t have the energy to celebrate my birthday with all of the happenings surrounding us.  It seemed perfectly normal to me and my husband to just put it off for a while.  To my almost 4 year old, it was devastating.

I bring this up today because as I write this, my now almost 11 year old is in the kitchen baking me a birthday cake.  Why?  Because if she didn’t, I wouldn’t have one and to her this is still very important.  To me, it is extremely painful.  I try every year to be happy on my birthday and celebrate as best I can with my daughters and my husband, but I am drowning inside.  18 days after my birthday, my son died.  My birthday and Mother’s Day fell right in the middle of the storm.  These are not happy days for me.

I don’t want a party or presents.  I don’t want to go out to eat or have cake.  I just want to hold my baby again.  People say, “Time heals all wounds.”  People who say this have not lost their child.  People say, “It will get easier.”  People who say this have not lost their child.  People say I should celebrate my birthday.  People who say this do not realize that the memory etched into my mind and heart forever of my birthday is of my son with stitches across the back of his head.  It is of my son not being able to walk, talk or eat.  It is of my son confused and in pain on our first day home from the hospital.  This is my memory of my birthday.  Making a new memory is not possible.  This was my last birthday with my son and it is forever in my mind and heart.  It is a memory of me holding him and trying to console his pains.

My daughters will celebrate.  My husband will quietly treat me like a princess.  I will cry inside.  Happy birthday for me is anything but happy.  I will sit in my rocker and pray.  I will ask God once again Why?  Why did He take MY baby?  Why do I still feel the pain as raw as I did 7 years ago?  Why can’t I have a Happy Birthday?

I do not ask God these things out of anger.  No.  I ask because I am human and I hurt.  I ask because I don’t know and I feel pain.  I probably don’t want to know.  I know I don’t need to know, but I ask anyway.  I will turn to the good book and find some verses that will bring me comfort.  I will listen to God speak to me until I can clear my head and smile for my birthday cake.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me: thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4

“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:5

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those that are crushed in spirit. ”  Psalm 34:18

Just typing these verses out lifts my heart.  God is so good, in all circumstances.  For my birthday this year, I ask for prayers.  That is all.

Lean on Me

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2 NIV  

When you hit rock bottom and have nothing to cling to but the Creator alone, that is when you learn how to trust God.  When life seems so impossible and you cannot figure out how to breath your next breath, that is when you learn how to trust God.  When you have never studied the bible, never opened it up aside from church, but that is where you are drawn and the only thing that will bring you comfort and hope, that is when you trust God.  When your world is upside down and you realize that you have control over nothing, that is when you trust God.

Losing my son almost 7 years ago put me in all of those situations, at once.  As devastating as his death was, what followed was unbearable at times.  Life went on for the world around us, but we were still stuck in this abyss of grief.  Friends and family went back to work, back to activities with their kids, back to the grind of daily living.  We were still.  We couldn’t move or breath.  

When we tried, we were punched in the gut.  For instance, I vividly remember the first time I went to Target after losing my son.  I went to grab the diaper bag…. expect I no longer needed it.  (Punched in the gut.)  I remember trying to set the table each night and seeing the place where my son’s booster seat was.  (Punched in the gut.)  I remember glancing back in my rear-view mirror in the “family van” we bought after I found out I was pregnant with my son.  I saw my beautiful daughter, but my son’s seat was empty.  (Punched in the gut.)  I could literally go on and on.  Everyday for years this feeling happened.

The other part of this journey was the feeling of being out of control.  When you are a person who feels like they have everything under control and you can handle whatever comes at you, and then your son is diagnosed with cancer, you learn quickly that you have no control over anything.  I was terrified.  Before he was sick, I would look at families suffering illness or tragedy and feel sorry for them, then I would think, “That could never happen to us.”  That was my security blanket of control that kept me sane.  When my son got sick, my security blanket was ripped out from under me and thrown away.  After he died, I had no control, no sense of security.  

I thought my husband would die in a car crash on the way to work.  I was afraid to send my daughter to school in case she fell off the playground and cracked her head open, etc.  The only fear I didn’t have was if I died.  (I probably would have welcomed that!) 

Over time, I learned that I still don’t have control.  (Not feeling warm and fuzzy yet, I know!) However, I learned to not fear as much.  I learned to let go of my fear and trust in God.  I started reading Scripture more and really digging deep into the meaning.  I started attending church regularly and reading books to learn more.  I couldn’t stop leaning on God.  I couldn’t stop hearing his messages and promises.  I needed more than ever to keep learning.  

As I began this spiritual journey, my grip on controlling my fears loosened.  Not all at once, but slowly.  My pain numbed, not all at once, but slowly.  My heart grew and my mind opened.  My trust in God blossomed and my faith exploded!

I realize more than ever that control is not something I was ever meant to have.  I also realize that fear is also something I was never meant to have.  These things I have given to God.  I am living a much more peaceful life since I have released these things to Him.  

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Psalm 28:7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. Psalm 13:5

 

Broken Hearted Christmas

As we trim our trees and sing our carols, there are families suffering.  In Newtown, CT, 26 families are approaching this Christmas without someone they love.  Someone who died too soon.  Someone they can’t breathe without.

What do you say to someone who has lost a child at Christmas?  Many avoid the family, thinking they don’t want to be bothersome.  Some come up with cliche’ saying that will make the speaker feel like they did their part, but will not help console the grieving. If you have never experienced a loss like this, it is difficult to know what to say or how to act.

Do you say Merry Christmas?  Do you ask How are you?  Do you invite them over for a party?

These families most likely do not want to celebrate Christmas in the traditional way.  They may cling to the gift of Jesus, our Saviour and the glory of His birth.  But, that is probably where it will end.  They do not need “Merry Christmas” cards and calls.  Every photo they receive in the mail of someone else’s family is a heart-wrenching reminder that they will never have another family photo again.  Every facebook post about baking cookies and Christmas parties and trimming trees is a reminder that their lost child will never experience those things with them again.

So what do we do?  We will see these families at church.  We will see them in town and at school.  What do we do?

We pray for them.  We embrace them with hugs.  We listen if they want to talk.  We don’t pretend to know what it’s like and we don’t offer cliche’ advice.  We simply say, “I am here.”  We don’t say Merry Christmas, or Happy Birthday, or Happy New Year.  We say, “I know this day must be so difficult for you.  Please know that I am praying for you and thinking about you.”

All of their wonderful memories, their family traditions are gone.  They will never be able to hold those traditions again without feeling pain.  They will in time build new memories and maybe begin some new traditions.  But, they may not want traditions.  Traditions attach us to the past and the past is painful.

They may avoid social engagements for a long time.  There is no time limit on grief.  There is no amount of time that can take away the pain of losing a child.  If it’s a year or 5 years or more, just understand that you cannot understand what they are feeling.

Imagine going to a birthday party for one of your children.  You are sort of hiding against the wall, trying not to talk to anyone.  Someone comes up to you and starts some “safe”, on the surface conversation.  One of the first questions she asks is, “Do you have any other kids?”  How do you answer that if you child was killed?  Or died of an awful disease?  So, do not be insulted if you invite one of these families to a party and they decline your invitation, for years.  It doesn’t mean they don’t like you, it means they maybe cannot take the social pressure after losing a child.

Imagine grocery shopping and you put double stuff oreos into your cart because that’s your child’s favorite.  And then you remember that your child isn’t here anymore.  Do you take them out?  Do you buy them anyway?  Imagine setting the table every single day and having one place empty.  Every single day is a reminder that you child is gone.

So, while you are enjoying your family, parties and church services as so many do, pray for the ones who can’t seem to make sense of their world right now.  Pray for one breath at a time for them.  Pray that they will find comfort in our Lord and that they will see Christmas for what it actually is, the birth of Jesus.  Pray that the ones who surround them will be a comfort and will carry them long after the rest of the world has forgotten.  That these people who surround them will be sensitive to their needs for years to come and will not put times limits and pressure on them to move on.  Pray that through this unfathomable tragedy, they can find peace, somewhere and sometime.  That their loved ones did not die in vain and that their memory will be preserved in the hearts of many, not in the media of our world.

I hope that you will all take this advice and apply it not only to Newtown families, but to anyone grieving the loss of a loved one.  No two people grieve the same and although we may not know what to say, it is more important to just be.

God Bless you all.

2 Kings 4 – Wasted Faith

2 Kings 4

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 NIV84

How many times in your life have you prayed for something, big or small, to have it not happen the way you wanted?  Maybe it was as simple as finding a lost item, or as complicated as repairing a broken relationship, or as miraculous as healing someone on their death bed.  Have you bargained with God?  If only, then I will…. or take me instead….. I have.

When I read the story on 2 Kings chapter 4 in the book Greater by Pastor Steven Furtick, at first I was astonished that the bible should depict a story of a faithful woman losing her son.  The son she didn’t ask for but was a gift from God in her later years.  I found it amazing that from the perspective of Greater, Elisha the prophet had a servant lay his staff on the child and the child remained dead.  Pastor Furtick used this part of the story to show that our prayers are not always answered in the way we want and they are not always heard in the way we ask them.

However, when I opened my bible to read 2 Kings 4, I realized that once Elisha arrived at the scene, he did indeed revive the boy.  As wonderful as this is, it made me mad.  (Yes, I am admitting these horrible feelings.) A miracle should not make me mad, but in the context of what was in my book verses what is in the bible, it did make me mad.

You see, when my son was sick with cancer, I prayed.  I begged.  I bargained. I would have done anything to keep him alive, including dying myself.  Most parents would.  I remember sitting at my kitchen table with my pastor just a couple of days after Louis died and asking him, “Why are there so many accounts of God bringing people back to life in the bible, but he couldn’t bring my son back to life?”  Honest, raw question from a newly grieving mother.

I have spent the past 6 1/2 years learning.  Learning more about God.  Learning more about the bible.  Learning more about myself and my relationship with God.  And as I learn more, I question less.  As I learn more, I ask for less.  This balance, this relationship, is built on faith.  A faith that does not require Why’s and I Don’t Understand’s.  A faith that just accepts.

I don’t know why my son got cancer.  I don’t know why he died.  I don’t know why God didn’t bring him back to life for me.  But I have stopped asking those questions.  I don’t doubt that He could, I just don’t need to know the answer.  As much as I don’t like the situation, it is not about me.  I can’t see the whole picture, but I need to trust the one who can.

God is the almighty Creator.  He never leaves us.  When things get difficult in our lives, we are the ones who walk away from Him.  If we remain steadfast in our faith, especially through the most trying times, we will reap His rewards now and in heaven.

Wasted faith?  I think not.  It is those times when we feel the most lost, the most out of touch, the most like God has forgotten us that we must remain faithful.  God sees the whole plan and He will see us through, always.