After Losing A Child – Meltdown at TJMAXX

 

Eucalyptus Honey. That’s what did it.

Twenty years ago I went to Spain and brought each of our kids something back that I thought would resonate with them. Laurie’s gift was Eucalyptus Honey. She loved it, and IMG_6456joked when it was gone that I had to go back to get her more.

So a couple years ago I got to go back. Several stores (and towns) were searched for that honey, and when I finally found it, I scooped up every bottle on the shelf.

All 8 bottles came through the trip and many passes through customs (even nasty Boston’s TSA – the only place that had the need to slash all the see-through Ziploc bags for honey and all the breakable souvenirs).

Today I needed a cup of organic coconut oil and the closest place with the best price was TJMaxx. My kids know what a danger it is for me to go in there. I have to peek at every container of organic food and oil. I found lemon herb seasoning, blueberry and apricot compotes, a gluten free shortbread cookie and eucalyptus honey. Oh my goodness, I thought, I’ll have to call Laurie and tell her TJMaxx has it.

I actually pulled my phone out of my purse and opened it to favorites and stood there staring at the list with one less name.

Meltdown.

Just that morning we’d picked strawberries and the woman there asked how I was doing. I whipped off my standard, “too blessed to be depressed,” adding that it is a good reminder every time I say that, to keep my focus. Pfft. There went focus.

I finished my errands and headed home. I walked in the house and Ken took one look and knew. I explained what happened and after dinner and prayer, told him he could go to bed while I dealt with our morning haul of 40# of strawberries.

Once again, I praise God for music. It soothes and heals when I cannot think or speak or  1-FamilyJam2010listen to preaching, or verbalize. Tonight’s music was piano and flute and songs like Something Beautiful (something good, all my confusion He understood)…Soon and Very Soon (I’m going to see the King), and Hear my Song, Lord, which got me upstairs to YouTube and Anthony Burger (also with the Lord), playing a medley.

Hear my song, Lord, You fill me with music

Hear my words, Lord, You fill me with praise

Take this moment, I just can’t waste it

This one is Yours, Lord, I give You this day. (this day and the sadness in it, and the reason for my sadness)

Hear Your children, we are lifting Your praise to You

Let singing like incense now rise to Your throne

Come dwell in the place hollowed out for Your Spirit (a painful process)

Come make of our praises Your temple, Your home   LaurieDoug-Gparents

I do praise the Lord for every day this special woman, so thrilled to be a grandmother, was in our lives.

I share this not for sympathy, but for reality – reality of the heart-hole and reality of the God-comfort. Tragedies surround us daily – check any prayer group- check the news – check your Facebook friends. It makes me realize we could have lost our daughter a hundred ways over the past 51 years. Before we lost a child death was a sad drama and we attempted to sympathize and comfort others, but we did not know. The reality of the loss of an intimate relationship changes the dynamics and understanding of the tragedy of death. I share this because I want to comfort and encourage others too – to let you know that your loss is not “just” a statistic – your loss is a tragedy too.

I was reading Laurie’s emails again –like the one that quoted Job and said how can we expect only good to happen and not bad things too. They’ve become notes of comfort. I’d love to hear about your moments of comfort, and if you are not there yet, and you need a heart-to-heart, just ask. I can cry with you too.

 

We are in this together.

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My Spiritual Selfie – Day 2 of 20 – Grief, Communication and Spiritual CPR

Yep – with selfies I communicate to other people my:

 

Emotions

HopesIMG_0026

Momentous Moments

Successes

Failures

Personality

And so much more

 

I also communicate through the written word, personal responses. actions or inactions. All that communication is done purposefully. I know I am communicating. I am doing it with a purpose.

 

But my Spiritual Selfie communicates to God all the above (because God knows and sees all) and more – because I am communicating even when I do not realize it and communicating things only God can hear or see.

 

When I lost my Daddy, I remember as I walked toward the funeral parlor thinking, so this LaurieMomis grief. My emotions communicated to others and to me what seemed to be my deepest truth. But later, when we lost our grandson, David, and then our daughter, Laurie, I realized I hadn’t learned as much as I thought about grief. I was not ready for the onslaught. It hurt to communicate and little was left that had meaning. I felt cut off from the vine – as though the cord connecting me to oxygen (life) had been torn away.

 

How long can one cling to dust?

 

Especially when the dust is not even reality. A shadow. A lie.

 

I’ve had some Crazy, Wild and Amazing experiences since I’ve come to know Christ and have found that LIFE is dependent on communication and drained away when communication is severed.

Grief feels like forever and it wasn’t long before my emotions were numbed and heart cries were all I could express. Like the camera for a selfie, emotions in crisis are often turned Footprnts insandinward. I could not help myself.

I had to make a determined effort to let God communicate with me and bring me back to life.

 

How does God communicate His life to us? With truth.

Truth defies emotions.

Truth frames grace.

Truth fans the flame of hope.

Truth brings eternity to moments, whether ordinary or momentous

And Truth gives purpose to successes …and to failures.

 

Ways the True Vine communicates life and truth to me?DSC00222

  1. By choosing to abide [be at home; live there] in me and with me (comforting me that His truth supercedes all feelings. I can live above my emotions.

 

 

  1. Through His Words He quickens that which is dead and enables me to live in the permanent place He leads me to possess (Deut. 12:47). None of that is in the world because all the things of earth spoil, rot, dry up, blow away or burn away and have no lasting strength or meaning. His place of truth is unchanging, life giving and has eternal meaning.

 

  1. With the lie of accusation removed, with judgment removed, through hearing and believing Genesis 1:1 emotions can be routed because I can know I have God says so. Just as God breathed life into Adam, He placed the breath of the Almighty in me! IMG_0682Amazing thought – personal, intimate, eternal CPR!

 

  1. John 6:63 – through His Words – I passed from death to life when God communicated His life to me. If the vine is life, what can the branch, or the soil, or the water, or anything earthly do without the vine? Nothing. Without life they do not even exist! But the flesh, with the Spirit contains life greater than food.

 

Lessons:

  1. Care for other branches the same as I should care for myself – Why do I expect others who may not yet know Christ, to “do” things – to “change” or behave other than as one who is yet unknowing? And how can I even think of refusing to love others in the same manner as I’ve been loved. I must daily be reminded how and when Christ loved me and gave His spirit and His life to me.
  1. But to bring life I need to Care for myself – nurture spiritually – or I will have dead LWGHDbranches. Cut off from life the spirit is dead.  Other believers are part of God’s plan for my strength and nourishment, and I’ve been blessed with many prayer warriors who strengthen me so I can strengthen others. If nourishment is not provided to the branches they weaken and cannot produce fruit. When I am too weak to take in nourishment, music and prayers are like intravenous infusions and transfusions. Strength from without.

    Several have told me they see coping and healing. Thanks for the CPR. Just as I long to continue to impact others’ lives, many of you have helped to make that difference in mine.

 

 

 

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My Spiritual Selfie

I am never satisfied with the pictures I take of myself. Perhaps because my ‘selfies’ reveal  too much physical truth.  hair

 

I should be more concerned whether they reveal the real truth.

 

What is my real truth? It is my spiritual selfie – Who God says I am, not who I think I am, not just what I think I see, not dependent on what I feel, and no matter what those condemning thoughts try to reduce me to.

 

I am

Who and whatIMG_0682

God says I am. 

 

I am God’s tattoo for one :)

 

 

I found this 20-day documentation that I originally completed about 7 years ago. I was dismayed at first to realize on one hand, I apparently needed to learn these lessons again, and then realized how Biblical and—- comforting cycles are.

 

The foundation of this 20 day Spiritual Selfie is John 15:5 – I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;

 

Three points of John 15:5

  1. Christ IS life. That life is in me according to His promise
  2. I am His fruit-bearing branch, dependent on Christ
  3. It is my choice to remain in him (focus – my one thing) and He will remain in me as much as I allow Him

 

 

I am learning to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs. The growth and development of the

Real food, real botanical oils for natural health

main portion of the plant, sustains the branches and the health of the branches supports the development of fruit on them. But before I see the growth I have to prepare the soil to accept the plant, place guards and protection against invaders (critters, pests, storms), and lovingly tend the branches.

 

That compares to both my physical life (health giving food, water and exercise [pruning] sustaining the core so I can be healthful and productive) and my spiritual (eternal me) life being fed, watered and pruned to produce.

 

 

I have tried to help branches survive off the vine. Not only have they not borne fruit, they withered and died. I’ve also overworked myself and seen vines over-pruned so they collapsed. This lesson teaches me that I must look for strength (not within the branch of self) but within the vine.

 

I struggle to be a clean conduit (branch from the vine to the fruit), yet according to the Word Jesus has spoken I am clean already. Why do I waste so much time and effort maintaining an untruth? Instead, I must abide (live, rest, consistently trust) in Him so I can bear healthy fruit. I must remember, the more I withdraw from the vine the harder it is to reconnect.

 

Changes in my life from this passage – seed

One — I used to struggle whether I was worthy of living- or rather that by living I would do more harm than good, and the enemy had convinced me that Verse 13 (to lay down ones life for another) was actually encouraging suicide. That victory was won years ago when I heard a man explain that truly laying down ones life could perhaps be harder than giving up ones life, because it means to keep on living while giving up ones “rights”.

 

Two – it is my choice to accept offenses or to remove the “suckers” that would drain my strength and not allow His life to flow through me. Some of those could be of my own making – not tending to myself (physically and spiritually) as I should: (water, food 3x a day, rest, fellowship and pruning).

 

Three – It is also my choice whether I respond to feelings or to truth. But even if I make the wrong choice, that does not change the real truth of who and what I am in Christ.

What is your real truth?

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After Losing a Child – Experiencing Praise

Praise.

 

That is the topic of a several page list of scriptures I found in our daughter’s Bible. Bibleheart

 

Praise.

At first I thought what is there to praise…I just didn’t ‘feel it’ when a friend called complaining about all the things she did not have and wanted. I told her the problem was she was focusing on the negative and assigned her to make a list of what she did have. Oops. Boomerang. (God’s Word does that to me a lot.) I began doing the same for myself. Then a friend who also lost her daughter (a good friend of our daughter’s) called me this morning. Her daughter was ravaged by disease and it was her request to be cremated and have her ashes placed in a receptacle carved into a rock by a pond.

She explained her feelings and  found some praise for me when she wished that her daughter would have qualified for organ donation like Laurie did.

 

I admitted I needed to praise again, so considered this old saying:

I cannot choose my feelings.

I can’t help what I feel But I can help what I think

Once I change my thinking

The feelings will follow

 

Laurie’s list of scripture forced me to see that she too was feeding her thinking to praise  even when she didn’t feel like it and I wanted to understand what she was feeding on when she searched all those scriptures on praise.

 

So I began this morning in Psalm 148, which calls all creation to Praise the Lord from IMG_2834 the heavens.

 

The word praise comes from yadah to throw (with abandon)/glorify, cast – toss and confess praise and thanks

 

That reminded me of a favorite fiction series- YADA YADA Prayer Warriors by Neda Jackson. I loved them because no matter how real or tragic the situations were for the characters in the group, there was always praise. Worshipful praise for who God is. Expectant praise for what was going to happen, and Thankful praise for escapes from things that did happen.

 

That and more was in Psalm 148—God is the center of Psalm 148, and you and I are there too. Here are seven of the things I learned:

 

  1. God’s decrees are permanent – the things he says are not like temporary hair color – when it rains it melts away. (yes, personal experience)
  2. God created ALL things for PRAISING. (that would include me)
  3. All creation is commanded to praise – commanded! For our own good, to toss out praise rather than withdraw inwardly.
  4. Let (without restraint, loose, without control) – so all creation praising fulfills the purpose of their creation. I should not prevent it.
  5. I need to choose to release praise despite feelings.
  6. In order to LET myself praise Him, I will remove any restraints (shield of protection) or controls that are hindering or stopping the praise
  7. Praise means to offer thanks – to sing with joy – to worship with open hands (as Dave Fly1opposed to the closed ones) – No hidden things clutched inside – the hands are like an empty bowl or spoon reaching out waiting to be filled.

And so I praised.  Worship for who I have and have had in my life. Expectantly for what might yet come, and Thankfully for an unusually close relationship with Laurie.

Two couples today stepped out to worship with open hands and hearts. These couples were linked by our daughter, Laurie.

 

We were one couple and our new friends Dee and Randy (one of Laurie’s organ donor recipients) was the other couple. 01-praisedeenr

 

God’s presence was there and where He is there is joy and worship and healing, and praise.

 

And a new, yet deeply bonded, friendship.

 

Today I experienced praise again. You can too. Open your hands, and open your heart. Let go. Release whatever you have been clutching.

 

Experience praise.

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Guest Blog – 13 Ways To Cope Through Any Crisis

Today’s blog is by friend and author Karen Wingate who is living out this lesson and making the best of life’s nasty twists.

 

Tough times teach us how to cope and how to hope.

Certain Bible passages escape my understanding. For many years, Romans 5:3-5 was one of those passages I just didn’t get. How does suffering build persistence which builds character which brings hope? I didn’t get the connection. I’ve seen too many people become bitter from suffering. It almost seems unfair that some people face multiple issues in their life. Shouldn’t there be a life rule that you should only have to go one major physical crisis or ailment? A friend has had heart trouble since she was a child; now she is battling cancer. For me right now, it’s an added layer of complication to have poor eyesight on top of the multiple injuries from my recent fall. That’s not quite fair, is it?

EMT and KarenMy recent injury taught me that the opposite is true. My life long visual impairment has instilled coping mechanisms into my life that I can apply to other situations. When I fell last week, all those adaptations I use on a daily basis kicked in and carried me through a painful visit to the local hospital emergency room and my continuing recovery. It was like an automatic response. As I lay on the ambulance gurney, tempted to be dismayed and panicked about my situation, I thought, “Hey I know how to handle this. Do the same thing I do every day.” Living with poor vision has taught me to be persistent, to hang in there, and not give up. It has built my character to be strong, take risks, depend on God and have a bigger, broader perspective on life. It has taught me that having poor vision isn’t the end of the world.

Hey, wait a minute. That’s the essence of that paragraph in Romans 5!

What coping skills did I use to get me through the pain and unknown extent of my injuries?

Intend to be strong. Inner strength is a pre-determined choice. As I lay face down on the ground waiting for the ambulance, I made the commitment, “I will be strong.” It was a decision I’ve had to make in the past when I’ve been lost in airports, unsure of footing on dark stairways, or anxious about an approaching unseen stranger. It’s a decision to not give in to panic, to not cave to despair, and to stay calm and focused. I make that determination then I implore the Lord to give me the extra strength I need, knowing that I really can do everything through Him, the source of my strength.

Think through the problem. Don’t give in to emotions – yet! Be aware of what’s happening around you. Anticipate what will happen next. I needed to go to the bathroom on the drive home after spending nearly four hours in the ER. We didn’t think through things well and my husband parked far from the door. I was still weak and unused to crutches. We quickly learned to anticipate conditions of parking lots, door locations, and maneuvers toward steps. As my childhood eye doctor said, “Your brain will do your seeing for you.” My husband told me later as I started to put weight on my foot, “You will need to think through every step.” Both of them were so very right!

Accept help. We often hesitate to accept help because it might make us look weak. A mobility instructor once told my daughter that asking for help is actually a sign of strength because we are utilizing the resources of other people to get the job done. At first, I resisted asking for an ambulance. Surely I could pick myself up and get in the car on my own! But past life lessons told me I needed to allow others to take over my care. It’s not about me. It’s about getting the job done and if it takes a team to do it, I need to employ and delegate jobs to others so we can all reach the end goal. I don’t have to do it all on my own.

Be direct about your needs. I’ve long learned that no one can read my mind. People want to help but they don’t know how and they won’t know unless I tell them. Yeah, I’m tired. I hurt. But life will be easier in the long run for everyone if I can articulate what I need no matter how trivial it might sound.

Appreciate your helpers. It’s about as tough to be a caregiver as it is to be a patient. It’s stressful on them too and some of them have not acquired the coping skills that I have. It’s my responsibility to be appreciative, gracious, and encouraging in their efforts to help me pull through.

Repurpose the event. God wastes nothing and neither should we. Rom Emmanuel is quoted as saying, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” He meant that in a corrupt way but as Christians, we can use bad situations to God’s glory. I’ve seen God do this so much in my life. I’m learning that I can do it too. I joked to so many people that I fell because I was doing research for my next novel. Okay, I didn’t intentionally hit the deck but it is true that I immediately began processing how I would infuse my ER experience into a character’s life in my next novel. My character will have a lot more depth because I’ve been there myself. Seize your crisis and use it to do good and to bless others.

Find humor in the moment. That’s a kind of repurposing but you’ll bless a lot of people when you keep a positive sense of humor about the incident. It must not be easy to be one of society’s helpers. Most of us probably have no clue what police, EMT’s and medical professionals endure from grumpy, scared, hurting, and anxious people who in their moment of crisis, are far from being their best. A positive attitude that flows from a sense of confidence in God’s care can do much to lighten the load of these dedicated people. Humor helps us accept the situation and not take everything so seriously either. That’s why I joke about not driving or I tell people I had a fight with a parking lot.

Redirect your attention to other things. When we focus on the bad or on the pain, we actually feel a lot worse and can cave to depression and despair. When we focus on other people, sing praise songs or repeat Bible verses during the difficult moments, it gives our minds something else to think about and helps us physically relax during the worst. I’m convinced that thinking about happy moments, beautiful places, or my favorite chocolate dessert will actually lower my blood pressure when I’ve got that cuff on my arm!

Let go of the small stuff. Any physical disability or weakness takes extra energy because we are asking our bodies to move and respond in abnormal, excessive ways. In the last three weeks, I’ve been exhausted just from hauling my limited body from one room to another. Limited energy forces us to choose how we will expend that energy. In moments of crisis, when you are in the first few days of recuperation, grief or shock, and you are mostly out of control of daily tasks, do the things only you can do and what only needs to be done right now. Save the rest of the tasks for another time or for other people.

Let God be in ultimate control. It’s tough to be out of control about things as simple as putting a pair of shoes back in the closet or as important as getting a meal or the next dose of medicine. It’s during these times that I learn the true extent of “Give us this day our daily bread.” Through my visual limitation and my fall, I’ve learned to depend on God for the smallest and most specific of things whether it’s finding an airport gate or protecting me through an uneven, gravel filled path. I’ve discovered He is the One fully trustworthy to meet my every need.

Reach back to what has worked in the past. My vision loss has taught me there is more than one way to accomplish anything. I may have to take a different route than others to get to the same destination but what matters most is that I get there. The ability to be flexible and creative became an automatic reflex when I chipped my ankle bone.

Relax and take in the details. Can’t see? Pay attention to what you can hear. Stuffed in a wheelchair? Relax and watch the clouds while someone else does the driving. Have to depend on someone else to take you places? Use the time to build your relationship with your driver and learn about their life experiences.

Praise God for what you have. My vision is limited but I can see colors well enough to define my world. My fall gashed my face and chipped an ankle bone. But I didn’t shatter a knee cap or break my nose. My fall happened and it was a nasty fall, but it didn’t happen until after graduation, my husband was with me, and so many people have come beside me to care for me. Even as I write this a sweet friend is cleaning my house and the amount I’m paying her is pocket money for a much needed vacation. God will always, always bring good out of difficult situations. He’s just like that.

What tough times have you faced in your life? What coping skills did those tough times give you? Can you add to my list?

***************************************

Karen is the author of three new titles in Rainbow Publishers Five Minute Sunday School Activities series.  Find out more about Karen and her writing at:

http://www.graceonparade.com/blog

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After Losing A Child – Observing Others’ Healing

One of the women in our Donor Family online group was remarried recently. It is so 2038encouraging to see her find love and celebrate life and marriage again – now – in the present. Her past was there too as her first husband’s organ recipient participated in the wedding.

 

 

 

Another friend’s mother died from an infection she got at the hospital. When she should have been going home, she was, instead getting worse with new symptoms that took her life. This dear daughter, though angry at the hospital’s lack, has accepted the unexpected early loss of her mom. “Death,” she says, “is part of life.” Though she misses her mother tremendously, she chooses to focus on what she has – time with her grandchildren. She cherishes her memories from the past, but refuses to let her loss overwhelm her present life, and so she cheerfully continues to live in the present.

 

A friend lost her 5–year-old child several years ago. She and her husband recently DeloresBaby065welcomed a new baby girl into their family. It is touching to see how new life renews hope – for them and for others. Because they know with certainty they will see their older daughter again, they can live and love in the present, while looking to the future as a family again.

 

A young man who lost his mother, honors the memory of the wonderful person he had in the foundation of his life, and those memories inspire him to consistently make new memories with family and friends.

 

Two other couples whose losses are not so recent (both children had cancer) say they refuse to let the past control the present. One said though the loss never leaves, she tries to look for joy and to bring joy to someone each day. The other explained how the experience of losing a child brought about ministry to other parents.  PrairieandMisc2014 1378

 

I admire all of these people

 

Did you notice the similarities in these stories?

  • A loss in their past increases desire to treasure what and who is in their present.
  • Recalling and cherishing memories of the past by honoring how those instances provided foundational influences in our lives.
  • Confidence and future hope of our loved ones—and our own— eternal destination enabling peace in the present.
  • Honoring our past within our daily lives helps us to function normally and joyfully in the present.
  • Sharing the experiences of past loss and gifts of life through your loved one brings hope and healing to both present and future.

 

Yes, I honor these parents and the hundreds more who have shared their stories – their hearts with me. I am in awe at their attitudes of more than survival, to love, laugh, serve IMG_9472and bless others. I also admire their choices to loosen or withdraw the attraction, craving, dependence and affection for things, and focusing that attention time and expense on people.

 

I admire their humility of unknowingly teaching healing — by living it. And I am anticipating a new chapter in my own healing as I meet one of our daughter’s organ recipients this month. Appreciate your prayers that I can meet their joy with grace.

 

What was a major step in your healing from loss?

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Remembering…

This Monday was Memorial Day in the U.S. and we did a lot of remembering. Besides DeeEngland2014-1 2381 DeeEngland2014-1 565 England2014Dee 014 DeeEngland2014-1 2380 recalling and mourning the fallen soldiers, we also remembered other bittersweet life events. Loss of loved ones military and otherwise, loss of relationships we thought would last a lifetime, and loss of respect for some of our country and world’s leadership.

 

 

 

But there are losses I likely caused too and I mourned those as well. Some long ago from words spoken in haste or pain, or even in what I thought were spiritual fervor, which I now realize were really words and timing of youthful ignorance. I wish I could as easily call that person and say remember when, and we could laugh about how foolish it was. But I have no idea where that person is and pray for their belated understanding and forgiveness. Then there was one not as long ago from a word spoken of which I’d misunderstood its meaning. It pains to recall what I thought was friendship and the loss without explanation. The mystery of why, and finally the revealing by another of what I said, what it really meant, and how the other party interpreted its meaning. Oh the many times of attempted restoration which would not be received. How bitter it was to think it was I who had done it.

 

Some things are hard to remember, but easier with a prayer that I might look at others the  way God sees them, and to accept my own redemption as complete.

 

 

And there are great remembrances too. Remembering that moment of gifting when a friendship began. (Like the zany friend who types on Facebook messages, ‘Aren’t you going to answer the phone?” and then the phone rings), Healing and hilarious trips with my sisters. The thrill of meeting my husband and knowing he was as attracted to me as I was to him. Remembering a dear couple inviting the ‘baby Christians’ to their home for chicken and noodles and fellowship and to chuckle at our different worlds (revealed through a game of Biblical charades when we had no clue what they were talking aboNancyMandmeut). And reconciliations – some long awaited, some that seemed hopeless to us, but in God’s plans we were privileged to see and experience.

 

There’s the memory too, of a young student stopping by the office to say thank you for caring when it seemed no one else did. Or the memory of a young person in youth group asking, “Would you pray with me? The joy of a reader saying I blessed them. The special moment of knowing I have a new forever friend. The memory of a young soldier thanking me (so ironic) for love and prayers and support…And the memory of standing on the back porch on the fourth of July and ‘hearing God speak into my heart’ that I was thankful for the gift of those who gave their lives for my physical freedom, why would I not accept the gift of life His son gave for my spiritual freedom?

 

Giving thanks that “We love, because He first loved us.” John 4:19  3sistersvint091

 

Remembering, of course, special moments with our children and grandchildren stopping by or sending a note ‘just to say I love you,’ decades-long friends praying as our children  grew and left the nest or went to heaven, and ministry partners whose losses and gains we have together known.

 

Remembering.

 

Tears of sorrow and tears of joy. – Psa. 56:8 ¶         Thou hast taken account of my wanderings;

Put my tears in Thy bottle;   Are they not in Thy book?

Interesting to me as a writer that this passage says God listens to our conversations and LWGHDkeeps them in a book of remembrance – That is an anthology I greatly look forward to reading!

 

Mal. 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.

 

But for now I am wondering – have you recently had a memorial day? What did you remember?

 

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After Loss of A child – Going Through

Through –

It seems lately that the word through has been highlighted in devotionals and every birdexercisearticle and book I have been reading.

Of course you are likely familiar with a well-known and oft-repeated verse 4 from the 23rd Psalm:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

How many times must I have read that and quoted it, but it provoked much thought this past week or so.

You see, I am a great starter. I’ve started numerous (ok probably hundreds) of diets. Projects – especially those dealing with what I consider boring repetition like sorting papers, clothing, etc. seldom get finished. My sister, Marlene was here last summer and IMG_2945encouraged me to conquer the dining room table – well, actually the stacks of paper piled all over it. She sorted the papers into categories and commanded me to take one paper and do something with it. You know the drill: toss it, file it, share it with someone. It was fun for a while, but the last stack was draining. If she hadn’t been here, I’d have quit. But with her encouragement I got through. And I was rewarded to hear my husband’s pleasure and exclamation “It’s wood!” when he looked at the cleared table!

 

Since the loss of our daughter, I think I’ve not wanted to go through the valley of the shadow of death. I’ve felt this is something I have to do alone. On one hand, I long to turn around and run or bury my head in the sand and pretend it never happened. But that does no good, so I start the journey again, relenting each time when the pain gets too overwhelming. I think those days happen because I go backward in the valley, or just stop and cry because I am there, and then I see a glimmer – a light at the end of the valley, so to speak. One was a message from a soldier far away, that he loved me and was privileged to be my rod of protection. Another day it was a lovely card from one of Laurie’s donor recipients, and I realize they and their families went through that dark valley too. I hope to hear from them again soon because the messages of parents, donor families and donor recipients comfort me and remind me I am not alone.

I read and review a lot – 6 books this past week. Each one had something the hero or switchheroine had to get through. I am now reading a non-fiction book by Dr. Caroline Leaf called Switch On Your Brain. She shares how the Biblical teaching “as a man thinks, so is he” is quite literal. Using both scientific and medical research she shows how changing our thoughts can change our brain cells – in a healthy way or in a destructive manner. I believe this is the first time I have read through an introduction 3 times! The second half of the book is a 21-day brain detox. For this to work I am going to have to commit to working through some thought habits that have not been beneficial.

Friends who have lost a child tell me I will never be through grieving, and I believe it – I don’t mean to say when I get through the valley my loss will be over, but I do believe I need to make a choice to face the shadows. And to keep stepping forward.

I see hope in the rest of this verse. One – the fear of evil is not present because I am not alone. And – God’s rod and staff are there to comfort me. The rod to protect his fold from attack, and his staff, to keep me on the path (kind of like Marlene did), to break through (from the original word meaning the idea of negation; i.e. truly or yet:—but, indeed, nevertheless) until we reach our destination.

So – that is where I am – going through the valley of the shadow of death, WatchGod

BUT (God)

YET (God)

Nevertheless… (God) is with me.

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A “Mother’s Day” Without Words

All mothers were not / are not wonderful.  Many a year I’d search for hours or even days to find a card for Mother’s Day that said something good which was not a lie.

One of those years a friend challenged me to find 7 good things about my mother or life with my mother. It took a month to compile the list.

This blog is for all of you who dread Mother’s Day.  I pray it brings you hope.momnme013

This is about one of the many times I went back home with a plan hoping to restore our relationship. I usually returned in tears. This time -decades later-was worse.

I had no plan. Turns out I didn’t need one. Here’s how it began:

After a dinner out celebrating my birthday, I’d preceded my husband into the house as he parked the car, and heard the answering machine  beeping that we had a message.  Automatically I stepped into the dark room, pressed “play”, and then gasped when I heard the familiar but thready voice singing “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear daughter, Happy Birthday to you.” That was all.  The click and “end of messages” from the answering machine left me standing in mute shock.  It was as eerie as the scene from a mystery thriller and it felt like I had turned to stone.

Ken came in, alarmed to find me in the dark room staring at the answering machine, my arms wrapped around myself. “What is it?  Bad news?” he asked, as he held me.

Mutely, I reached over and hit “play” letting the message repeat. As we listened, his whisper echoed my thoughts.  “Why now after all these years?”

Continuing to hold me, he prayed for me.  He’d known my story and married me despite all the baggage I brought into our relationship.   He’d been my protective knight through traumatic visits and volatile ‘episodes’.  As time slipped by, I’d thought I’d grown immune to the painful memories, yet here I was years later, trembling in fear from the sound of my past. Yet, a feeling grew. I knew I needed to go. Perhaps her call meant there was hope.  Ken’s prayer led me to the place of faith where I believed God would lead me each step of the way. I wasn’t sure if I could love or forgive Mom, but I knew with a certainty God could.

IMG_2105Her doctor confirmed there had been occasional loss of memory, and much consternation with things appearing to be missing but later found misplaced in odd locations.  The loss of memory phrase got me.  I remember questioning stories of people who said their past was so traumatic they forgot it. How many times I’d wished I could forget my troubled past.  Now it seemed, Mom had forgotten – at least some of it, some of the time.  Was it real or was it convenient? Was that good or did it mean it was too late to find healing?  Whatever the outcome, I knew the commandment to “honor” my parents, so I  prayed for faith to remember I was not facing this alone. I did not have to – spiritually, or literally.

Our granddaughter, Aimee, knew about the phone call and other parts of my story. I was grateful for her willingness to leave her job for several days and ironically spent the journey north preparing her what not to say – triggers that usually sent Mom into a rage.

Hermansvhouse069When the familiar sign announcing my home town came into view, my mind took me back. I was disappointed with myself for feeling 11-years-old again, and memories I thought I had left behind now roared over me like an emotional Niagara Falls.

My chest hurt with the pain of remembrance and my face must have showed it as well.

“Are you OK, Grandma?” “Is this hard for you?”

Leave it to my granddaughter to spot the pain I thought was well hidden. I remember questioning stories of people who said their past was so traumatic they forgot it. How many times I’d wished I could forget.

We spent the night nearby, and once my darling granddaughter dozed off I crept out of bed to pray and think.

The “fixer” in me was clamoring – what should I do – what should I say? Should I have brought a gift?  (I knew she might reject me, but hardly ever did she reject a gift.)

Like the Apostle Peter, I often spoke without thinking, filling quiet spaces with whatever words came to mind, and I grappled now with fear of what might result if I didn’t plan every word. Grabbing my Bible, I dropped onto the blue easy chair in the corner. The book fell open to the marker left from a recent Bible study, the yellow highlighting on the page ironically announcing the little phrase without words. I knew instantly that was my answer. I did not have to say or do anything; I just had to be there. I quietly chuckled at God’s sense of humor. Now THAT would be a miracle. Relieved knowing that God alone could enable that to happen, the choice was made, and I slept peacefully.

house dst003            A gentle touch and meaningful glance from my granddaughter as we approached the home softened in sympathy as the door opened and Aimee’s glance moved from my mother to me. An unexpectedly quiet and subdued little woman shuffled behind the walker, which we folded into the trunk of the car, and began our journey.
I’d purposely planned more than a day would hold, hoping there would be no empty opportunity for an “episode.”  Driving past the homes and schools of my childhood, Mom surprised us, remembering her sister lived nearby. We picked up Aunt Angie, and her Aimee in Mich 031daughter JoAnne and visited a a fancy restaurant between little drives across the countryside, ostensibly to show my granddaughter where I grew up and went to school.

 

 

 

Aimee could sense my growing tension after lunch because Mom was discovering that her idea to invite her sister, had split our attention.

Aimee in Mich 026We’d seen the ice-cream parlor on the way in, and Aimee teased Mom with the idea of a treat and seeing if she would recognize the old songs on the jukebox.

joanndeloresdance101Her clever antics and dancing with JoAnne restored the peace.

 

 

 

 

Aimee in Mich 028After we returned my aunt home, Mom wanted to see the farm where she was raised, and directed us down the country roads. It was treacherous emotional territory, but Aimee kept up innocuous chatter comparing cars, clothing, and school days “back then” enabled me to remain quiet.

There were no life-changing conversations or heavenly reconciliation scenes, but there was opportunity to show honor as the little tour helped her find some good memories of her past.  Through it all I was wondering  how my unusually silent behavior would be interpreted. The day’s end told all.

“Before you go,” Mom asked, “would you help me change to my slippers? It’s hard to bend down anymore.”

Folding one knee down before her, I reached to slip off a shoe. I felt her hand on my head like a benediction, her soft voice noting with surprise that her little girl had silver in her hair.   Kneeling there, pictures flashed in my mind, of how Christ knelt to wash the feet of the apostles. Barely restraining the tears, I swallowed and looked up. Our eyes met and held.

Aimee in Mich 052            “Thank you,” she said, cloudy blue eyes glowing with a response to words I hadn’t had to say, and voicing greater tenderness than I’d heard in my lifetime. The greatest gift, I’d finally realized, was nothing I would ever say, do, or buy.

It was the gift letting her see Christ, instead of me – no words needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After Losing a Child – Remembering Gifts from my Child

Yes, there are particular gifts – birthday, Christmas, Anniversary, Mother’s Day, etc. that  laurietwomy missing child, Laurie gave to me that bring special memories, as do the gifts from my other children, Cheri and Kevin.

 

As Mother’s Day approaches I am thankful for some intangible gifts from Laurie –

 

Mostly involving time . . .

Asking for time as a little one, putting her hands on each side of my face and making me look at her and listen…

Meeting in Fond du Lac at the library for Bible Study and prayer…then shopping at outlets

 

Women’s conferences in Wautoma, and hosting her sister Cheri and I each time.1-laurieplant

 

Pre-reading and reviewing many a story, article or column.

 

Teaching about herbs and teas and creating specific salves, teas and kitchen gifts for me.

 

 

Welcoming me for lunch at her worksite several times, and together planning gifts and treats for her co-workers.

 

Painstakingly knitting an extremely fine yarn shawl for one of the grandkid’s wedding.

 

macklaurKeeping up communication with the parts of family at a distance and gathering family for our anniversary

 

Asking for and respecting her mom’s opinion for her college reports and independent American Indian studies.

 

 

 

Supporting my mission trips and keeping in contact with her dad while I was gone.

 

IMG_6146Encouraging her dad and I to accompany her across the country to meet great-grandchild Henry.

 

Talking almost all night each time her family came for an overnight, and when I visited her home, tucking me in on her sofa when we could no longer stay awake.

 

Encouraging me to attend her conference in Chicago so we could spend evening hours together.

 

1-LaurieAngieAccompanying me to Michigan several times to visit my difficult mother and driving me across Michigan for several days to “deliver my Mom’s memorial service on wheels” to her remaining elderly family.

 

You get the picture. If Cheri and Kevin read this they will inevitably picture themselves supporting me in some way at each of these events and others personally spent with them. It is revealing that although I’ve received many lovely gifts of flowers, clothing, dishes, unique jewelry, and special books, all of which I treasure, but the most precious is still – time.

 

LauriegreetingmeI want to encourage you all with this reminder that the time you spend will last even longer than what you spent.

 

I’d love to hear how you make memories with your children. With your parents. With those who have been a special part of your life, and I leave you with a chuckle”

 

Years back Gloria Gaither wrote a book, Let’s Make a Memory, that influenced me, as a young mom, to treasure simple moments for the great memories they would be someday (and now are). The kids loved to watch for the first warm day they could go out without a coat or wear swimsuits in the rain. To end the daily begging, we created a chart by the thermometer that showed appropriate outerwear according to the temperature.

 

One day I heard the three of them scampering into the kitchen to check the temperature chart. They were all chatting, sharing their hopes and plans for the day. I knew I had gone too far with my Let’s Make a Memory focus when I heard Laurie warn her siblings, “Oh, no – it’s nice out, Mom’s going to want to make a memory – run!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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