It's not easy.
I'm not going to sugar-coat it. It is a pain.
Some moments it is all you can do to breathe. Some days it's all you can do to get up and brush your teeth. Sometimes we hold onto pain to survive the emptiness and void we see beyond our heartache. I know.
Each day you make it through a night that follows a sunset, you waken to see another sunrise, you walk toward a brighter moment. You may not see the light, but it is there or there would be no shadows.
It's true; life will never be the same again. You'll never be the same. You'll never have the same "normal". How could you when you can no longer hold your loved ones hand, or feel their for-nothing-hugs? How could you when you no longer hear their laughter, their voice, their footsteps coming down the hall? How could you when their own special smell only lingers in your mind?
Firstly, try to understand there is no perfect way or combination of ways to live with grief. You find your own way-- at your own pace.
No one else has your grief. The path you walk is not necessarily blazed by another-- no matter how close they are to the same person who left this old earth. They did not lose your relationship with your loved one. They lost theirs.
So it's best to understand that few can comprehend the depth of your pain or loss-- nor can you totally understand theirs. Some have walked grief's journey, but it was still theirs. Yours is what you know, what you feel, what you have to deal with on a daily basis. The things that trigger memories that bring you joy or sorrow are not the same another may have. You have to find your own ways of filling your void.
Some like crowds-- to be surrounded with noise. Others like solitude and silence. Some laugh; others cry. Some bathe their minds in soothing music. Some drown their pain in the hum of chainsaws which muffle the silent thunder in their hearts. Some want to do nothing; others can't stay busy enough. Grief calls us each to experience our own hour of living without someone.
So...dear friends. Learn to be yourself. Do what you need to do to survive grief's cycle of anger, denial, and acceptance. No one can take away your grief to make it better. You have to relinquish it yourself. And you will do that...
when you are ready... when you are strong enough to turn loose and trust the world again.
It's not easy, but it is possible. It really is. Especially when you know the Savior who is aquainted with grief. He is the balm to heal your brokenness. He is the wholeness you need. His grace is sufficient. He is enough.
I was only thirteen when I walked into the ballroom and stared at the breathtaking sight. Giant columns dotted the room and held the massive ceiling in place. Beautifully decorated tables filled the room. I'd never seen even one table decorated with flowers and candles; this room had to have 100 or more. Ladies were all dressed up; there were over 600 people there. I almost turned around and ran. I was scared to death.
I had no idea when my 4-H leader asked me to sing a song for her ladies club that her club had so many women. I suddenly realized why she'd worked for weeks getting me ready, teaching me how to hold notes and sing with more volume as she played the piano in her living room. Until I walked into that ballroom, I'd felt pretty confident. I literally wanted to cry. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Mrs. Keys hoped I would get a scholarship by singing in front of ladies in her lodge. I didn't. I was disappointed that she was disappointed. However, there is an up side to this; I never forgot the song:
"I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses...".
I suppose the most wonderful part of learning a song, and failing to please my 4-H leader, is the difference it made in my life 38 years later. In our last pastorate, a dear elderly lady, Mrs. P, was devastated when her husband suddenly died of a massive stroke. Our music director usually arranged to sing for the funerals, but when we went by to see the widow, she tearfully asked if I would sing a song. I immediately said "yes", even though I had never sang a solo at a funeral. I asked if she had a particular song she wanted me to sing, and she said she'd leave that up to me; she was so grief-stricken she couldn't think.
As a minister's wife I've sang "In The Garden" many times in church. But I've never sang it solo; I'm usually in a choir or a congregation. On the day of the funeral, I could barely breathe as I began singing. Mrs. P sat right in front of me and looked into my face through tears of sorrow. I wanted to break down crying--just like many years before. Instead of crying with her, the Lord pressed upon me to smile as I sang. Her face slowly filled with a peace that I can only describe as passing all understanding. Her tears stopped falling down her cheeks. Pure contentment radiated from her eyes. I wanted to stop singing and go hug her, but managed to finish without dissolving into an emotional puddle.
Days after the funeral, my husband and I went to visit her and she took my hands in hers, and kept telling me how wonderful my song was and how much she appreciated it. Then she asked me how I knew it was her husband's favorite song. I didn't know. But God did. Amazing how God works, isn't it? I can't begin to count how many times I've sung that song through the years, but I can count the one time it felt like I was truly in the garden with my Savior. selahV
Just as I bent to add purple hydrangeas and tiger lilies to my son's grave arrangement, a bird started singing in a nearby pine tree. The entire time I added flowers to fill the spaces, the bird continued its serenade. I kept looking into the trees and couldn't see what kind of bird it was; then all of a sudden it flew to a different perch and started singing again. It looked like a mocking-bird, but I'd never heard a mocking-bird sing like that. Nowhere in the Bible is it written that a person can issue forth birdsongs for a loved one on earth. I know that. But I couldn't help but wonder if God wasn't blessing me a little more than normal on this 7th anniversary of Chad's entrance to heaven. I laughed at the thought, that Chad was elbowing Gabriel and saying, "See her? That's my momma, putting those flowers out."
I began taking pictures to post on Facebook for my granddaughters to see the new arrangement. And just as I began snapping photos, a spotted butterfly came and landed on one of the yellow roses. Again I laughed. The Lord sent us a butterfly to remind us of the new life Chad has in Jesus now.
"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." Romans 5:8-10
I took a few more pictures and noticed an array of yellow, striped, and small orange butterflies flitting from one yellow daisy to another in the cemetery and adjoining field. The daisies reminded me of how much Chad loved to pick wildflowers alongside the road with his girls. In fact, Abby (now 10), remembered that when she spotted some Texas Bluebonnets on the side of the highway just last month. It was a good memory. And that, my friends, is exactly what all those little acts of love created while Chad was here with us. Sweet loving memories of his presence--memories to cherish today as we wait to join him some day. One of Chad's favorite sayings was "Don't forget, take time to smell the flowers."
I love you, my son...
I sometimes do what I'm doing now. I open my laptop and start writing. Scary when the house is dark and that bright light slaps me in the head. I need night vision glasses. This is absolutely blinding. I think I'll close my eyes and type. Ah, much better.
Anyway, tonight when I awoke I wondered if the Lord wanted a word with me, as He so often does in the middle of the night. So I waited. And within a milisecond, He brought my facebook friend, fellow blogger, and sister-in-Christ to mind. It's easy to know why she entered my thoughts. Recently she miscarried her first child. Emily use to write for Devotional Christian. Please join me in lifting her up in prayer. It's a hard thing to lose a baby. Especially the first. One wonders if you'll ever have a child. I know. My little Paul only breathed 23 hours of air (and that was very labored), before he went to heaven. WeeOne only lived about 3 months in my womb before she moved on to be with God. It makes getting pregnant again very scary...fear you'll lose another baby. It makes being hopeful something elusive. It's something you are hesitant to even usher out of your heart.
anyway...will you pray with me now for Emily?
May God in His tender mercy fill her with peace overflowing today. May she feel the spark of joy kindle again in her heart. May the Lord give her and her husband comfort this very hour. May their trust be renewed...trust that He will never abandon them, and trust in His all-knowing plan for the life he started in her and took back home much sooner than Emily had wanted. May the moments she finds herself questioning her loss, and wondering why. Please, Lord; turn her wonder into marveling. Let her know she will one day hold her Amos in her arms for an eternity. Until then remind her of those who've gone before her who are most likely holding Amos now. And Lord, please send my son over to hold Amos awhile. He so loved little babies.
May we all remember to pray for Emily when we waken in the night and think of her. May we each use our time wisely when wakened. I most assuredly believe when I cannot sleep, it has a lot less to do with me writing and a lot more to do with me listening. God wants to talk to me. This time He wanted me to pray for Emily. And He wanted me to ask you to pray, too. God bless you all, and especially Emily. selahV
For many, yesterday was a day of remembering Moms. In fact, on Facebook (the world-wide social network site), I saw precious tributes. One gal even asked everyone to change their profile picture and replace it with one of their mothers til Monday. I thought that was sweet. I didn't do that. I have no idea where any pictures are of my mothers.
My biological mom is barely a memory...she abandoned us when I was just three, the three or four times I saw her afterwards leave fanciful feathers fluttering in my mind.
Step-mother #1 stirs memories of sadness as a whole--although, one cannot toss aside the years in which she washed my clothes and cooked meals. I have to give her credit where credit is due. Most of what she was in my life was not her fault. Albeit hard to suffer the anguish of abuse, mentally ill people need our forgiveness, especially when they let you pull taffy on a cold winter night.
Step#2 didn't really consider me much more than my father's daughter. She and her children got some of the better parts of my dad's time, money and affection. Enough said.
Step#3 was a gem. I do call her blessed for giving my father the best 4 years of his heartbreaking 82 years of life. When I watch others share how much they miss their mothers, the heartbreak they have without them, I often think I may be more blessed for never having known the joy of moms. In a sense I have been spared that kind of pain. Admittedly, it makes it harder to empathize with another's burden...that makes it easier for me to understand how folks feel who cannot fathom my loss of a son...two babies.
Given the post I shared on Mother's Day, and due to the prayers so many offered on my behalf, I thought I'd take a few moments to tell you how things went for me yesterday (and also share some family photos). Before I do that I want to acknowledge the gorgeous flowers you see pictured above. My son's dear childhood friend (and a former youth I taught in the first pastorate we were blessed to serve), sent them to me. She's been rather faithful to me as a friend and sister-in-Christ since Chad's death.
[Karen Pollock contributes to Devotional Christian now and she wrote one of the sweetest tributes to my son (HERE). But make sure you subscribe to Devotional Christian while you're there so you don't miss any of her moving devotionals.]
So...the flowers come in the middle of the night, at about 8:15 on Saturday night. Such a gift I stumble to explain. You see, Karen doesn't know this, but one of the hardest times I have through the Mother's Day extravaganza is May 7th...the night before Mother's Day. That was the night six years ago I last spoke to my son--last heard his voice. As usual, he had a story to tell, and part of it was his joy in going to see the Texas Rangers play ball in Dallas. That evening at around 10:15 was the last time I heard his sweet words, of good-bye and "I love you, momma." So often at that hour of each Saturday before Mother's Day, my heart fills with a bitter-sweetness of gratitude and regret. Gratitude that God gave me that last "I-love-you, Momma" --- Regret that we hung up before I said I love you too, my precious son. It's hard to forgive myself for that lapse in motherhood.
So, Karen...you are, my friend, another portion of Chad's never-ending story of a life. The love he shared with you nearly 30 years ago in friendship, blossomed into a basket of roses and daisies for me on a day only Chad, and I, and God would know is a day I find especially difficult. Your flowers blessed me more than you'll ever know. It was like a gift from heaven above. I can almost hear my son say, "forgetta bout it, Momma; just stop and smell the roses today."
Secondly, my friends and new readers, that is just one facet of what I call God's divine interventions in life...a comforting Balm through a love cultivated years ago in a little country Kentucky church. Corrie ten Boom was right when she wrote, "Every experience God gives you, every person He puts in your life, is the perfect preparation for the future, that only He can see."
Thirdly, My daughter did what she does naturally for her--she loves through acts of service. She prepared a brisket dinner for me and her own family. Every single Sunday (for the most part) she makes Sunday dinner. I couldn't help but think of how much I appreciate her gift of love. A menial task, some might say. But special because I have her in my life to share my heart, to embattle, to love, to plan stuff, to undergird and etcetera, etcetera. Some folks wonder why I don't write much about my daughter. I realize that it a curious thing considering the attention I give to the relationship I had with my son. I'm simply following orders. You see, as precious as my daughter is, and as much as I would love to give you all the nitty-gritty details of her life and her older children, Holly is a private kind of gal. She makes me keep my thoughts closer to my chest, my fingers holstered, and for the most part, pictures stored in scrapbooks.
To say she doesn't like to call attention to herself rather belies the kook she is at ladies' retreats. But she doesn't like to announce to the world all the things she does as she serves the Lord. She doesn't tweet, friend, or blog. This world is rather foreign to her. It's doubtful she even reads a single thing I write--go figure. But she owns a humongous portion of my heart, always has, always will. I'd die for her. She could have both kidneys and my liver. I know she loves me...and while she's never stood up in the city gates and called me blessed, I know. I know she cares. I know because no matter how heated we may get over trivialities of life, she and I are on the phone talking and sharing by 10:00 a.m. the next day. It's just the way we are. It's not how we've always been. And most of that is my fault. I have learned a lot about motherhood from my daughter. I think most mommas do.
Lastly...yesterday...Mother's Day was one of the most peacefilled, comforting, blissful, and God-infused days I've had in a long long time. Here is just a sampling of things that held my attention. Most of it is pictures. I hope you have as much fun looking at them as I had cropping and adding captions today.
Life is not always a happy time. It's not always perfect. It has moments, though -- snapshots in the course of living which we need to be vigilant not to miss. Moments flash before our eyes, and can be blurred before our cameras grab the perfect shot. Often in our desire to have the perfect day, we waste time trying to catch the perfect smile, the perfect pose. Then we miss the seconds of love and lose a memory we could capture and lock inside our hearts forever. Enjoy today. Enjoy tomorrow. Be like my son...stop and smell the roses. Smell them today. selahV
I wondered how I'd feel today. It's been six years since Mother's Day exploded on May 8th. Each year, I've had a bit of a respite from that horrific anniversary of my 33 year-old son's death and Mother's Day celebration. The past few years I took some solace in the fact that this day sanctified as the day for honoring mothers didn't fall on May 8th every year. For some reason I assumed it would take 7 years for it to fall on the 8th again. I thought I had one more year before facing it. I was wrong.
It's not the first time. It won't be the last. No one really expects the inconceivable to occur. At least, not to them. Inconceivable happens to others. Others are have tornadoes, floods, and fires destroy their homes. Others lose their children. Others. Not us.
We all live in a world of preconceived complacency--we think each day will unfold in a fitted form. We blindly plan our lives without a thought to the unforeseen. Routine is our security blanket. Change is most often a threat...any deviation from the typical normal schedule creates temporary panic. Extreme change stops us dead in our tracks. That was made clear on September 11 in 2001. Planes stopped flying. Flights were canceled. Marriages ended. Wedding plans changed. America inhaled horror and forgot to exhale. The impenetrable was penetrated. Security was breached and government was paralyzed until we caught our breath.
Such is similar when one gets the news on Mother's Day that their own child is dead. We cannot breathe. We can't even imagine breath without the inclusion of our child's heartbeat, laughter, and smile. But we do breathe. Eventually the horror fades, the inconceivable settles in, and reality breeds another norm, another typical, another routine of sorts.
Others talk about closure when people die. Closure buries their dead. Closure shuts the door on funeral home visits. Closure slams the coffin lid shut. Closure throws away the key. Closure stops reading the book; the story ends. Closure decides where 33 years of memories are stored, where clothes hang, where memorabilia is placed. When someone we love dies -- someone as big as life itself -- the box is too big to close. The door won't shut. The key is never lost. Especially when the one who dies is a child. There is no closure. The book writes itself, chapters are still written. The character lives on in the hearts of those who carry his memory as they walk on in life. Questions linger. Thoughts probe the heart. Each answer provokes emotions. Each thought stirs a memory. Each memory opens another door, unlocks a feeling, stirs a dormant pain or fills a need.
For me it was my son. This year he'd turn 40. I wonder if he'd still be planning to go shark fishing in the Pacific Ocean? By now, he'd probably be chasing whales.
I'd love to hear what he'd say and think as he bragged about his beautiful daughters.
I'd love to see the adoration and pride sparkle in his eyes as they walk into the room.
I'd love to watch him play with his little nieces, and grand-nephews and grand-niece. I can see him growl and run from them as he plays hide-and-seek.
He'd so enjoy his niece's husband, his nephews' life choices. Instead, I imagine what he'd still be doing.
He'd still be taking risks beyond appropriate for his age.
He'd still be bouncing on trampolines, riding bikes, and bungie jumping.
He'd still be stopping on roadsides and picking wildflowers for his daughters.
He'd still be calling and leaving silly phone messages in foreign dialects.
He'd still be playing pranks on new friends and probably still be trying to get in touch with old friends.
He'd still be trying to play softball, golfing, and encouraging everyone on the team.
He'd still be tiling other people's houses, McDonald's, What-a-Burgers, and anyone else to whom he'd given a business card.
He'd still be wearing his scripture embroidered cap that said "His death gives me life". Romans 5:9,10.
And most likely, he'd still be planning to do something for Mother's Day.
I wouldn't be feeling guilty because I was in too much physical pain to make a new floral blanket for his grave. I wouldn't be standing in the cemetery feeling like the chapter of my book would never end happily ever after on earth again. Nor will I hear my children rise up to call me blessed.
No, there is no closure today.
But then, closure is highly overrated in my book. I rather like to think of Chad in terms of the seed that falls to earth and dies and produces a hundred-fold to live on and on and on. When I think of him, my heart beats a bit stronger, my perseverance finds another way, my hope looks forward to a day when we will see each other face to face and he places my hand in the hand of Jesus, the One who makes eternal life possible to those who believe. When the inconceivable falls on Mother's Day, you cry, you die to the way things once were and live on and celebrate the way things are, and dream of the perfect way things will be...eventually for an eternity.
I received an email from a friend yesterday. He sends me little snippets of this-and-that each day. I laugh at some, shake my head at others and then some, I am pressed to ponder a bit. Yesterday's was a quote by Warren Wiersbe:
"When there is peace in the heart, there will be praise on the lips."
Sounds sweet, huh? I thought so, too--at the first read. Then I looked at it again and recalled a time when the phrase was reversed for me. When there is praise on the lips, there is peace in the heart. There was a time so dark and full of sorrow and blackness I thought any second I was going to die. In fact as much as I feared it, I wanted it. I saw no light in the abyss. No comfort to come from mourning. No filling to come from hungering and thirsting. No strength to come from weakness. No hand amid the waves of pain.
Wiersbe says, when there is peace, there is praise. I don't know if that is always true.
You see, my heart is at peace quite often without an utterance of praise or a thought of adoration toward my Maker. But when I am troubled, when my heart is broken, when heartache seems to squeeze the life right out of my soul, it's then that peace eludes me.
I have found when I take time to exalt the Lord, to sing a chorus of praise: "I exalt You. I exalt You. I exalt You, Oh, Lord;" it is then my heart is stilled. It's then my heart relaxes and my weakness turns to strength. It's then the darkest night becomes day. Most certainly when a heart is at peace it can praise the Lord for His presence. But do we? always?
When a person has a troubled heart, praise on his lips will create the peace his heart cannot produce on its own. It transforms the heart flooded with itself. God is the keeper of the secret longings and needs of our hearts. We can praise Him for the hope we have in Him and then our hearts will give Him room to sit enthroned each moment of our day.
"But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted Thee and Thou didst deliver them." Psalm 22:3-4 KJV
If you have a troubled weary heart today, try singing Jesus Loves Me till you feel He does and know He is your refuge and stay. I am praying for you, too. May His peace be the praise you offer to others who find themselves torn and broken today. selahV
RELATED POST: Lessons of Loss
It was 2:00 a.m. when my water broke and began the most amazing, gratifying, joy-filled, gut-wrenching, heart-rending 33 years, 5 months, 13 days and 2 hours of my life. My son, Chad, was born this day, August 25th and I so miss the sparks, flames, and warmth that his life kindled in my heart. I cannot begin to write what I truly feel. I just know that though the world keeps turning, the moon keeps shining, the sun keeps rising, and his two little girls keep changing shoe sizes each year, I still remember how vital he was to my life. How much I miss his hugs--of seeing the joy he grabbed from every moment of life.
I long to be with him in glory. I long to see his face once more. Occasionally, the Lord gives me dreams of him--such sweet moments in the stillness of my nights. Sometimes I recall a particular phrase he eternalized in my mind. And I smile. I remember one in particular that he coined from some movie, I've been told. But when I felt defeated and thought I just couldn't go on anymore with a situation, challenge or task, he would change his voice and say, "You can dooooo it, Momma." And it gave me the energy to tackle life with his spiritual wind at my back.
That tad of encouragement has often come to me in moments when grief seems too much to bear. When seeing his girls grow up without him. When I need to be a part of something that he should have been in attendance for--my heart wants to run. But I hear his voice--"You can doooo it, Momma." And by the grace of God, and through Christ who strengthens me, he is right.
"Happy Birthday, my son. Tell Jesus thank you for making it possible for us to see one another again when my days on earth have come to a close." Love ya, bunches and bunches, and until then I'll just keep on "remembering the good times". Momma
The excruciating pain you feel today is beyond explanation. To say you "will feel better in time" is like adding salt to an open wound. Time? What is time? It is now. Now is the only time you know. This moment seems like an eternity. You ask, "Can I survive it?" It feels as though you won't. Even after your loved one has been lain to rest, your heart feels as though it may explode with the agony filling the void within you.
My heart cries out for God's unfailing mercy and grace to be upon you in your grief. You will need His comfort to sustain you to simply breathe...to take another step...to drink and eat with normalcy. For what are those things in this, so seemingly senseless loss? Normal no longer exists. It's gone. Few who have loved deeply and lost can feel anything but the void of the loss. Loss sucks the life out of you; it drains you.
There is a quiet place in the heart of God to rest for those who suffer much in this life. And only those who suffer much find entrance to that room in God's heart. It is the way of things. I would not seek to give anyone that key. But God in His infinite wisdom and grace, knows who best can benefit from the resting place and offer comfort to others from the strength and comfort they gain in that room.
I learned since my son's death, that many of his prayers have been fulfilled. I've watched as God worked and works in the hearts of those my son loved and cared for. I've found a peace in God only He could impart. I wish that I hadn't had to learn so many of life lessons as a result of my son's death. I wish my son could be here to see the breadth of my growth, the depth my trust, the abundance of joy in his children. But that was not in God's plan.
I do not understand if my son died to bring about these things or if my son's dying brought about the things that would have eventually happened. I struggled with those whys for years. Today I am able to simply rest in God's sovereignty and know He brought my son home for His reasons and mine is not to wonder why any longer.
God bless you if you are suffering today. God bless you if you find yourself inside that room and have no idea why you've entered. My sincere love goes out to you. selahV
A young pastor, Jonathan Paul Ayers, was killed this week by drug enforcement agents dressed in plainclothes. Allegedly the young 28 year-old Baptist pastor from Lavonia, Georgia had just dropped off a lady at the convenience store. She was allegedly under investigation for cocaine dealing. Pastor Ayers wasn't under suspicion of anything. Don't know about the validity of the situation, but do know after I watched the video of the incident, I don't see how I would have done much differently than the pastor if I'd been accosted by two men with guns at a gas station. I think, had I seen two strange men coming at my car with guns drawn, I'd have gunned my gas pedal and run too.
This is the account by ABPnews.
Please pray for this young pastor's wife, Abby Ayers, please remember her name. She is 16 weeks into her pregnancy with their first child--a child who will never know his/her daddy.
[UPDATE...by the account and by the video, this is a drug-sting gone horribly wrong. I'd only seen the video and the AOL account of the story when I posted this. Then I read the story from Baptist Press. Pastor Ayers will be sorely missed by his congregation. The community has lost a man who wanted to love them and share Jesus with them all. Please pray for Lavonia, Georgia in this terrible time. May God touch this community with an outpouring of His Spirit].
Today we focus on the loss our nation had 7 years ago when 4 planes were hijacked and flew into the heart of our democracy, our freedom and our way of life. 9-11-01. A day that changed the course of American routine. American politics. American spirit.
Today I consider all the things that encompassed the lives of those who lost loved ones that day. I think of the incredible vacuum of those left behind and what may have filled it through these years. The regrets. The guilt. The pain. The anger. The bitterness. The love. The inspiration. The dedication. The hope for a future where this would never happen again.
Did they have an argument with their spouse, their son, their daughter that morning? Did they kiss them good-bye before they left on what none could have predicted would be the last chance to do so? Did they say a prayer for their safety? Had they reconciled their anger over differences they held?
As I consider the unrelated loss of my dear son on May 8th, 2005, I am reminded of my own relationships. All the little aggravations we'd faced days prior to his death, paled in significance to hearing the news that he was gone. Never again would I have an opportunity to tell him I loved him. Never again would I have a chance to say I am sorry. Never again would I need to be annoyed with a habit he had not changed. Never again would I need to loan him some money, or bale him out of a situation. Never again would I need to pray for his needs. Never again would it be necessary to worry, fret or be aggravated with his behavior. Never again would I feel the comfort of his bear hugs, hear the sound of his voice, nor have to search for a Christmas gift.
Today I am reminded that life is fragile. Treasure it. Life is limited. Savor it. Life is not a guarantee; it is a privilege. With the privilege comes incredible responsibility: A responsibility to respond to the Creator by loving the people around us. A responsibility to have compassion where none is seen from others. A responsibility to encourage where we find discouragement. To give generously as we have prospered. To hope when others are hopeless. To forgive when others hold grudges. To love when others do not. To praise when others condemn. To build up when others tear down.
Today, this is what comes to mind when I consider the terrorists who sought to destroy America's spirit and resolve. This is what comes to mind when I consider the significance of my son's life and the vacuum of his loss in mine. I want to fill my heart and mind with these things. This is what I never want to forget today. I may not have another chance tomorrow. selahV
[© SelahV Today, hariette petersen, 2008]
A while back I was studying bees. When bees sting you, they soon die. The loss of their stinger brings forth death. Today I discovered this post by Garrett Starr. I don't know Garrett, but found him through a dear friend's blog. For my readers who know my story and the stories I've told recently regarding the loss of loved ones, I felt it appropriate to share. It is the most poignant introspective grace-filled thinking I've come across in the last few years regarding death--and life. For heartwarming encouragement on a life that has no sting in death, please read Garrett's thoughts and pass them on. selahV
I thought I had it all together. Really. I think about him every day. I miss him. But I hadn't sat and cried in a long time. It may be because it's getting nearer to the anniversary of his last days with me. I don't know. But I went to a new support group tonite and I shared that I'd lost my son nearly three years ago on Mother's Day, I crumbled. Tears didn't just sting my eyes; they rolled down my cheeks. The ladies in the group didn't know me from a hole in the wall. To be honest, I have no clue how they received my grief. And it doesn't matter.
I was just a bit surprised that the fortress within was not as fortified as I'd thought. I was equally surprised at how those mountains we erect within the walls of our hearts and minds will crumble at the most unexpected times. I'm so grateful that when they do, my Lord is steadfast and sure. He is greater than all the hurdles I've scaled. And when I stumble, He does not let my foot slip. What assurance to know God is mine. What a peace to know I am His and His loving-kindness will never be removed. selahV
[copyrighted, SelahV Today, 2008]
As I sit here writing this post to try and explain why I needed your prayers yesterday, I wonder. Is what I'm about to say even worth sharing? Are you as tired of me as I am?
Grief is a strange thing. It really is. Just when you think you're doing pretty well with life, grief grabs you by the throat and says, "Oh no you're not!" A week ago I went to a very draining counseling session. I started going to a Christian counselor just after my son died. When Linda asked me why I was there, I sat for a long while with tears streaming down my face till I finally found a voice to say, "Because my daughter thinks I need to be here. I lost my son."
Looking back I realize how revealing that statement was. I didn't begin counseling for me. I began counseling for my daughter. She thought I needed someone to help me through the most devastating time I would ever endure---the loss of my son. I probably would have been content to lie in my recliner and melt into the fabric. That's how I felt. Like a puddle without borders. Everyone in my family other than my deceased son's two little girls seemed like they were handling death and life just fine. Everyone seemed in agreement that it was me who needed help. In reality, I did not want help. I really didn't. I wanted release. I wanted to leave this place called earth that served to do nothing but deliver blow after blow after blow of unrelenting pain.
Being the marshmallow I am, I let my daughter call the Christian Counseling Center for me. Whatever. Whenever. It just didn't matter to me. She called me when I was in Tennessee telling my 85 year-old father that his grandson had died. I had to call the counseling center back to make the appointment, she told me. So I did.
A lot has happened since June of 2005. I've discovered alot about myself that I didn't know. Good stuff. But the discovery wasn't without its own pain. Last week I shared with Linda all the joy of all the blessings God had recently placed in my life through complete strangers. (Anyone reading this for the first time can go back about five or six posts and read of the miracles.) For brevity's sake I won't tell you how we came to the topic of Applebee's restaurant. Sufficient for this writing that I did. I told Linda that I hadn't been to Applebee's since Chad died. In fact I wished they'd tear the building down and rebuild it somewhere else. I didn't even want to drive past it.
Our whole family had gone there to celebrate Mother's Day. Chad was suppose to come up later, but I'd half-expected him to make it for dinner. We'd placed our orders, were receiving our drinks and were waiting on appetizers when my husband's phone rang. I knew everyone was there with us, so I knew it had to be my son. But my husband shook his head no, "It's the state police." A dozen thoughts went through my mind, but foremost was a foreboding, all-knowing void. Speculative comments were made. I felt violated. My husband went outside because the officer told him to go out. I realize now, he didn't want him falling apart in public.
I got up and followed him out. I watched as his jaw clenched, his lips trembled, and then his legs buckle. He dropped to the edge curb between two cars. I knew. I screamed. I walked in circles. I pulled my hair. I lost complete control of my bladder and knew I was going to die. Right there. I never felt so alone in my entire life. My husband was still talking. The family was inside Applebee's. I managed to walk over to a bench outside Applebee's and scream and scream and scream. The next thing I know, I was being pushed or pulled or somehow maneuvered into the back seat of our van. My husband was inside with me. My son-in-law was driving. I wanted my daughter. I wanted her so badly. She was with her family.
I cried and shouted and told God, "No, no, no." I heard nothing. "Why? It can't be."
There was another man with my son at the time he was killed. He was in a coma in the hospital. "Let that be my son, Lord," I begged. Fruitless.
The image of that day lies in a crevice of my heart. I don't know if it will ever be cleared out and filled with something better. Perhaps it isn't suppose to. Perhaps that is how we are to walk on in grief. Ever-remembering at times the pain we felt on a certain day, so we are better able to crawl inside another's heart and comfort them with the crevices so deep they cannot see the light of day. I do not know for sure.
Every now and then in blogland, someone emails me about my writings and we develop a cyber-space friendship. I have several of these now. Oddly enough, they originate from the times I've shared some of the greatest depth of my pain. I've always found it rather easy to relate to another's pain. I've found it one of the most comfortable places to be, actually. When I've sat with hurting people, it's as if I am a big plump sofa with lots of fluffy pillows and a box of tissues sitting atop my head. The person in pain just crawls up into the midst of my well-worn cushions and settles in. And I am at ease.
A week or so ago, a lovely lady contacted me after reading some of my posts on grief and we discovered we lived in neighboring counties. She'd been going through multiple losses and she wanted to meet and talk. I felt this to be a Divine Intervention and believed with all my heart that God was up to something. I emailed back and she set the time and place. When I opened her email, I felt something akin to clamoring cymbals resonating above my head and inside my being.
Applebee's. What could I say? How shall I say it? She wanted to treat me to lunch since she had initiated the conversation and meeting. I needed to tell her I couldn't. Applebee's is off limits. All my friends know I dont "do" Applebee's. Even my daughter can't return there. My husband won't go there.
I just couldn't go to Applebee's. I wrote her an email. I put the email in my "send later" box. I thought about it. Would she be offended? Would she think I was nuts and without faith because I couldn't face that demon? I pushed it out of my mind. I had other stuff to think about. There was plenty of time to reword the message later. It kept coming back to my mind. Applebee's. For some reason the advertisements for the restaurant and all the scrumptious meals they served kept interrupting my programs on television. Applebee's this and Applebee's that. It was nauseating.
Would I be able to even think clearly should I go? Would I be a puddle on the floor? Would I be able to swallow a morsel of food they served? Could I hear a word this new friend said? Would I freak out? Of all the hundreds of restaurants in Lawton she could have chosen, why Applebee's? She liked a chicken salad they made. I could think of other restaurants with other chicken salads. She was beginning to make me mad. As if she had any idea that I was battling demons. I had to think this through. I had enough prayer requests on my mind that were far more pressing than where I'd eat lunch on Monday.
Later I discussed it with my husband. "Suggest another place." Yeah. The simple, cut-to-the chase solution. Men! Ya gotta love 'em. God was doing something here. And I didn't like what God was doing. And that was my real struggle. Satan wouldn't be leading me to a place for a face off. No. He'd want me to cower. To run. To quiver and shake. This was God for sure.
I recalled my conversation with Linda earlier that week in counseling. She'd suggested I return to Applebee's and sit in that bench. Is she nuts? Without a cyber-second of thought, I shook my head, "No! Absolutely not! I can't. I won't. I don't want to. I've faced enough painful memories." To face pain helps us overcome it and move on. Enough is enough. It made absolutely no sense to me. I've stood toe-to-toe with demons from hell in dealing with the grief and loss of my precious son. I've forgiven what others call unforgiveable. I've embraced what others could never embrace. But I simply could not see an ounce of good that could come of me standing in the same spot, sitting in that bench where I wailed and screamed and cried out to God to make it not be true. "No, a thousand times no!"
In her soft, gentle reassuring voice, Linda said, "You pray about it."
"No; you pray about it, Linda. I don't want to pray about it." So I didn't. But I guess Linda did. Because here I am telling you about how God placed a perfect stranger into my life just a few days prior to my counseling session with Linda. A perfect stranger who had never even mentioned anything to me about eating, much less eating at Applebee's. I'm sharing with you how the odds of me having anyone, nevermind a stranger, offering to take me to lunch at Applebee's are beyond the realms of coincidence. Since Mother's Day 2005, I have avoided that place as though its very existence exuded poisonous vapors.
This past week I'd been writing daily devotions about trusting in God. Resting in God. I've written for over a year about the healing power of God. The strength He provides in my weakness. The shelter He is in every storm.
God has blessed me beyond measure the past few years and more particularly in the past few weeks. All one need do is take a bit of time and scan a few of my previous posts to see how He daily works in my life. You'd soon see what I mean. But Applebee's was a tremendous Giant in my life. I cannot adequately share how I felt about it. And some of you are probably reading this and saying, what? what's the big deal? Others of you are still praying for me.
Since you began praying for me yesterday morning after I requested it of you without sharing details, I've met the Giant. And God knocked it in the head with one shot from His sling of protection. I had so many things go through my mind while I sat waiting for my new-blogfriend to arrive. I had a bevy of thoughts race around like rats cornered in an alley as I sat eating and talking with her. But you know what? My heart was at peace. I felt as though a thousand angels were sitting next to me. I felt like I was ushered in and ushered out without any effort on my part. I thoroughly and completely rejoice in the new friend He has given me who He used to bring me to face a Giant in my life.
God did something for me yesterday. He flung a stone. He knocked that Giant on his keester. I walked by that bench outside the restaurant. I didn't sit down. I know God didn't plan for me to do that just yet. I don't know why. But I feel just fine about it. Grief is a strange thing. And so is the prayer of God's people.
Linda's prayers are pretty powerful. And I think yours are too. Thank you so much. So very, very much. selahV
[copyrighted, SelahV Today, 2008]
Today I'm about to take a step I do not want to take. I've been counseled to take it. I don't want to take it. And perhaps I won't take it entirely. I do not know.
I've been led of God by another's words before. I've been led of God by circumstances and what man would call coincidence. I have prayed. I am walking. I will share later with you how it goes. For now...I need your prayers and I know you will pray without the full details. To be honest, I cannot see the screen any longer to write. And I must go, for grief awaits me. selahV
Do you have enough?
In any given day, is there enough time to accomplish all you want to do? Do you feel pressed? Do you find ways to save time in order to spend more time? Do you ever kill time?
"MY TIMES ARE IN HIS HANDS..." Ps.31:15a.
I've always admired organized people. You can give them ten jobs to another's two and they will breeze right through them. Is that all there is to utilizing time? Can we reign over it by simply writing out a checklist? Keeping a calendar?
I think alot about time these days. I find it passes so quickly from week to week, month to month. At the end of a day I consider all I haven't done and wonder what good I have done. I actually sit and think through the day and mentally replay my actions. Is anyone else like that?
When I have lunch at school with my granddaughters, they are allotted 20 minutes from the time they leave their rooms to the time they conclude a lunch. After the food is gathered from the cafeteria line and they hand in their lunch cards, they have approximately 15 minutes left to open their ketchup, milk cartons and eat their lunch. We're talking 5 year-old children, folks.
I find myself exhausted between stuffing chicken nuggets in my mouth, opening surrounding children's packaged chips and encouraging them to eat their hamburgers as well as their cookies. If my granddaughter gets her orange down, I am thrilled. It's not much better with the older 9-year-old. In fact, it's a bit more hectic. That age group is far more sociable. They rarely get all their food unwrapped, much less eaten. They'd much rather talk than eat. The children's lunchtime is in the hands of the school schedule. However, the children are given the freedom to utilize that time they've been allotted.
How much of my times are really in His hands--firmly resting in His grasp? How much do I pull from his palm and hang onto myself--for myself? How much do I yield? I think God holds me in His hand and allows me to use the time He's holding as I choose. Ultimately, God controls it; He has a purpose for me on this earth. There is a time appointed first to be born and then to die. In between God uses my time to bring Himself glory, to work out His purpose for my life.
"There is a time for everything, and a time for every purpose under heaven." Eccl.3:1.
What part I play in the time for each thing and each purpose under heaven is delegated to my keeping. Just as the master gave the talents to his servants to invest, the Lord has given me a certain time on earth to invest. What stewardship He demands! "Go to the ant, you sluggard: consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in the summer and gathers its food at harvest." Pr. 6:6,7.
Time is much more than a.m. to p.m., sunrise to sunset. It's a gift; a privilege. What can I do with it to bring honor and glory to God? How much do I protect for myself. How much do I give to others. Where are my priorities? Who is my priority?
I think about the time I've been alotted on this earth. My times are indeed in God's hands. He is holding it and me in His palms.
I pray I don't let it dribble between His fingers. I pray I drink from His cupped hand and find the nourishment I need while talking with Him and feeding on His Word. I yearn to use the gifts He's given me as He so desires that I use them~~to show His love. Only in that, is there a purpose under heaven. selahV
[copyrighted, SelahV Today, 2007]
"...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. ...and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8,9b.
I love this rose. The Peace rose, it's called. Never know what color it's going to be. Never know what form it will take. Neither do we know the form in which the peace of God will bathe us in the midst of our heartache and sorrow. But as believers in Jesus, we know He will bring us peace. He said so. It's not the peace of the world, but a peace far better than the world offers.
God's peace doesn't come from the pharmacy, the local liquor store, or escape in temporary pleasures.
When God's peace is present, so is the presence of God. He, Himself, is our peace. No wonder it passes all understanding. Who can understand God? Who can comprehend His majesty, His love?
Paul cautions us in verse 6: "Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
"In everything" we are to pray and petition with thanksgiving. Is Paul saying we are to rejoice in these things that produce fretting and anxiety? Or is he saying to pray and petition with a heart that is thankful to God for the blessing and privilege we have to bring these things into His very presence? I think the latter.
We don't jump up and down and celebrate when our children disobey us and follow satan into a path of deception. We don't praise the Lord and shout hallejuhah when hurricanes, tornadoes and storms destroy. We don't sit around revelling at the idea of war and what war does to individuals, their families and countries. We don't giggle and sing when a child is threatened by disease. We don't dance on a loved one's grave when he dies. No.
Dwelling on the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy does not anesthetize us from the pain we have in life.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (4.
Note that Paul didn't say rejoice in poverty, rejoice in brokenness, rejoice in grief or rejoice in pain. He said, "rejoice IN the LORD." That is how we get through our times of sadness, sorrow, and difficulty. Rejoicing in the Lord. Dwelling on the sufficiency of God--His protection. Accepting the providence of God and the hope in Christ our Lord. These are what get me through each day.
Knowing God is a God full of mercy--and clinging to that fact--empowers me to rise another morning, take another step and breathe a fresh breath of air. Realizing I can come to Him with any problem small or great comforts me. Recognizing the friends He sends into my path to lean on, bolsters my faith. The victory I have in the Lord gives me the strength to endure. In spite of the trials and tribulations I face along my journey Home.
[copyrighted, SelahV Today, 2007]
I use to love the month of May.
I loved the promise of near-perfect temperatures--irises and daisies popping up from the ground, standing at attention or swaying with ease in the breeze. That changed in 2005. Now, it's a love~hate relationship I have with May. When I get past Mother's Day, the days which follow are filled with horrific memories of battles I endured for months upon months. I could never publicize or begin to share the events, situations and circumstances with you here.
Depression settles in about this time and I have to constantly be looking to the Lord (not that I don't already), for strength to get me through till August--my son's birthday. Then more "bad" memories sow seeds of heartache in my mind. I do my level best to root them out and transplant others--better, more positive ones. But it's not easy, folks. It really isn't. I dwell on every single solitary thing of purity, goodness and love...but there's some crack inside my brain or some vulnerable emotion that allows satan entrance.
It's been two years. Will it be this way a year from now? For some reason as May approaches this year I find myself wanting to run away...far away...to some place I've never been where there is nothing to remind me of things I've already experienced. Wonder where that place could be. I've never been to England, Iceland or for that matter, Savannah, Georgia. I don't really think it would matter much if I ran away; memories have a way of following me around.
I truly wish I could bring every thought into the captivity of Christ. I wish He could magically put all good things inside my head and crowd out all the bad. Kinda like growing so much grass seed that it wipes out crabgrass, ya know? Am I the only Christian who struggles with this problem?
I wish I could jerk those thoughts from my mind as easily as I do the thistles in my back yard. I wish. Unfortunately, every time I dug those prickly-leafed weeds from my lawn, another sprouts somewhere else. My feathered friends carry those seeds everywhere. The wind moves them from field to field--neighbor to neighbor. In some states it's against the law for them to grow into seed-bearing heights. They grow upwards of 4 and 5 feet if not mowed down, dug up or poisoned. And in their gangly maturity, they give ugly a new meaning. Except.
Except for the puff of glorious purple that pokes its lovely head from the cradle of spiny leaves. It's blossom is gorgeous and is so soft to touch. So unlike the thorny stem and jagged leaves which hold it tightly in its grasp. Even thistles have their kinder, gentler, softer side. And though they cause great aggravation and distress, they also provide a sweetness that belies their character--nectar for busy bees to gather and exchange for honey.
Perhaps that's the reason for the harsh memories that invade the garden of my mind. In each is a bit of nectar to be transformed into honey once the gathering is over. I hope so anyway.
[copyrighted, SelahV Today, 2007]