Seriously. Why Can’t I Keep My House Clean?

I freely admit I was never a housecleaning fanatic.

With a busy family, a small farm and mountains of paper, pencils and books scattered around I was content if the most obvious dirt was swept up and the sink free of dishes.

But, I DID have a routine.  I DID clean my bathrooms and wash clothes and make beds and vacuum the rugs on a regular basis.

Not anymore.

Even all this time after Dominic ran ahead to heaven, I have not reestablished any kind of rhythm.

Read the rest here: Why Can’t I Keep My House Clean? Grief and Everyday Responsiblities

Struggling With Sleepless Nights

I first shared this post about a year ago.

I was planning my daughter’s wedding and juggling a number of other pressing responsibilities. I managed to keep my composure most days when talking with caterers, family members and vendors but all that pent up stress kept me from falling asleep when I finally put my head down at night.

I had just begun to settle back into a decent sleep pattern when my mother suffered a stroke and died a few days later in September.

That threw me right back into the sleepless cycle that plagued me for years after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven in 2014. I couldn’t fall asleep or when I fell asleep I couldn’t stay asleep. What sleep I managed to get was filled with terrible and terribly vivid dreams.

I’m not sure I will ever enjoy the blissfully ignorant and pleasant slumber I knew as a young girl.

My heart won’t let me.

For the first couple of weeks after Dominic left us, I couldn’t fall asleep.  

It was impossible to close my eyes without a dozen awful scenes flashing behind the lids. 

Silent darkness was not my friend. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/05/02/sleepless-nights/

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.

Worn Out and Weary: Where Can I Go For Help?


I don’t know about you but I’m tired.

Not just physically tired-although there are plenty of days when chores done in the Alabama sun beat my body down.

I’m soul weary.

My heart cries out, “No more! I can’t carry a single other burden! I’m buckling under the load!”

Jesus understands.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/08/10/scripture-journal-challenge-worn-out-and-weary-jesus-understands/

The Locust Years

I’m no stranger to disappointment, disillusionment, discouragement and despair.

I have had some amazingly lofty peaks in this life but I’ve also had some terribly low valleys as well.

Some of the stories aren’t mine to tell so you will just have to take my word for it. Some of the stories I’ve already shared in this space so if you want more details you can check out old posts.

Right now I feel like I’m in one of those valleys.

In fact, I feel like I’m in the locust years the prophet Joel talks about in the Bible book that bears his name.

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming [a]locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.
26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.
27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:
am the Lord your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame.

Joel 2:25-27

Joel (his name means “Yahweh is God”) was sent by God to encourage the nation of Israel during a time of famine and judgement. Because God’s chosen people refused to follow Him and obey His commandments, they were punished. God didn’t do that to harm them. He did it to draw their attention to their sin and to woo them back to Himself.

I’ve written before that child loss is not a test or a judgement or a hammer in the hand of God (https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/08/25/grief-is-not-a-hammer-in-the-hand-of-god/).

I firmly believe that while God may discipline His true children (see Hebrews 12:6) all the punishment sin requires has been paid for by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Still, I feel like there are parallels to the famine and devastation Israel faced and the past eighteen months of my life.

One “disaster” after another. One herculean challenge after another. One hill to climb after another. And with each new hard thing, I find my reserves are fewer and fewer.

Nothing-NOTHING-rises to the level of sending Dominic ahead to Heaven.

But that one giant, life-altering, earth shattering, heartbreaking event has weakened my defenses. It has made me more prone to wearing down and giving up than I’ve ever been in my life.

My faith is intact.

I have absolutely no doubt that every promise of God in Christ is “yes” and “amen”.

I trust the truth that all the enemy has stolen will be restored. Every sad thing will be undone. The world (including my own family) will be redeemed, restored and raised to life in Christ. When I pass my son’s grave facing east, I know one day the skies will open and Jesus will return as triumphant King over all creation.

Even so I am weary and heavy laden.

I take the burden to the foot of the cross over and over and over.

Just as I think the weight is lifted, another heavy brick is added to the load.

Sometimes you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Other times you just have to trust in the dark.

Sometimes the trial is limited. Other times it goes on and on and on.

But I know, know, know God is faithful.

His love endures forever.

And even when I find myself in the midst of spiritual famine, desolation and desperation, He will meet me there.

So I wait.

Holding on to hope.

Looking for the promised bounty.

Trusting that He will redeem, restore and resurrect.

Well, It Finally Happened

Yesterday was not an especially busy one in the sense of places to go or timely appointments to make.

But it was full of activity and people and chores and the need to use creative juices and exercise lots and lots of self-control.

It was also the day I take my weekly (very potent) medication for rheumatoid arthritis which normally doesn’t bother me much. I get a little tired, sleep it off that night and wake refreshed and ready for the rest of the week.

Last night, though, it hit me hard.

I got home from church and realized I hadn’t set up a post for early this morning (it usually goes out automatically to subscribers and is posted on my Facebook page just after midnight). And for the first time ever-EVER-in four years, I just let it go.

I didn’t try to quickly cue up a repost of an old post. I didn’t grab a meme or image off the internet and write around it. I just crawled into bed and went to sleep.

Pride is a terrible thing.

It often goads me into pushing my body, mind and spirit beyond physical, mental or psychological endurance. Sometimes it tricks me into thinking I’m leaning on God when I’m leaning on my own willful stubbornness instead.

I’m all about not giving up, giving in or giving out when faced with something a little harder than I like or even something miserably more difficult than I can stand. But I need to practice discernment and learn to let go of things that are more about my proving a point than walking worthy of the calling of Christ in me.

I love writing.

I love every single heart that chooses to read what I write and sometimes comment or just pass it along so others can read it too.

I hope I don’t skip another day any time soon.

But if I do, I’m going to practice what I preach and just let. it. go.

Even though it hurts my pride to admit my limitations.

I’m Just Tired Y’all

I realize yesterday’s post was somewhat out of character.

I was angry and hurt and utterly dumbfounded that another parent might take my words exactly as I wrote them (emphasis and all) and simply lift them out of context and plaster them across the Internet.

My heart is especially vulnerable right now.

My mother just died. It’s only been three weeks. And her death has reopened wounds I’d grown skilled at ignoring.

While I’ve been encouraged by many of you who understand the way I feel, I’ve also been hurt by many who seem to think that if I protect my intellectual property I’m petty and unkind.

So I’m just gonna put this out there-I’m tired, y’all. Worn out.

I’m more exhausted than I’ve been since the first year after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

The past two years have drained every ounce of reserve I had (and that wasn’t much).

This week has finished me off.

I’m not going to fight to try to get anyone who can’t understand to see my point of view. My debating days are over.

I might just lay the blog aside for awhile. I don’t really know right now.

So, “thank you” to everyone who has come along for the ride. Thank you to every heart that has reached across the miles or across cultures to comment and join in on the conversation. You have encouraged me more than you will ever know.

But I’m tapped out.

Tapping Out-Everyone Needs a Safe Word

Today went from OK to not good at all in a matter of hours.

Before lunchtime I had a confrontation with someone I love, entered a public space (when I thought I had my emotions in check) and couldn’t stop crying, misplaced my debit card, misplaced my driver’s license and lost my mind.

I desperately needed a do-over.

And then I realized that I hadn’t queued up a new post. Which really isn’t that big a deal to anyone but me (in my pride) because this November will make four years I haven’t missed a day.

I know sometimes I run a series of old posts but y’all have just been subjected to that because of Hurricane Dorian. I didn’t want to do it again so soon.

And I don’t like just posting fluff. I want to honor the time you take to read what I send out.

But this time I think I’m tapping out.

All my kids and my husband participated in Tae Kwon Do for years.

I watched a lot of sparring matches, demonstrations, testings and practices. James Michael eventually rose to the rank of Second Degree Black Belt and Dominic was the youngest ever (at eight years old) to test for First Degree Black Belt in their particular school.

There’s a safety protocol for sparring in Tae Kwon Do. Even though no one is supposed to be overly aggressive when sparring, sometimes it gets a little out of hand. So if your opponent crosses the line and is actually hurting you, you tap the mat indicating that they need to stop-RIGHT NOW-before harm is done.

I was oh, so grateful for that safety protocol when trying to keep my seat in the bleachers as my little guys were tossed around. I knew that if someone was really hurting them, they had a way out.

I should have learned it then, but I’m a slow learner.

Everyone needs a safety protocol.

Everyone needs a safe word or a safe space or a safe friend so that when things pile high or heavy or both, they can make it plain that IT HURTS!

I’ve managed to do the necessary today.

And like I’ve said before, the worst day of my life only lasted 24 hours.

Tomorrow is a new day, another sunrise, another chance for things to be a little easier, a little better, a little more bearable.

Thanks for listening.

Scripture Journal Challenge: Worn Out and Weary? Jesus Understands.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired.

Not just physically tired-although there are plenty of days when chores done in the Alabama sun beat my body down.

I’m soul weary.

My heart cries out, “No more! I can’t carry a single other burden! I’m buckling under the load!”

Jesus understands.

He knows that this world is a harsh place for tender hearts. He recognizes that other people heap heavy weights on already laboring souls. He understands that work and worry and even well-doing wear us to a nub.

And He offers a way of escape.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden andoverburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]


29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([d]relief and ease and refreshment and [e]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.


30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne. ~Jesus

Matthew 11: 28-30 AMPC

The Pharisees and Sadducees (religious leaders at the time Jesus walked the earth) had overloaded people with rules, rules, rules and obscured the truth of Who God is and what He really wanted from them. They focused solely on outward compliance with man-made additions to God’s law and blinded themselves to the inward attitudes that should be a hallmark of God’s people.

Like us, they wanted boxes to check off.

They wanted lists to maintain.

Above all, they wanted to measure themselves against a standard that made them look good, often at the expense of others.

More importantly, their holier-than-thou lifestyle made regular folks feel like they fell so far short and were so far from the heart of God they didn’t dare ask Him for help.

Jesus said, “Enough!”

He said, “I don’t despise your weakness. I don’t dismiss your pain. Let Me help you take that off and give you a perfectly fitted burden. Yoke your life to Mine and we’ll carry it together.”

The most caring teamster carved the wooden yoke that joined his two oxen precisely to fit their unique shape. He checked it often to see if it was causing pain and he made adjustments when necessary. He yoked well-suited animals one to the other so that the burden was distributed evenly.

Any ill-fitting addition to a creature being asked to do a job makes that job oh, so much more difficult. It wears sore spots and tender places. It guarantees that you won’t get full cooperation nor highest performance.

We have many burdens to bear in this life. Some are of our own making, some are thrust upon us by others. Some are just a function of the fact we live in a world tainted by sin.

Jesus promises that the burden He asks us to bear He will make bearable when we bring it to Him.

Are you weak and heavy laden?

Are you struggling under a load that threatens to undo you?

Have you yoked your life to Christ and asked Him to help you?

Come.

He’s waiting for you.

QUESTIONS:

  • There are all kinds of burdens in this life. What feels heavy to you right now?
  • Have you offered it to Jesus? Have you asked Him to help you bear it?
  • Is it hard for you to lean on Jesus? Why or why not?
  • Do you ever try to hide your weakness or weariness from others?
  • The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were focused more on rules and less on relationship. What’s your faith heritage? Have you been in churches where there was a strong focus on rules? How did that impact your understanding of God?

PRAYER:

Father God, I can be like the Pharisees and make up lists of rules I think I need to follow to gain Your approval or at least to make myself look good in the eyes of others.

That’s not helpful for me or anyone else. Give me courage to tear those up.

Teach me Your gentle ways, Jesus. Help me lean into Your love and to yoke my heart to yours.

Amen

Scripture Journal Challenge: When My Heart Needs a Reminder

This time last year I was on the front end of a very lonely, very frightening three and a half weeks.

Each morning began with a sixty minute drive in Los Angeles rush hour traffic toward the downtown courthouse. My husband and I parked and then walked through metal detectors and past guards down a long, long hall to the courtroom.

Every day was one more eight hour shift listening to lawyers, witnesses and a judge as the events of several years were laid out first by one side and then the other. Questions aimed to elicit unflattering responses hit my husband hard.

The opposing counsel even printed out a couple of my blog posts trying to frame both my husband and his family as intolerant fundamentalist evangelicals who certainly didn’t understand how things were done in the progressive West.

Our fate was in the hands of total strangers and the whole time I couldn’t utter a single word.

I was not allowed to nod my head, smile or frown or even cry when I watched my husband recount our son’s death and the toll it took on him as he returned to the workplace and tried to do routine tasks while being challenged repeatedly by a surly , vindictive and manipulative employee.

Trust me, no television courtroom drama can prepare a heart for the kind of stress, uncertainty, mental anguish and overwhelming fear that a real encounter with the justice system evokes.

Sitting alone (my husband was sitting with his attorneys) I could only spend time writing out scripture, taking notes and trying to guess how all this was impacting the twelve jurors sitting mere feet away. Only nine were required by California law to agree in order to reach a verdict which just added to the uncertainty.

I felt oh, so weary, scared and forgotten.

One of the scripture passages I wrote over and over was today’s verses.

27 Why, then, do you, Jacob, inheritors of God’s promise,

    you, Israel, chosen of God—

Why do you say, “My troubled path is hidden from the Eternal;

    God has lost all interest in My cause”?

28 Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?

    The Eternal, the Everlasting God,

The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary.

    His wisdom is beyond understanding.

29 God strengthens the weary

    and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care.

30 Young people will get tired;

    strapping young men will stumble and fall.

31 But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength.

    They will soar on wings as eagles.

They will run—never winded, never weary.

    They will walk—never tired, never faint.

Isaiah 40: 27-31 VOICE

The nation of Israel was feeling lonely and all alone.

Had God forgotten? Had He abandoned them? Didn’t He care they were at their wit’s end and the limit of endurance?

So Jehovah sends Israel an encouraging Word through Isaiah.

He begins with questions: “Why are you questioning Jehovah’s interest in your cause? Do you think after all we’ve been through He’s forgotten you now? Can anything be hidden from His sight?”

As I sat day after day after day, I had to remind my heart that no matter how it FELT, God was very near. We were not abandoned. Whatever went on in that room with no windows was not hidden from our Shepherd King.

The very next set of questions Isaiah poses is one of my all time favorite verses: “Hey Israel! Do you really not know that God is eternal, everlasting, all-knowing and all-powerful? Haven’t you heard He made the earth and everything in it? Do you imagine He ever gets tired, worn out, too stretched to intervene in the affairs of men? “

This trial wasn’t the first time in my life I needed to be reminded that nothing is hidden from the Lord’s sight. It wasn’t the first time I needed reassurance that God is never too tired or too distracted or somehow limited by my understanding of who He is to reach down and give me a boost.

In the five years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I’ve had days, weeks and even months when, in my despair and grief, I forgot the truth.

The whole passage comes to a dramatic conclusion that leaves Israel (and me!) with no room for doubt.

Hey-God breathed into Adam and made a living man from dust. Sure, you may be tired and worn out from circumstances or age, but He can breathe life and vigor back into you too. Young folks seem nearly invincible but even they have limits. You just wait (expectantly, in faith, certain that He will show up and keep His promises) on Him. The kind of energy Jehovah will give you won’t run out. You’ll be like an eagle soaring effortlessly on wind currents higher and higher and higher.”

I’m here to tell you that God keeps His promises. His Word is sure.

I look back on those three weeks and stand amazed that I didn’t fall over from exhaustion and stress about five or six days in because except for surviving my son’s death, it was the hardest thing I ever did.

It was absolutely, positively God’s strength and not my own.

QUESTIONS:

  • I know most of my readers are bereaved parents and probably share my testimony of days, weeks, months of utter exhaustion under the load of grief that child loss dumps on a heart. Can you identify a specific moment when you felt God’s strength poured into your spirit? Can you think of an event, holiday or date you just knew you couldn’t face but somehow managed to survive?
  • How can meditating on these verses help your heart hold onto hope?
  • What new insight does including verses 27-28 to this familiar passage give you?
  • Consider looking these verses up in at least three different translations/paraphrases and compare them. Does that help you understand them better? Why or why not?

PRAYER:

Father God, I want to always remember that You are so much more than I can ever imagine or comprehend. Too often I try to circumscribe You by my limited understanding of how you work in the world. But You are too big for any box I try to stuff You into.

When I forget, remind me. When I doubt, strengthen my faith. When I feel alone, make Your Presence undeniably real to me. When I am weary, breathe new life into my spirit.

Thank You for patiently, graciously, mercifully dealing with me. Thank You for your everlasting, faithful love. You are a good, good Father.

Amen

*If you want more details about what happened last year, you can find it here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/08/24/heres-the-post-ive-wanted-to-write-but-couldnt/