Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sucked out to sea

In the midst of a wave. A big, grief-engulfing wave. A tidal wave. I know May 2nd is coming up, but I think I was a bit in denial until today. I think I figured that if I didn't actually count the days on the calendar, then I could deny what was coming. And then today I counted the days. Only six days until Matt's birthday. It would have been his 17th birthday. My baby's birthday, my firstborn. If he were here, I would have been asking him about now what kind of cake he would want. It is just SO hard sometimes to stay focused on eternity when you simply don't know when eternity is going to become reality, how long the wait will be or how far away that reality is. I want Jesus to return now. I want to know what Heaven is like. I want to see God face to face. I want to know that what I'm believing in is real. I want to meet Eve and slap her in the face. I want to know what God does with these endless tears. I want to know what it's like to communicate without any misunderstandings. I want grief to be over. I want this pain to go away. I want death to die! This waiting for Heaven has made me realize all the more how incredible the faith of Abraham was, how broken, disillusioned, and grieving Jesus' disciples were when He died, and how faith is a fight.

The book of Jude urges us to contend for the faith. The apostle Paul reminds us that it is a "good fight." Faith is not easy, but as 2 Tim. 1:12 says, "...for I know whom I have believed..." I just never imagined the death of my child would be the means to trying my faith. I also didn't expect the temptations that trials like this bring. Tonight, for a brief moment, I had the thought, "I just want to get rip-roaring drunk and fall into bed and never get up or wake up again." Yeah. Really. Honestly.

I realized tonight, too, though, that it's not just Matt's birthday that I am grieving. It's also our wedding anniversary coming up (on the 8th) and Mother's day. Now, for those who aren't grieving, all of these things are joyful celebrations. But for the bereaved, it is no longer. We don't "celebrate" in the sense that the word implies. Instead, we now remember and honor those special days.

I am incredibly thankful that I have Tim (and GriefShare). As we stood weeping in the kitchen tonight, clinging to one another, I couldn't help but think of the widows in our group. They don't have their spouse to cling to or to cry on, to weep together. Tim is truly the only other person, besides Christ, who absolutely understands what I'm going through. We have learned much about grief these past several months. I wanted to write more, but am exhausted. Will have to wait for another day. Swimming back to shore with God's help.

The truth

Got this powerful devotion today in an email forwarded by a friend. It's from the Yahoo group "Christian Fellowship Devotions."
Originally Published 2004-04-08 KEEP THEM

 John 17:11b Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are. (NAS) It is the night prior to Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus is facing a mockery of justice at an illegal trial, a beating that killed most men who suffered it, the humiliation and abuse of the Way of the Cross, and an ignominious death between two thieves. I am struck by two things: where His thoughts are and who those thoughts are focused upon.

 His thoughts are not of His pending trials or even of a road of escape. His escape is through the cross. Jesus eventually pleads with the Father that if there is another way that Jesus could take that alternate route. But He submits to the will of the Father and agrees that there is no other way to save mankind. But at this moment in time, the Master's thoughts are focused right here and right now. They are in the moment. He is taking care of the matters at hand, knowing that these other issues will come each to Him in the time prepared for that trial. Jesus is trusting the Father, even now, to keep this time to finish preparing the twelve disciples for what is about to come.

And Jesus' thoughts are on His disciples. Judas has left to betray the Lord. But even Judas is not out of Jesus' thoughts. As Jesus prays with the Father, the eleven are counted safe and the Son of Perdition is counted as lost to fulfill the scriptures. Jesus knows His time is very short. He turns His friends over to the Father asking, "... keep them in Thy name ...". His thoughts are for their well-being physically, emotionally and spiritually. They are all about to undergo the most severe trials of their lives. Their faith is about to be completely shattered at the death of the One they are rightly sure is the Christ, the Messiah. They have been told a number of times that death will not hold Him, but they can not understand. After three horrible days of doubt and despair, their faith will be rebuilt and restored. So for this moment, prepared in eternity past, Jesus prays for them. Not that the trials will pass them by. They are part of the plan as well. They have a purpose in shaping them for the job ahead. Jesus simply prays that they be kept secure and together during these trials.

Our ways are not His ways. That would be an understatement of epoch proportions. I'm sure my voice would have been with Peter when he said to Jesus far be it from Him to go to Jerusalem and be slain for the sins of the world. I'm willing to say that I would have been right there backing Peter, and waiting for Jesus to throw off the Roman yoke of oppression when Jesus' aim was far higher. Jesus' purpose for coming was to crush the power of sin and death, and to open the way to Heaven again so that we could live forever with God in fellowship. When God doesn't make sense just hold on tight. Know you are in good company with the eleven. In His time and in His mighty purpose, the Father is keeping you safe as he works out His plan.


Monday, April 23, 2012

My testimony

I was asked to speak at our Senior Adult Luncheon at church last Wednesday. I wrote the following and pretty much just read it verbatim. I broke down crying several times, but I wasn't the only one. Guess I should have put Kleenex boxes on all the tables.

Good Afternoon. My name is Angie Cherney. My husband and I have been members of Bethel for over 19yrs. We have seven children. Our oldest would be turning 17 on May 2nd if he were here. He died as a result of a car accident eight and a half months ago on July 29, 2011. The rest of the children are ages 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13.

I became a Christian about 20yrs. ago right here at Bethel through the invitation of the gospel presented by Pastor Dave. At the time, I was a college student and my life was a mess. I had moved to Mankato in the fall of 1989 because I was “in love” with a guy I had met over the summer. However, shortly after moving here, my relationship and my life fell apart. I was an incredibly insecure young woman. I was, as the song goes, “looking for love in all the wrong places.” I had grown up in a dysfunctional family. My father was an alcoholic, my parents divorced when I was in elementary school, and then my dad died when I was 12yrs. old. Although I grew up in a church, I did not know Jesus. I was taught that if I was a good girl and if I didn't commit any major sins, then I was probably going to get into heaven. But I had no assurance of that, and certainly no understanding of what real love was.

At age 23, I accepted Christ and finally had a peace in my heart that I had never known before. But the habits of my old life did not magically disappear after accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I, like all new Christians, had a lot to learn. Thankfully, God placed into my life a wonderful man named Tim who became my husband. Most importantly, he loved the Lord. I also met a dear woman who became my sister-in-Christ and mentor in life. She introduced me to Precepts bible study which, for me, would prove to be one of the most important decisions of my life, next to accepting Christ. Precepts took me deep into the Word of God and taught me that the way to know God, was to study His word.

My husband and I have been incredibly blessed the past 18yrs. Because of my sinful past, I was told by two different doctors that I would not be able to have children. But God, in His mercy, gave us seven amazing blessings. I grew in my relationship with the Lord, and my husband has grown in his. I learned that my sense of security and self worth comes from God, and that He is trustworthy, that He is who He says He is. Until the loss of our son eight months ago, I had what I thought was a strong, active faith. In fact, just the night before Matt died, I had told a friend, “God is my all in all.” Little did I know how my passive faith would, in a matter of hours, be moved to active.

As I look back to the day that Matt died, I will forever be thankful for God's word, for having hidden His word in my heart. Because, as I stood in St. Mary's hospital looking at my son's lifeless body, those precious words of God are what came into my mind and out of my mouth. I said as Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” I knew I had a choice. I could choose to become a bitter old woman because of this and turn from God, or I could choose to trust God and trust that He would somehow pick up the broken, shattered pieces of my heart and my life and that of my family's. I also knew from Job's response that I, too, needed to say, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD."

God immediately answered so many prayers and showed us in so many ways how close He was and how much He loved us. One of the things we struggled with was how it could have happened. Matt was such a cautious driver. In fact, we often chided him on being too careful. We just couldn't understand how he would have ended up in the wrong lane. Ultimately, God revealed to us how the accident happened. We knew that Matt had a Gator-aid bottle with him in the van as he was driving to work. Unfortunately, it was not in it's usual place in the cooler. In the rush of the morning and, at the last minute, the cooler had been tossed into the back of the van without Matt putting his lunch into it. It ended up that, as he went down a hill on Hwy 22, his Gator-aid bottle rolled under his feet and when he went to retrieve it, he took his eyes off the road and veered into oncoming traffic, colliding with a semi. He died while en route of the life flight helicopter to St. Mary's in Rochester. So, for us, it was a blessing to be able to know what happened, because God didn't have to tell us, but He did in our case.

The Lord also provided an amazing support system for us. Our church family, our neighbors, and our homeschooling community provided meals for us until mid-October. It was an incredible blessing. We received at least 8 offers of vehicles to use until we could purchase another van. Tim's work also told him to take off as much time as he needed. The entire cost of the funeral was paid for, as well. The children and Tim and I were able to go to Hearts of Hope, a grief camp, at the beginning of November, too, through the provision of Children's Grief Connection in partnership with Minnesota funeral homes. It was a helpful experience for all of us. We also set up a scholarship in Matt's name through the BPA club at East High School. Matt was incredibly gifted when it came to computers and he earned first place in PC Troubleshooting and Repair and fifth place in Java Programming through the Business Professionals of America's regional competition and was able to go to state. It was important for us to commemorate his achievements with a scholarship. The owner of FPX, where Tim works, gave a considerably generous donation of $10,000 towards the scholarship in Matt's name.

Our daughter Abby's 13th birthday was just two days after the funeral. It was incredibly conflicting, celebrating the life of one of my children while grieving the death of another. Grief and joy intermingled. It was also the week of FCA camp. (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) We had heeded the wise advice from Pastor Dave and kept whatever things were on the calendar for the sake of the children and trying to keep some sense of routine and normalcy for them. But it required us to drive through Waseca, which we were not looking forward to. It was while traveling through Waseca on the way to Rochester 6 days earlier when we received the news that Matt did not make it. God, however, ministered to us so intimately. Just as we arrived in Waseca on the way to FCA camp, Tim turned on the radio and the song playing was Matt Redmond's “You Never Let Go.” It was the same song we had chosen for Matt's funeral. It is a song that has ministered to us greatly.

God has continued to show us His presence in the midst of our suffering. So many people are covering us in prayer. There have been days where I contemplated how to end my life, even the lives of my family, because the pain of losing my son is so great. But I am convinced that the prayers offered up on our behalf are what sustains my family and I and keeps us going forward.

My sentiments are summed up perfectly by Isabel Fleece, in her book Not by Accident. The author says, “I am amazed that the human frame, frail as it is, can survive such a blast.” Yet, as I look at the wreckage that grief leaves behind, I am comforted in knowing that God's name is “Jehovah rapha,” the God who heals. Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 34:18 “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Deut. 31:8 “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Rev. 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” I have relied tremendously upon God's truth, both in scripture and in song. A friend gave me the devotional book Streams in the Desert, which has also been deeply comforting. I continually remind myself that circumstances do not dictate God's character. Matt's death was not a surprise to God. He had, as Psalm 139 says, ordained all of Matthew's days before one of them came to be. Now, I certainly wish they had been longer. Much longer. But God is sovereign and I must, as His child, trust Him.

I was involved in a bible study on the life of Daniel when Matt died. Talk about feeling like being thrown into the fiery furnace. But one thing I have learned is that God is with me in the fire. He didn't remove the fire, but He is there with me in it and will deliver me through it as he did Daniel. A quote from my Daniel study book says, “Oh, how Satan wants the people of God to think God has abandoned them!” I can think of no other situation where this would apply so well.

My Daniel bible study ended and in the fall I joined a Precepts study here at church. It was titled, “Wrestling with God,” followed by the study “Keeping Your Focus When Your Dreams Are Shattered.” I don't believe in coincidences. That was a God-cidence. The current study I am in is on Nehemiah and titled, “Rebuilding, Revival and Restoration of the People of God.”

Tim and I have also seen God's provision through GriefShare. GriefShare is a Christian support group for those who have experienced the death of a loved one. We have gained so much comfort and wisdom through GriefShare. We know that we are not alone in our loss. We know that grief cannot become our identity. We are reminded of the truth that this is not the rest of the story. God's story is a life, death, LIFE story. One of the most helpful things, for me, is to remember this. Matt is not dead. He is alive. He lives in heaven and is very much alive. This world is not our home. If grief has given me anything, it is that I now genuinely long for heaven. The words of the Apostle Paul have taken on new meaning to me. Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:1-9 “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

In the meantime, we are called to persevere and walk by faith, patiently enduring. Some days it's easier said than done. However, 1 Thessalonians 4:13 gives us hope, as well. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” Tim and I are eternally grateful for the hope we have in Christ. I have been burdened for others who are grieving. As a result, Tim has helped me set up an internet message board, a place where the bereaved can find hope and encouragement in their season of sorrow. I hope to have the website up and running at the end of July.

In closing, I'd like to leave you with the following poem:

 "O think!
 To step on shore,
And that shore heaven!
To take hold of a Hand,
And that God's hand!
To breathe a new air,
And feel it celestial air.
To feel invigorated,
And to know it immortality!
O think!
To pass from the storm and the tempest
To one unbroken calm!
To wake up,
And find it GLORY."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

If I could...

Matt - We're going to Trout Lake camp for your birthday. For already a week now I've been dreading May 2, and with each new day on the calendar it keeps getting closer. I am glad, though, that we have the trip to Trout Lake planned. I know you loved going there. The Mansfield's are also going to remember your birthday by doing all the things you liked to do. They're going to sleep in late, play LOTR (Lord of the Rings) online, drink a McDonald's Mocha Frappe, and then eat a bowl of cereal at 10:30pm. Sounds pretty good, huh? Maybe I should remind Max to be his usual antagonizing self, too, eh?! LOL He was about the only one who could get you to really laugh and crack a smile. At least more than a smirk, anyway. :) To think you'd be 17 years old. I wish I could have seen it and I wonder what kind of cake you would have liked and what you would have wanted for your birthday. Oh, how my heart hurts. Keeping my eyes on Jesus, Mateo. Hope your praying for us up there. Love you, Mom.

Speaking of birthdays...My birthday last Saturday was horribly painful, yet I can't explain why. I did not want to celebrate it. I wanted it to be just another day like any other, and for the most part, it was. I had asked my friends - those who knew and remembered the 14th - to please heed my wishes and not say anything and they respected that. It meant so much to me! I guess I should have given my extended family a warning as well, but I failed to communicate that to them. (If only I had remembered the GriefShare advice from lesson eight of the workbook about "checking your expectations." I needed to remember that those who comfort me aren't mind readers!) I regret that, but done is done. *sigh* Lesson learned.

Another GriefShare lesson I've learned is that it doesn't have to make sense. Grief is unique to each person, and no one grieves perfectly. Grief is messy. Dr. Larry Crabb states, "Be whoever you are. Your own pattern of grief will be your pattern of grief." For me, this means I just roll with it, or at least try to. I cry when I feel like crying. I don't fight it or try to hold it back. And most importantly, I don't stuff it. It also means being honest with God. Ultimately, I know that He is the only one who will understand, the only one who will never leave me nor forsake me, and the only one who truly accepts me for who I am, faults and all. I love what Max Lucado says: "God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way." Thanking God for that!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What ticks me off

The emotions of grief are many. Anger being one of them. It's one, however, that Dh and I haven't experienced much. But that doesn't mean I'm not angry. Let me explain.

Dh and I, almost immediately after finding out about the loss of our son, resolved to forgive. We knew there was no moving forward without forgiveness. So, for all these months, I haven't been angry at Matt. Sure, I wish with all my heart that he hadn't made such a stupid mistake, but I know it was an accident. Just a stupid accident. And I have forgiven him for reaching for that bottle of Gator-aid, for taking his eyes off the road.

What makes me angry, however, is death. I am angry that death exists. I am angry that death leaves a person in indescribable pain. I am angry that we have to live in a fallen world. I am angry at all the *crap* we have to deal with after the loss of a loved one. I am angry that I don't have any pictures of Matt from July. I am angry that grief changes things and changes relationships. I am angry that Matt didn't leave his passwords for all of his computer stuff. (Technically, he did. He left a file, but, of course, true to Matt, he put a password on that!) I am angry that parents don't have access to their minor child's accounts. I am angry at the double standards that exist...that while my 16yo. was old enough to drive, he wasn't old enough to be in the Dr.'s office by himself. (Yeah, like my 16yo. son wanted his mommy back in the exam room with him!) And while I am responsible for EVERY SINGLE BILL and EXPENSE for MY CHILD, I don't have the rights to their dental records once they turn 14. These kinds of things *tick* me off.

Yet I know in all of this that God is sovereign. Some day He will make all things right. Some day, there will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more tears. There will be no more sin or sickness. There will be a new earth. Some day, we will be in Heaven, where things will be perfect and glorious. Some day, it will be as it was intended. In the meantime, I trust God's sovereignty and will continue to pour out my heart to Him. Because He understands.  Matthew 26:38 "Then He *said to them, My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death;"

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

This is me feeling sorry for myself

Went back to the Dr. yesterday. Had TWO days where I felt physically fine. Two. Out of the last FOUR WEEKS. Can I just get a break? Apparently, the last Rx did not get rid of my sinus infection. :( So on to a stronger one. And, as if the sinus infection wasn't miserable enough, I've had a tingling sensation down my entire left leg for a week and a half. Thankfully at least, the bursitis in my right hip hasn't been acting up, for once! I got a few x-rays of my back taken and a possible appointment for an MRI coming up, depending on what the x-rays show. *sigh* I am so mentally and physically exhausted. I am discouraged. I do not make a good sick patient. I am crabby and just want a break from life. So, yeah, this is me feeling sorry for myself. But, hey, lest I sound utterly, hopelessly negative, I will say that I am thankful for the smell of lilacs! :) That...and the minute of pure quiet right now as none of the kids are up yet! Help me, God, through this day.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Just glad it's over. Felt all day as if both Dh and I were just gritting our teeth, bearing through the day. Just painful. That's all there is to it. I felt much like I was putting on an act because, for everyone, today was a day of celebration and rejoicing. And it is. I am rejoicing over the resurrection of Christ, but deeply grieving our loss. I don't know how to explain it. It's just so hard on days like these when you go to church and see all of the other families complete and whole and happy. I just constantly try to remind myself of the truth...that without the resurrection of Jesus, then Matt, nor any of us, would have eternal life. I have to remember that Jesus is alive, and because He lives, so does Matt. My son IS alive and I will see him again. And I will see Jesus. I will see the Father, my heavenly Father, who loves me so much, who binds up my wounds, meets my needs, strengthens my faith, and isn't threatened by my doubts or fears, but invites me to come to Him with them.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday. Heavy heart. Though we had a wonderful time with friends over and celebrated Maundy Thursday with a Passover meal, never once, not for one second, did I forget that Matt wasn't there. I was appreciative, however, that our friends brought plain cake with powdered sugar on top for dessert. It was Matt's favorite.

I often wonder, too, what Matt's friends think when they come over to visit. It's a curious situation, as Tim's and my best friends are also the parents of Matt's two best friends. All three of our boys have known each other since infancy, and all of us have been at Bethel (church) for over 18 years. Matt, Josh, and Luke were known as "The Three Amigos." :) *sigh* Such memories.

Yet I am thankful for the sacrifice of Christ. He knew what was coming, but was "obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:8) so that we might live forever with Him. When grief attempts to pull me under, I try to "take captive every thought" (2 Cor. 10:5)  and focus, instead, on eternity, to look up.

I continue to find great encouragement from the Streams in the Desert devotional. The following excerpt is from April 2, "Do Not Yield to Discouragement:"

"Keep looking up--
The waves that roar around thy feet,
Jehovah-Jireh will defeat
When looking up.

"Keep looking up--
Though darkness seems to wrap thy soul;
The Light of Light shall fill thy soul
When looking up.

"Keep looking up--
When worn, distracted with the fight;
Your Captain gives you conquering might
When you look up."

(End of excerpt)

Oh, hasten the day, Lord. Hasten the day.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

For the moment

For the moment, this moment, I can say I'm o.k. I don't know when the next wave of grief will hit, but for this moment, I'm not out to sea. I am learning to really appreciate the good moments, and try to roll with the bad. Thinking I would never say, "I'm o.k." again and actually saying it, surprises the heck out of me. In fact, it's a miracle, if you ask me. Even if it's more of a knee-jerk response, I still never would have thought I could say it again. It's kinda funny, though, because the few times I've answered, "I'm o.k.", in my head, however, I am adding, "For this moment, anyway."

It's been a rough several weeks. Once again, I am back on antibiotics. Three weeks ago, I had trouble with allergies, which, in itself, is unbelievable, because I haven't had problems with them in over 25 years!!! (I suffered horribly with allergies when I lived in TN.) All thanks to Old Man Winter for being absent this year, my allergies not only returned, but took a turn for the worse and developed into a bronchial infection. So, after three miserable weeks, I now have a round of antibiotics, prednisone, and Diflucan. Lovely. To add to the health issues, Sweet Stuff also has strep throat for the fourth time. *sigh*

Many times, due to all the sickness we've had the past 8 months, I catch myself sarcastically thinking, "Thanks a lot, Matt." Yet I know it's really not his fault. The truth is, it's death's fault...and death entered through sin. Sin, and therefore sickness, entered the world a long time ago, and unfortunately, because of that, the loss of a loved one doesn't just affect us emotionally, but physically as well. Grief throws such a punch to the body and it's immune system. It's very humbling. For someone who really abhors taking synthetic drugs/medicine, I'm incredibly thankful for them right now.

But for all the illness lately, there have been good moments, though bittersweet. Mr. Monkey and Drama boy both had birthdays this past week. Unfortunately, the stupid camera or SD card wouldn't work, however, so I have no pictures of them on their special day. :(  Those moments are gone, just like that, not to be gotten back. Makes me very sad. I did, however, manage to get pictures of their cake. Not sure why those ended up being read by the SD card/camera, but I guess beggars can't be choosy. I uploaded the photos of the cake to the photo album link.

In other "good" news, I got an iPad! It's quite fun. I checked out a Karen Kingsbury e-book this afternoon from the library, so I'm excited to read it. Not exactly sure how I'm going to actually find the time to do that, but the idea is simply lovely! :)

Anyway - for the moment, I am relieved that the waves of grief are slowing down. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bittersweet things

Dh and I finished drawing up the BPA Scholarship Application papers in Matt's name. The first $1,000 scholarship will be awarded in May. Such mixed emotions of grief and thankfulness. Grief because this scholarship wouldn't exist if my son hadn't died, yet so incredibly thankful that over $10,000 has been given in honor of our son and his memory. *sigh* So very hard.

We also finalized the set up of a Christian message board for those grieving the loss of a loved one. will be launched officially July 29. In the meantime, it will be "unofficially" open via word of mouth so that we can work out any programming bugs or issues before the official launch and get feedback on anything that might need tweaking. Again, bittersweet. Programming the whole website would have been totally up Matt's alley. Yet the only reason the board exists is because Matt died.