Repost: Trusting God After Loss-Why It’s Hard, Why It’s Necessary

This time of year when broken hearts are surrounded by happy hearts it can hit hard.  

“Why, oh why is MY child not here?”  

“Where were You, God?” 

Believe me, more than four years later and I fall right back into the same questions I thought I had asked and answered (or become satisfied NOT to answer).

So I have to return to the basics of walking my heart through the steps of leaning into trust.

I wrote this awhile ago-combining in one post all the posts in this series.  I pray that if you, like me, need a refresher course in trusting God after loss, it helps your heart. 

One of the greatest challenges I faced this side of child loss was finding a space where I could speak honestly and openly about my feelings toward God and about my faith.

So many times I was shut down at the point of transparency by someone shooting off a Bible verse or hymn chorus or just a chipper, “God’s in control!”

They had NO IDEA how believing that (and I do!) God is in control was both comforting and utterly devastating at the very same time.

Read the rest here:  Trusting God After Loss: Why It’s Hard, Why It’s Necessary

A Shepherd’s Heart

If you’ve read even a few of my posts you know that I have a small flock/herd of sheep and goats. 

I have learned firsthand why God called His most capable leaders from among shepherds.  It’s a tough job and often a thankless job.

But it molds a heart of love and compassion in ways no other work can do.  

The Twenty-third Psalm isn’t just words to me, it’s my life:

One  night, as I went to close the gate to the goat pen, I noticed an older doe was missing-I didn’t have to do a head count, I just looked at the herd and could tell someone wasn’t there.

Sure enough, Bella hadn’t made it back from afternoon foraging.

I hollered out to my son and, flashlights in hand, we went looking for her.  We were pretty certain she must have been knocked down and was unable to get up.  Goats can get kind of pushy if there is a particularly tasty bit of browse and often butt one another.

After exploring all the usual places, he going one way and me another, he found her.

Yep, down and helpless.

In the edge of the woods.

Where, if we left her, she would be dead come morning.

So he carried her back to the pen (not an easy task with a full-grown goat!).

Why? Because that’s what shepherds DO.

welcome home goats

They tend the herd and flock. They don’t rest until every one is accounted for.

And it’s what God calls HIS shepherds to do as well: know the flock, feed the flock, go out in the dark and the briers and find the missing one.

Not to rest satisfied that they will somehow find their own way home.

I am thankful for Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the Perfect Shepherd.  

jesus the shepherd the i am

We who follow Him are called to be shepherds of our own flock-the persons He places under our watchcare, the ones He brings across our path that need love, compassion, a healing touch and a guiding hand.

It’s a tough job. 

Often a thankless job. 

But it’s our job.  

feed my shee[

Hard Stops: When You Can’t Ignore the Missing

Most of the time I’m just kind of rolling along.

There are things to do, places to go, people to see, animals to feed.

I get up, get going and get on with it.

But there are some days that are what I call “Hard Stops” on this journey.  They are the days that force my heart to take special notice of the fact that Dominic isn’t here.

Sometimes they are milestone days like birthdays or holidays or the anniversary of that awful knock on the door.

Sometimes they are events where he should be there-like seeing his brother one more time before he deploys half-way around the world.

These days make my heart measure the time since I last hugged his neck, heard his voice, saw his strong, square hands reach across the table for the salt shaker-and I am overcome with how long it has been!

Then my heart shifts to the months and likely years I will have to live with this aching empty place where he should be but isn’t and I fear I just can’t do it!

Many days I’m able to distract myself from the sorrow and to live with the missing.

But these “hard stop” days force me to face it head on. and it is overwhelming. 

Every. Time.

So what do I do? 

When my heart is overwhelmed, I take it to the Rock that is higher than I.  

rock that is higher than i

I run to the Refuge of my Faithful Father.  

sing of strength you are my refuge

I turn my eyes to my Savior Who will redeem and restore.

restore after season of suffering

I put my hand firmly in the hand of my Shepherd Who will not leave me in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.  

jesus the shepherd the i am

And I pray for myself-and every heart having a hard time holding onto hope today-that we will feel the Father’s loving arms around us and that He will give us strength to stand.  ❤

A Challenging Year: For Better or Worse

One year ago today I came in from Wednesday night church to a message on my answering machine:

“Melanie, when you get this, call me on my cell phone.  I’m on my way to Dothan.  Your mama was lifeflighted and I’m headed to the hospital”

I have no idea what else my dad said because that was as far as I got before shutting down the message and dialing his number with shaky fingers.

Because when you’ve endured the worst possible news-the news that is utterly final-it only takes half a second for your brain and body to jump from alright to utterly terrified.

So began nearly three months of trying to help my mother recover from a fall, a heart attack and serious complications from congestive heart failure.

It’s been a year and she’s doing so much better.

But it has been a hard row to hoe as they say in the South.

Papa has carried the lion’s share of the burden. 

He’s learned to keep up with Mama’s medications, her doctor’s appointments and plan menus.  He’s had to decipher the complex world of home health care, durable medical equipment and getting a handicapped parking tag.  He’s cooked, cleaned and kept Mama company since she is unable to go anywhere by herself anymore.

And that means he is as homebound as she.

Of course, poor Mama has had to endure all kinds of medical procedures, uncomfortable hospital beds, loss of autonomy and is now tethered to oxygen.  

I am oh, so proud of both of them!  

They are learning to live this new life together.  

Which is exactly what I expected from a pair that has done just that for over 57 years!

wedding rings

You Are Not Invisible

I know, precious heart, as the months and years roll by and everyone else has moved forward and moved on, it’s easy to feel like no one sees your wounds, no one takes note of your sorrow, no one remembers your pain.

It can make you feel invisible.

You feel like a black and white pasteboard cutout in a world peopled by technicolor action figures.

But you are NOT invisible.

god sees you in your desperate places

The God of the Universe sees you.

He keeps track of every. single. tear.

He cares.

Even if you are still angry with Him.

Because His love is an everlasting love.  He doesn’t give up on us just because we don’t have the strength to reach out to Him.  He will bridge the gap between what we are capable of doing and what needs to be done.

Sit silent in His Presence and He will come to you.

Gentle, loving, quiet and peace-filled He will come.

No matter how many humans have written you off, your Faithful Father has not forgotten you.

www.jessicaoverholt.com

He sees you.

He waits with open arms.

He wants to embrace your wounded heart and your broken life.

Come home.  ❤

God is the father who watches and waits for his children, runs out to meet them, embraces them, pleads with them, begs and urges them to come home.

~Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal

Why is the Second Year SO Hard?

I remember very well the morning I woke on April 12, 2015-it was one year since I’d gotten the awful news; one year since the life I thought I was going to have turned into the life I didn’t choose.

I was horrified that my heart had continued to beat for 365 days when I was sure it wouldn’t make it through the first 24 hours. 

And I was terrified.

During that first year there were multiple punctuated stops along the way-the first major and minor holidays scattered throughout the year, a family wedding, two graduations, Dominic’s birthday and on and on.  I’d muddle through and then turn my face forward towards the next one looming in the future.

There was so much emotional upheaval, so many things to process that I was unbalanced, focused only on survival without a thought to anything beyond the next hill.

But when I realized that I’d made it through one year, was still standing, was still breathing and was (apparently) going to survive this horrible blow, I began to think about living this way for the rest of my days.

And it was overwhelming.

Facing something for a defined period of time-even an awful something-is doable.  There’s an end in sight, relief on the way, endurance will be rewarded-just hang on.

But when a heart can’t lay hold of the finish line-well, that’s enough to undo even the bravest among us.

exhausted-over-trying-to-be-stronger-than-i-feel

All the things I muddled through the first year were just going to circle back around over and over and over for decades!

My grief took on a new dimension-it wasn’t something that was going away-it was life long.  

I spent the entire second year and most of the third just wrapping my mind and heart around that FACT and trying to develop tools to carry this burden for the long haul.

Every heart is different, every family unique.  

The second year is NOT harder for everyone. I’m not even sure it was HARDER for me.  But it was definitely different and full of new challenges.

It forced me to dig deeper than the first year when I was mainly in survival mode.  

The crying tapered off but the reality of my son’s absence loomed larger.  The breathless agony of his death really did grow more manageable but the prospect of this being a life sentence weighed more heavily on my heart.

But God’s grace has been sufficient in every season of my grief.  He has sustained me, strengthened me and carried me.  

i made you and i will carry you

Here I am-six weeks into year five-still standing, still fighting and still holding on to hope.

God is faithful.  

What He did for me,

He will do for you.  

god is always listening

Did God Take My Child?

This is a question that comes up all the time in bereaved parents’ groups:  Did God take my child?

Trust me, I’ve asked it myself.  

How you answer this question can mean the difference between giving up or going on, between turning away or trusting.

So this is MY answer.  The one I’ve worked out through study, prayer and many, many tears.  You may disagree.  That’s just fine.  I only offer it because it might be helpful to some struggling and sorrowful soul.

I believe that God is the Author of life and the arbiter of death. What that means (to me) is that He is ultimately in control of everything and could (if He chose) intervene and stop the death of any person if He wanted to.

Nothing and no one is stronger nor more powerful than God.

However, we live in a fallen world where sin has tainted the original creation God declared “good”. So there are natural disease processes, genetic malformations, undetected birth defects (that may go unknown until well into adulthood like heart defects) that lead to death.

God does not intervene each time-but He could.

People make sinful and foolish choices that have natural consequences. My son was going way too fast in a curve on his motorcycle. God did not override my son’s free will (just as He does not override our free will all day every day) and my son ran off the road.

There are universal physical and biological laws that most of us are thankful for each day that then took over in my son’s case and doomed his motorcycle to certain paths and his body to certain death when it impacted the ground.

God didn’t intervene but He could have.

Job was ultimately protected by the fences God placed around his person. I believe each of us are too.

Yet God is weaving a bigger tapestry, writing a bigger story than only the part that includes me and my family.  So my son’s death and the changes it has wrought in me, in others that knew and loved him and even further out into the world are part of God’s big story.

I have made peace with the fact that I do not understand nor like what God has done in my life by allowing my son to die, but I will trust His loving character and wait to see how it will be redeemed in eternity.

No, God did not TAKE my son. But He allowed his death.

I gain more comfort in a God Who could have saved my son but chose not to, than a God Who does not have that power.

His word declares that He keeps my tears in His bottle. 

I believe it. 

And I believe that one day He will redeem every one and restore what my heart has lost.  

you keep track of all my tears