If It Happened Once, It Could Happen Again

I was reminded today how close fear sits to the door of my heart and to the door of the hearts of many bereaved parents.

Once again a mom shared an experience of not being able to get in touch with a surviving child and how that quickly spiraled downward to a frenzy of fear.

To some it may seem like an overreaction. But to those of us for whom the one thing you think won’t happen, HAS happened, it made perfect sense.

Before Dominic was killed on his motorcycle I had the normal parental misgivings about my kids driving here, there and everywhere. I always prayed for them and tossed a, “Be safe!” as they walked out the door with keys in hand.

I shook my head sadly, teared up and felt awful when I saw an accident report on the news.

But I lived in the protective bubble of never having actually experienced sudden, tragic loss and I was blissfully unaware of how quickly and how completely life could change.

Now I know.

And fear creeps up my back and takes hold of my heart in an instant if anything unusual prevents a loved one from answering his or her phone when I think they should.

In the first couple of years I could not stop it. I was at the mercy of my feelings and my mind was quickly overwhelmed with all the “what ifs” and would imagine every possible awful outcome.

Knowing Fear. | Still Standing Magazine

So our family put some simple protocols in place to help everyone’s heart.

We text or call when we arrive safely somewhere; we offer alternative phone numbers if traveling with others so there’s a second means of contact; we know that if one of us calls another repeatedly it’s important and regardless of where we are or what we are doing, we need to pick up; and if we are on a longer trip with multiple stops we provide an itinerary.

Now I’ve learned a bit better how to push irrational thoughts away, to focus on the probable and to allow a little time and space for someone to get back in touch with me.

It’s hard and requires great effort.

But I was reminded just the other day that no matter how hard you try or how much you work to push those feelings away, they can threaten to overtake you regardless.

My dad and I talk every morning. He texts me when he’s up and I call him when I’m done with morning chores. On his end, two texts, one hour apart, had gone through to my phone with no response. He finally called me because he was afraid something was wrong.

The same day, I began a conversation with my daughter by saying, “Your brother called…” at which point she immediately asked what happened. I realized my mistake for starting with those words and quickly assured her everything was just fine.

You never forget making or receiving that phone call delivering the unchangeable and unbelievable awful news.

I am still prone to jump to conclusions.

If it happened once, it can happen again.

But I’m trying hard to learn to live in a less friendly, less safe world than I once depended upon. So I aim my heart and mind in the direction of the most likely instead of the most awful.

On the best days, it works.

Facing Fear, Embracing Vulnerability

It’s a funny thing. 

If you’ve never faced anything very frightening, it’s easy to think that those who do and march on through are somehow immune to fear.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery of it.  

Read the rest here: Courage Requires Vulnerability

Walk A Mile In My Shoes

I’ll be honest.

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I could be awfully self-righteous.

I could not understand how some people (notice how I dehumanized them by lumping them together) couldn’t just act right, do right, pick themselves us by their bootstraps and get on with life.

Not anymore.

Now I am more apt to wonder, “What awful thing has happened to this person?” instead of “What is WRONG with them????” when I notice someone acting a bit out of character or not quite living up to their commitments or somehow missing the mark of societal expectations.

Take all this coronavirus craziness.

Some of us are being more cautious.

Some of us consider caution a sign of insecurity or fear or lack of faith.

None of us have enough information (really!) to make an informed decision.

ZOONO3 VIA GETTY IMAGES

Lack of testing, lack of research, lack of transparency and not enough time means we are all essentially guessing what is the most prudent and appropriate individual response to this threat. I’m choosing not to judge anyone’s choices even if they are different than my own.

I’ve felt judged many times in the past six years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

People who haven’t buried a child really don’t understand how it changes EVERYTHING. But that doesn’t stop them from offering an opinion or advice or making comments on social media that are clearly intended to correct or shame me.

Now that things are opening up on the back side of blanket stay-at-home orders I’m probably going to be judged again.

What people don’t know about me-what they can’t see and can’t know unless they ask-is I suffer from an autoimmune disease. The treatment impacts my ability to fight off infections. It lowers my white blood cell count. It makes me susceptible to things that other folks never have to worry about.

I had latent (non-contagious and asymptomatic) tuberculosis a couple years ago.

I’m not part of population that would normally be considered “at risk” and only found out about it because it’s protocol to test for TB before prescribing some of the more potent medicines used in treating rheumatoid arthritis. I still have no idea where I was exposed to it.

Eight months of antibiotics with unpleasant side effects later I was disease free.

Based on first person accounts of what it feels like to have Covid19 (not even considering the most dire outcomes) that was a cakewalk.

So I’m not standing in line to try my hand at surviving this new threat.

And I have other, very real, very painful, experiences which inform my choice to be more cautious. I know that regardless of odds, of treatment and of what a heart HOPES will happen, things don’t always go as planned or as predicted.

I know the horror death leaves in its wake. I know the toll trauma takes on a life left behind.

My family has already had to deal with more than I could have imagined and I will not purposely expose them to something else if I can help it.

So regardless of local, state or national guidelines, protocol or recommendations I will be mostly staying home.

Baby Girl Name: Prudence. Meaning: Foresight; Practical Judgment ...

It’s not lack of faith. It’s not fear. It’s prudence based on experience.

You can make a different choice and I will absolutely positively respect that.

Agreement is not a prerequisite for kindness.

Your shoes are not my shoes.

And that’s OK.

My Story Scares You. I Know Why.


At first all I could feel was pain.

Pain of abandonment, of being misunderstood, of being pushed to the outside edges of groups that used to welcome me with open arms.

But as time passed, I began to understand.

My story scares you.  You are utterly afraid that if child loss can happen to ME, it can happen to YOU.

You’re right.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/25/i-know-why-my-story-scares-you/

How’s Everyone Doing? No, Really.

This thing is really dragging on, isn’t it?

For many folks it’s the first time in their lives they’ve been forced to come face to face with the truth we really have little control over anything.

Some of us can’t leave our homes, most of us aren’t supposed to.

Stay Home Save Lives - DesignByStavri - FACEBOOK by Stavri ...

Some long desperately to hold grandchildren but social distancing means only a long distance wave (if you’re lucky) or FaceTime on a screen. Some want to visit parents or grandparents in eldercare facilities but are forbidden lest the virus be ushered through closed doors and run rampant down the halls. No local gatherings. No play dates for kids. No school routine (who thought they’d miss nightly homework battles!). Work from home or no work at all.

Parents are suddenly with their children ALL DAY LONG. Some children are suddenly imprisoned 24/7 in unsafe homes-no escaping to school for a few hours respite.

And toilet paper. Lots and lots of toilet paper (for some, apparently) and none for others.

Image may contain: possible text that says 'If you need 144 rolls of toilet paper for a 14 day quarantine you probably should've been seeing a Doctor long before COVID-19'

The people who are supposed to have the latest, best information seem like either they aren’t getting it, reading it and digesting it or they really don’t know what they are doing.

Social media is allowing some front line workers like doctors, nurses and paramedics to publicize snapshots and give commentary on the inside of ambulances and hospitals and it’s truly frightening.

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And oh, by the way, if your person gets sick enough to be wheeled away from home and inside those big doors, you can’t follow. No matter how sick they are, you can’t sit by the bed and hold their hand.

Is it any wonder many of us are not only stir crazy but crazy sick with worry, fear and anxiety?

So, my friend, I want to know-really truly know-how are you doing?

How are you managing under the stress and strain of unwelcome change you can’t control?

What is helping you hold on?

What is making it harder?

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I know some who gather in this space are not praying people and that’s OK. I’d like to share a prayer anyway, if you’ll let me.

Because that’s how I hold on. ❤

PRAYER:

Father God,

This is such a fearful time.

Too many changes too fast and more coming every day. An invisible enemy is stalking those I love and there’s really not much I can do about it except to follow the best advice being tossed out by people who are supposed to know but who don’t really inspire a lot of confidence.

I’m afraid of what I know and afraid of what I don’t know.

I’m petrified someone in my intimate circle will fall ill and I won’t be able to be with them. My job may be in danger too and I might not make my bills. My kids are confused and I wonder how all these months of no school is going to play out next fall. The list could go on and on.

Help my heart hold onto hope. Help me find a bit of joy-the rose among the thorns-each day. Sandwiches on paper plates with the whole family. A breath of fresh spring air through open windows. A funny meme sent from a friend far away so we can share a laugh even if we can’t share a cup of coffee.

Let every sunrise remind my heart that the world is still turning and no night lasts forever.

Amen

Of Child Loss, Pandemics and Panic

Child loss has changed me in ways that continue to unfold even years later.

As pandemic and panic sweep the world, my heart has been both more anxious and less anxious at precisely the same moment.

I’ve experienced more generalized dread and unease fed by media frenzy, friends’ posts and comments and the other-worldly photos of empty streets in big cities and families hanging out balcony windows in Italy and Spain.

Coronavirus: Quarantined Italians sing their hearts out. It's ...

Trauma from sudden death has left its mark and societal panic is is ripping open the wound.

The thin layer that protects my heart most days is wearing thinner.

When the thing you think won’t happen DOES happen, you simply can’t find solace in platitudes or pithy prayers or puny human promises that “every little thing will be all right”.

Image may contain: meme, possible text that says 'Did you know? FEELING LIKE YOUR GRIEF HAS WORSENED WITH THE PANDEMIC IS #PERFECTLYNORMAL'

In a perverse twist, knowing the worst HAS happened, makes me less apprehensive about the future.

I’ve given up the idea that protection is guaranteed by doing all the right things or following all the rules or obeying every law.

Oh, we still do all that!

We are washing our hands, practicing social distancing and limiting necessary trips to anywhere. But my faith is not in any of those things to necessarily keep this silent, creeping evil from my doorstep.

Some might call it defeatist.

I call it reality.

The hours of each day are filled balancing these two opposite but very much connected feelings. Sometimes I want to crawl out of my skin or run as far and as fast as I can. Sometimes I just sit, waiting for whatever might happen TO happen.

The anniversary of Dominic’s death is less than two weeks away so all THIS is layered on top of THAT.

Honestly, it’s exhausting and I wake most mornings already worn out.

Almost six years has taught me the world doesn’t stop spinning and the rising sun won’t wait.

So here I am.

Again.

Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: A Stout Heart

It’s hard to wait.

It’s harder to rest patiently for something you desperately want .

That’s why children shake the presents under the Christmas tree and grown-ups dip into their savings.

It’s also why we so often doubt that God has things under control.

When circumstances require sacrifice I want the Lord to step in and fix them. I want my omnipotent God to use a little of that power to make my life more bearable. And when He doesn’t, I’m more likely to call His character into question than to doubt my own motives.

Psalm 27 helps turn my heart back to truth:

13 [What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living!

14 Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.

Psalm 27:13-14 AMPC

Other versions render the first part of verse 13 like this: “I would have fainted” or “I would have lost heart” or “I would have despaired”.

Hope is a powerful thing.

Often it’s the thread a heart holds onto when everything else falls away.

And while I am absolutely looking forward to God’s ultimate victorious remaking of this world into the perfect and beautiful place He always intended it to be, I am also confident He will continue to work in me and through me to redeem parts of it even here, even now.

Lots of hearts are impatient with our current situation.

Life has been upended. Retirement accounts depleted. Jobs disappeared. School closings and no big graduations. Plans made for months wiped out by government decree. We are stuck at home eating from pantries and refrigerators full of things that may be nutritious but which don’t quite fulfill our appetites.

It’s frustrating.

Why Frustration And Anxiety Make You Fat | Mindset for Success

I know it’s scary right now. I realize that it might look to some as if God has taken a step back or is not paying attention at all. But that’s simply not true. He is still in control. His plans cannot be thwarted. This is NOT the end.

When we stop expecting God to move, we stop listening to His voice, paying attention to His direction and following His Word.

What I’ve got to do is wait.

Not wait in defeat but wait in expectation!

Because I know my God IS moving I can look toward the future with confident assurance that He is going to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Endurance IS the victory!

Sometimes it’s only a matter of standing my ground, declaring the truth and refusing to give way to the enemy of my soul. I am undefeated as long as I hold fast to the hope I have in Christ Jesus.

Fear can only make a home in my heart if I allow it. Faith is the bulwark against that invasion.

Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on him who has all things safely in his hands.

Elisabeth Elliot

QUESTIONS:

  1. What is your greatest struggle/fear/frustration right now with the coronavirus situation? Can you rewrite it in terms of what you wish God or the government or someone would do to fix it?
  2. How might patience erase some of your anxiety?
  3. Do you think God has abandoned you (us) in this crisis? Why or why not?
  4. If you have children, are there times when you simply can’t give them an adequate explanation they can understand yet insist they obey or endure? Can you apply that same truth to yourself and your Heavenly Father?
  5. Are you confident you will see God’s goodness “in the land of the living” or do you only hope for His goodness in Heaven? Why ?
  6. I use verses like these and quotes like the one from Elisabeth Elliot to help MY heart hold onto hope. How do you help your heart hold onto hope?
  7. The Bible says that the enemy comes only to “steal, kill and destroy”-he will steal your peace if you let him, he will kill hope in your soul if you listen to his whispered lies that God has abandoned you and he will destroy your confident assurance that Jesus loves you if he can turn your heart and mind to focus on circumstances instead of on the truth found in God’s Word. What practical steps can you take TODAY to shut him out, stop listening to his lies and turn your heart and mind to TRUTH?

PRAYER:

Father God,

These are frightening times.

They are unprecedented times for a world used to flying here and there, running out to the store or a restaurant whenever we want to, having freedom to come and go as we please. Now we are being asked to stay in with the families we created but don’t always get along with. We are told that the things we touch-door handles, cans of food on store shelves, random things everywhere -may be sources of danger.

An invisible enemy is stalking us and we feel defenseless. And yet we are not defenseless because You are still on the Throne.

You are still in control.

Nothing is going to happen to me today that You can’t handle. Help me hold onto the promise that in sickness and in health, You are with me. In times of plenty and times of scarcity, You are with me. You have not abandoned me.

Make my heart stout and steadfast. Don’t let me faint. Help me wait patiently and expectantly for You in the midst of this mess.

Be my strength, be my bravery.

Amen

Welcome To My World

Many of you are waking up each day and facing a world you don’t recognize.

I’ve been doing this for over half a decade.

Almost six years ago my family’s world was shaken in much the same way everyone’s world is being shaken today.

It was precisely as disruptive, unthinkable, even more tragic and there was not one thing we could do to change it except live through it.

Image may contain: outdoor, possible text that says '"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring Pellowe TALK'

I know thousands of bereaved parents and surviving siblings who have learned to live in the time they are given.

If you want to know how to face this crisis with courage, ask them. 

Fly The Plane

I was talking to my dad the other morning as I do every morning.

We catch one another up on personal news and then turn to the world at large.

After another day of dismal and disconcerting headlines I asked my retired fighter pilot/flight instructor/still flying/recently bereaved dad, “So, how are you REALLY doing?”

He replied, “I’m flying the plane.”

He told me the first rule of flying was: NO MATTER WHATnever, never, never stop flying the plane.

Papa’s been flying for over 50 years!

Even if the only thing you can do is fly it into a crash.

Focus on the essentials.

Don’t be distracted by incidentals.

Save all your energy for the things you CAN do something about and ignore the things you can’t control.

As he was talking I realized that somewhere in my 56 years he had taught me this lesson well although he’d never taught me to fly.

So that’s what we are doing.

It’s what we’re all doing.

We are taking care of the things we can and trying hard to not waste any energy on things we can’t. We’re checking on one another, encouraging one another, making sure each one is getting proper nutrition and rest and refusing to sweat the small stuff.

I can’t see my ICU nurse daughter because she’s possibly been exposed to the virus and I am immunosuppressed.

So I dug through my stash and sent her and the foster kids she helps her best friend parent a box brimming full of random craft supplies to stave off boredom.

It’s not much but it’s something I CAN do.

I’m walking every day and keeping my cardiovascular system as fit as possible.

I’m writing and posting on several public Facebook pages I maintain. One is dedicated to bereaved parents, another to general spiritual encouragement and a third to educational resources for parents who suddenly find themselves having to teach their children at home when they were used to sending them off to school.

I have cleaned out a few random corners that should have been cleaned months (let’s be honest-years!) ago. And I’m checking in on friends and neighbors.

My public health officer son is running crazy so I don’t bombard him with texts or messages but I try to shoot him at least one encouraging word every day. He calls when he can and just last evening treated us to a FaceTime session with our little Captain.

Seeking joy wherever we can find it is part of our daily routine. And nothing says “JOY!” like this happy smile.

My husband is working from home (THAT’S an adjustment for this women who loves her quiet time!) so I fixed him up a work station and make sure I don’t interrupt his conference call by hollering something from the kitchen (or vacuuming under his feet). He’s making some adjustments to my preference for light-hearted viewing in the evenings and saving his heavier, action-packed choices for after I go to bed.

Kind of a trial run for his retirement.

NOT my house, but yes, I’ve vacuumed around him more than once 🙂

The son that lives close by has become our errand runner and grocery store shopper.

He picks up what we need, being extra careful to clean his hands and clothes before bringing it into the house. He shopped for our elderly neighbor as well. He’s doing his part to maintain a buffer between those of us who may be more susceptible and the virus.

Flying the plane means we are keeping our wits about us, doing the important and necessary things.

But it also means we are finding moments to take a breath, enjoy a laugh, watch a sunset, go for a walk, listen to the birds sing, play with the dog or cats, share a funny meme, and eat meals together.

We can’t control the world but we can control our reaction to what it tosses our way.

We can’t guarantee our safety but we can choose to do things that enhance it.

Tomorrow the wings might fall off.

But today we are flying the plane.

Image result for keep calm and fly the plane

Battling Anxiety/Seeking Peace: Strength To Endure

When suffering is time-limited it is often more easily endured.

If I know six weeks of intensive though painful physical therapy will help me regain strength and use of a limb or joint, I can power through.

If restricting calories for a month helps me fit into that dress for a special event, I’m more likely to sacrifice for a short time so the pictures look good.

But if you tell me I’ll hobble around for the rest of my life because there’s nothing to be done about my bad back or crooked joints or you want me to change how I eat for good-well, that’s gonna take more strength than I have on my own.

When I realized-probably sometime near the end of the first year-that the sorrow and missing and pain of burying my son was going to be a burden I carried to my own grave, it was absolutely, utterly soul-crushing.

That’s why Habakkuk’s words resonate with my heart:

I heard and my [whole inner self] trembled; my lips quivered at the sound. Rottenness enters into my bones and under me [down to my feet]; I tremble. I will wait quietly for the day of trouble and distress when there shall come up against [my] people him who is about to invade and oppress them.

17 Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, [though] the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls,

18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation!

19 The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!

Habakkuk 3:16-19 AMP

Habakkuk was a prophet in Israel just before the Babylonians came and wiped out the nation. He knew what was coming and asked God to spare them.

God said no.

No miraculous rescue coming, no divine intervention to prevent destruction, no manna raining down from heaven to stave off starvation.

Israel is going to suffer.

And Habakkuk, though righteous, will suffer too.

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Habakkuk is not immediately infused with courage and fearlessness: “I heard [what the Lord had to say] and I trembled…” Habakkuk isn’t only afraid, he’s terrified (“rottenness enters my bones”) !!

He’s out of things to do, convinced he must simply wait for whatever is headed his way.

So he sits down and waits.

And in the quiet stillness of waiting, his heart turns to truth.

Even though he will suffer, even though everything he depends on for physical safety may be stripped away, even though destruction and devastation is coming, he begins to meditate on the faithful enduring character of the LORD.

And he rejoices!

Nothing has changed except his focus.

Instead of concentrating on circumstances he is contemplating his Creator.

I admit I focus all too often on circumstances but sometimes it’s practically impossible not to.

Image result for even the wind and waves obey him

Remember the disciples in the boat with Jesus? A storm blew up and was tossing them back and forth all while Jesus slept soundly.

Fear really wasn’t a disproportionate response to a very real and present danger.

When the wind and the waves are high around me, and I realize how powerless I am to do anything about them, fear easily overtakes my heart.

But the disciples were not alone. The One who could calm the storm was in their midst.

The One who can calm MY storm is here with ME.

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Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves and the disciples finished their journey in safety.

God did not save Israel (or Habakkuk) from the Babylonians.

The Lord did not miraculously preserve Dominic’s life and He may not miraculously (or otherwise) save me or my family from the fallout of Covid19.

Image result for el roi

But whether He intervenes or does not, I know He sees me.

I know He loves me.

I know He longs to comfort me and strengthen me.

He IS my “personal bravery and invincible army”.

QUESTIONS:

  • Often Western Christianity focuses on “victory in Jesus” and tends to associate victory with safety or deliverance from uncomfortable or frightening or seemingly impossible circumstances. Habakkuk not only suspected God was not going to avert disaster, he’d been promised disaster was coming. How do YOU interpret “victory in Jesus”? Do these verses give you a different perspective? Why or why not?
  • It’s kind of been a joke that people rushed to stockpile toilet paper during the frenzy surrounding this pandemic. Apparently having enough TP made them feel a little more prepared, a little less frightened. We all have some tangible things that help our hearts stay calm. What are yours?
  • Fear is not a sin. Doubt is not disbelief. It’s perfectly OK to voice your fear, doubt and concern. But if you rest there, if you don’t then turn to truth, you will spiral downward into despair. What practical steps are you taking for yourself and family to keep the truth of Who God is in front of your eyes and foremost in your hearts?
  • For those of us who get our groceries from Walmart, the complete devastation described in Habakkuk may not be evident. Let me paraphrase for a modern audience: “Though the grocery store shelves are empty and there are no tasty snacks left in the fridge, though the last thing I had to eat was only enough to meet my caloric needs but not enough to satiate my appetite, though there is no hope that things will return to normal anytime soon and I may suffer more than I can imagine, I am going to shout for joy because I know God is in control and He has secured my eternal destiny!” Can you take these verses and rewrite them so they are specific to YOUR circumstances?

PRAYER:

Lord,

If I’m honest (and there’s no reason not to be since You already know my heart!), I want to be rescued. I do not want to live through whatever this stupid virus is going to do to my community, my country, the world. I don’t like the thought of weeks of uncertainty, forced isolation, reduced or nonexistent paychecks, figuring out how to keep kids that should be in school occupied and learning.

I hate this!

When I read the headlines or listen to the news, it feeds my fears.

Help me to be like Habakkuk and appropriate the strength You provide so that I will not only endure, but will thrive! Speak courage to my heart when I would falter. Make me stalwart in the face of fear. Teach me to trust You when I would doubt Your lovingkindness.

Be my personal bravery.

Amen

He [Christ] said not, ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be trevailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased,’ but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.’

Julian of Norwich