Learning To Trust God Again After Loss

I am sharing from the perspective of child loss but the things God is teaching me have much broader application. If you are struggling because you feel like God has let you down, please read on.  And please read the posts that follow this one.

God welcomes us to the divine dinner table to talk things out.

Join us.

If you’ve read the blog for very long, you’ve learned two things about me:  (1) I am up front and honest about my feelings, my doubts, my faith and my heart; and (2) I’m not afraid to explore topics that often make the church uncomfortable. 

So here I am again.

A few months ago I was asked to speak at a conference for bereaved parents and to take the topic of “Learning to Trust God Again After Loss”.  I agreed, thinking that since I had already written extensively about this very thing, organizing my previously published musings would be easy enough to gather into a presentation.

through this valley conference photo

But when I began trying to do that, I realized the bits and pieces needed an overarching narrative and theme to tie them together.  I knew that LISTENING is very different than READING where you can go back and access the information over and over to make sure you understand what’s being said.

And I was operating on thin margins.

The weeks I planned on using to prepare were overtaken by a family emergency.  So just two days before I was to leave home for Arkansas I was nearly paralyzed by panic-how in the world could I present a coherent message on such an important topic when I was having trouble stringing sentences together in everyday conversation?

But God…

Two words that are worth holding on to.  

He gave me the framework.  He gave me the words.  He gave me the examples and the courage and the strength.

flesh-and-heart-may-failSo for the next few days I’ll be sharing from my notes-putting into writing what I shared at the conference.  Here I have the luxury of time and editing.

If you were there, I hope these posts can remind your heart of truth. 

If you weren’t, I hope these posts can introduce your heart to truth.

It’s OK to doubt.  It’s OK to ask questions.  It’s OK to wonder if God sees you, hears you and cares about you.

That is part of the work we must do in grief.  

It cannot be ignored and it cannot be rushed. 

Come with me as we walk this Valley together, learning to trust our Shepherd again. 

shepherd 2

Out of the Depths I Cry

So many times I feel like this violet, clinging to a tiny foothold in a treacherous world-only enough strength for today, only enough bravery for today, only enough mental and emotional reserve for today.

But I know as surely as the sun rises, that tomorrow God will be present to give me what I need for THAT day too.

violet in crevice of rock

Out of the depths I cry to You, O LORD,
O LORD, hear my voice,
Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in His word I put my hope. 
My soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

~Psalm 130-selected NIV

NOBODY Does it Alone

Even if you think you are the Lone Ranger-riding the hills and vanquishing enemies all by yourself, you aren’t.  Heck, HE wasn’t alone either (thus my confusion over his name).

Lone_ranger_silver_1965

Every single one of us has people in the background making life as we know it possible.

And when life as we know it takes a sudden left turn, all those “invisible” people become oh, so important.

It happened when Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  The eleven days between the knock on the door and his funeral were filled with friends, family and even strangers who came by, brought meals, cleaned my house, made phone calls, and did all the things I just. couldn’t. do.

These last weeks have been the hardest season since Dom left us.  When I got the phone call Mama was being life-flighted my heart dropped to the floor.  Having been there once before, I was not at all ready to revisit the awful pain of loss.

So I gathered what I needed, made a few phone calls of my own and my children and I raced down to be with her and my father.

Thankfully, the ending to THIS story, though hard, isn’t tragic.

After the first eleven days in hospital and only a few at home before a second hospital admission, Mama is back at home getting stronger.

mama and me at beauty shop

Things are different.  Changes are required. 

But she is smiling and beautiful.  Still with us. 

Hallelujah!

But in order for me to stay with my folks for 27 of the past 31 days I have had to call on and depend on the help of others.

For me to leave MY responsibilities at home, someone else had to pick them up.  Horses and goats and dogs and chickens don’t feed themselves.  The church deposit has to be made each week.

My husband has graciously accepted that our communication is limited and sporadic.  What used to be long phone calls every day turned into short bursts and quick texts that let him know I was OK and still breathing.

My youngest son, Julian, laid aside his own project of remodeling his first home to pick up all the things I normally do around the farm-no complaints and no questions asked.  He is patient with me when my tired brain can’t think of words while trying to give him yet another chore that needs done.

My daughter, Fiona, finishing a tough last semester in RN school, as well as working and putting in required clinical hours, has called to check on me and her grandmother, offered excellent medical tips and helped me ask for the things we need for Mama.  She shoots me funny memes and encouraging texts that provide laughs to boost my immune system and bolster my courage.

My eldest son, James Michael, has squeezed in a weekend visit to my parents’ house in between helping his AF base recover from Hurricane Irma and a hundred other responsibilities as the Public Health Officer for a large command.  He drove the tractor and helped bale hay.  He brought flowers for Mama and BBQ ribs and sweet tea for me. 

My friends at church have graciously given me space and taken up slack so that I didn’t have to worry about my duties as treasurer.  No pressure and no tacky comments-only love and understanding from folks who KNOW how important family is.

My very special friend, Laura, sent me back from my brief three day stint at home a couple weeks ago with helpful herbal tinctures to brace my body for stress and hard work.  And she always listens without trying to fix me.

Dominic’s example as a strong advocate gave me the backbone to stand and insist that Mama get the care she needed when in hospital and at home.  I could hear him say, “Don’t let them get by with that!” to my often trembling heart.

And many, many of my parents’ friends and our extended family have phoned, sent notes and stopped by to encourage my heart and theirs.

People keep saying, “You are doing a good thing for your parents”.

I appreciate that.  But I want them to know that I am not doing it alone.  It goes back in a long chain to those who choose to take up the slack I leave behind when I drive out my lane.

I would not be free to help if others didn’t choose to help ME be free.

So I want to give a loud and public shout out to each one that has done this hard and necessary work in the shadows.

You are amazing.

I love you.

heart stone

 

Through This Valley Conference for Bereaved Parents-Don’t Miss It!!

I admit I’m not much of a gatherer.

Oh, I love my Sunday School class and my church family.  I enjoy the occasional family reunion or wedding.  But, on the whole, I tend to stick to small groups instead of large crowds.

And that tendency has been amplified since Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

So I totally understand why a bereaved parent might be reluctant to come to a CONFERENCE full of STRANGERS.

But please listen to my heart, not just my words:  this is NOT your average gathering.

April Wendland (a bereaved mother herself) and a very special team of people have worked hard to put together a two-day event that will speak courage to broken hearts.

You won’t be surrounded by people who glance sideways when the tears roll.  You won’t feel out of place when the tears turn to sobs.

Because we’ve all been there-we are STILL there.

There is no substitute for hearing (perhaps for the first time), “Me too!  I feel that way too!”

me too sharing the path

If you have never had the blessing of sharing space with other hearts that know exactly how you feel, then please, please, please try to come!  

And it’s FREE!

Courage is going to flow through the building.  Love will overwhelm your heart.  Grace and mercy will spill forth like water from a fountain.

Come be encouraged, strengthened and filled with hope for this journey. ❤ ❤ ❤

Here’s the link:  Through This Valley Bereaved Parents’ Conference

Friday, October 6th-Saturday, October 7th

Legacy Church,  3540 Central Ave., Hot Springs, Arkansas

word of encouragement is the fuel for hope

 

 

Repost: I Will Not Be Moved

I’m not brave by nature.

If I have a choice, I will run every time.  But there are just some things worth fighting for.

My family is one of them.

I will not let the enemy have them.

I will not allow despair to overtake us, fear to bind us, hopelessness to sap our strength.

I will not let death win.

Read the rest here:  I Will Not Be Moved

Feel and Deal to Heal

If I touch a hot stove my hand jerks away almost before my mind registers the searing pain.  It’s reflex.  Our bodies were designed to react to and protect us from things that cause pain.

Run away.  Don’t go back.  Set up barricades and warning signs so that others can be protected.

Most of the time, this reaction serves us well.

But sometimes those reflexes keep us from healing.

Anyone who’s had major surgery knows that when the nurses come in the next morning saying, “We’re going to get you out of bed today!”, the last thing you want to do is swing your legs over and stand up.  It HURTS!

We want to avoid what hurts, not embrace it.

So it’s no surprise that when we suffer deep emotional wounds, our first response is to try to run away or bury them or ignore them.  The last thing we want to do is face them.

But if I am to heal, I have to face them.  I have to take hold of each place where the dagger of grief and sorrow and regret and anger has pierced my heart and examine it closely.  I have to decide what to do with it, how to integrate it into my life after loss.

Grief is work!  That is one of the reasons grievers need solitude as well as companionship on this journey.  And that is why grief can’t be hurried along.  It takes a great deal of time to do the work grief requires.

If instead of facing our pain, we try to run away or distract ourselves or numb ourselves with alcohol, food or drugs, we only prolong the process.  Grief will not be ignored forever.

healing doesnt mean damage never existed

We must FEEL what we need to feel.

Then we must DEAL with those feelings-it might mean seeking a professional counselor or a trusted friend.  Online or in-person grief support groups are a wonderful resource. Journaling can help too.  But we have got to acknowledge and work through these feelings.

And then we can begin to HEAL  Hearts that have embraced and made some sense of grief can begin to beat again.  They can begin to love again and feel joy again.  They can learn to carry both sorrow and happiness-to remember and honor the missing child while also honoring and loving family and friends still here.

It’s not a “once and done” exercise.

I have repeated these steps over and over in the nearly three and a half years since Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  New feelings show up at the door of my heart and I have to choose to feel them, to search for what they mean and why they are here and then allow them to be woven into the fabric of who I am NOW-this side of child loss.

It takes courage and stamina and determination, but it is the only way forward.  

owning-our-story-and-loving-ourselves-through-the-process

 

 

ALL Things Through Christ

It is kind of a catchy saying to plaster across a Christian school’s gymnasium wall.

I know the one who decided to put it there meant well.  But “I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength” is absolutely NOT about lifting weights, running an extra lap or hitting a ball out of the park.

No. No. NO.

Can we just look at it in context, please?

I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.

Phillipians 4::12-14 MSG

Paul was thanking friends for their concern and aid.  But he didn’t want them to think he was desperately needy.  He was assuring them that because he had found utter fulfillment in Christ and through Christ and that he could be content no matter his outward circumstances.

But there is something else here too-another tidbit overlooked in our desire to lift verses out of context.

While Paul was content in his circumstances, while he was at peace and settled in his soul, he was also deeply grateful that his friends had remembered him.  He was encouraged that they had sent aid and lifted prayers and inquired as to his well-being.

Being content does not preclude discouragement.  

I can feel both deep peace and experience confusion over my present circumstances.  

It’s just then that I need faithful friends to remind me that I’m not alone and I’m not abandoned.  That is precisely the moment my spirit cries out for compassionate companionship.

This life is not meant to be lived alone-even in a prison cell.  

It’s meant to be lived in community with others who come alongside and call courage to our hearts.  

word of encouragement is the fuel for hope