Monday, October 29, 2012

I want my life back

Having a public blog is risky not only in terms of privacy, but in terms of vulnerability. I debated for more than a week about posting this particular entry. For whatever reason, I don't like it. I'm not comfortable with it. I don't like revealing this part of me. But this is real. This is grief. And it is what it is. Last week was a struggle, revisiting anger. Yet I knew I was doing exactly what the GriefShare daily email (Day 76) said. I was putting all my energy into my anger to avoid a torrent of tears.  I wrote the following paragraph when I was angry.

I want my life back. The one before my son died. I want my health back. I don't want this new "normal." I hate that word. Normal. There's nothing normal about the death of your child. I'm mad and I'm sick of being in pain all day every day. I'm ticked off because I can count on one hand how many times I've had a decent night's sleep in the past 15 months. I'm sick of having to push memories of Matt out of my mind in order to function and "carry on" with life. I'm angry that I can't look at his pictures because it's too painful. I'm angry that hardly anyone talks about my son or shares a memory of him with us. I'm angry that the rest of my children have to grow up without their brother. I'm angry that yet another month has gone by. I hate that my son is a part of my past. I hate that there's not a damn thing I can do about it. Grief really, really sucks and being angry is a really crummy place to be.

Anger takes a lot of energy. Energy isn't something I have an abundance of, however. The moments (or days) in which my grief and sorrow are transposed with anger are hard days. I mentally beat upon God's chest, falling back into asking why, but eventually collapsing into His arms in tears and exhaustion. The very person I direct my anger at is also the only person who can bring me comfort, healing, and truth. "Whom have I in heaven but you?"(Psalm 73:25) Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?(Psalm 139:7) I don't (and never will this side of Heaven) understand God's ways. BUT. But thanks be to God, I don't have to. Because GOD is GOD. He is good. He is love. He is righteous. He is just. He is who He says He is. I will trust in Him and lean not on my own understanding.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding."

(Prov. 3:5) 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I didn't see that one coming

Got knocked over by a wave of grief last week. Wasn't pretty. I was just standing there looking at the beautiful sky one instant and the next I'm picking myself up, coughing and spitting out sea water. This grief thing still sucks. It may be easier to function and carry on with routine, but an undercurrent can pull your feet out from under you without warning at any given second. There is simply no rhyme or reason and no preparing for those moments.

David, our exchange student, came home from school last week and announced that he would like to go through the graduation ceremony for the seniors. Wham. Tidal wave. Woman down.

While he doesn't officially get a diploma from the high school, he can participate in the ceremony, order a cap and gown, and buy a class ring if he so desires. I got the wind knocked right out of me. I so didn't see that one coming. We had been told before even getting the approval to host an exchange student that they wouldn't be allowed to graduate here in the U.S., so it never occured to us that he would want to participate.

And now I am utterly torn. One part of me can't fathom going through the whole graduation thing because it's supposed to be my son doing all these things this year. It's supposed to be Matt. But it's not. And it never will be. It's the ugly, horrible reality. Another part of me, however, can't imagine not being there for David. He has become like a son to us in just these few short weeks. I don't want him to be all alone as he experiences the thrill of such a memorable American custom. I want to be there for him, to show him our support and share in his excitement. Oh, God, how do I do this? How do I get through this?

I think I know the answer, though. It's by leaning hard on God, doing the tough things, but always, always remembering that this world is not our home. This is not where we belong. And most importantly, remembering that my son IS alive. He is alive in Heaven where, someday, we will be reunited.  

“Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Martha, do you believe this?” 
(John 11:26)

I am, in many ways, much like Martha. Always doing, always thinking that the things of this world are so important. Always looking at what others are or aren't doing. But the truth is, staying focused on Jesus is really the only way I'm ever going to get through this. It's the only way I will find the perseverence, the strength, and the faith to continue until I am finally home. Home in Heaven where God intended all along. Home where His plan is finally fulfilled, completed and perfect.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Mark Schultz--Anita Renfroe concert

I had the opportunity to attend a Mark Schultz--Anita Renfroe concert last night, and it was great. I was bummed when I realized I forgot my camera, but then thought, "Hey. They're Christians. I'll see them in Heaven and talk to them forever." Seriously. I thought that. It's just one way the death of my child has changed my thinking. It's not always a bad thing to change your thinking! Do what you gotta do here, but keep it on eternity, baby. Remember, this is not where we belong.

I think it's somewhat similar to a runner's mentality. Their mind is always focused on the goal. The route they run matters, but their feet are always headed toward the finish line. I have no idea why I used a runner's analogy, either, because I do not run. Ever. In fact, I avoid anything that could possibly result in perspiration. But it works. Run with it. (Sorry. Couldn't resist the pun.)

I'm working at finding purpose and not running aimlessly. I'm realizing that the course I run matters. It is all about getting to the finish line, but the race you run before you get there matters. Since Matt died, I've been wondering what's the point and what does it matter? The LORD's been showing me that it does matter. If you don't stay focused on the goal, you'll run off course. God wants us to finish the race and finish it well. If you don't run well, the finish isn't satisfying. Who doesn't want to be satisfied????

I'm keeping my eyes on the goal, but learning to look at the path ahead of me, watching out for hazards along the way. I'm remembering that, while the goal is what I'm aiming for, the race from start to finish has some redeeming qualities as well. But only if I look for them. Only if I turn my head every so often and look for the beauty along the way. I want to get to the end and be satisfied.

"...Run in such a way as to get the not run 
like a man running aimlessly; not fight like a man beating the air."

 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
(2 Tim. 4:7)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

When Will My Life Not Suck?

I'm reading the book by Ramon Presson titled, "When Will My Life Not Suck?" with the subtitle "Authentic Hope for the Disillusioned." I am only on the introduction and already blown away! I mentioned the book in a previous post and was sweetly surprised and blessed when a generous and thoughtful friend asked if she could get it for me. I have no doubt the LORD has some things to say to me through this book.

I guess you could say I've been in a "funk" lately. As if grief doesn't mess with you enough, I also know that the physical pain from this herniated disk contributes to my thought processes and frame of mind. And not in a good way, I might add.

While reading page two of the introduction to Presson's book, I nodded in agreement with several paragraphs. If the introduction is any indication of how the rest of the book is going to be, it's going to be great. The author is funny, candid, and profound, as well as God-centered.

I identify with Presson when he says:

"But life often feels more like a roller-coaster ride--slow climbs, sudden falls, jerky turns, and someone else in control of the whole brain-jarring romp. When my life feels like a roller-coaster ride, I want to get off. I want to know, along with countless others, when is this going to be over? When will my life not suck? 
But it is into the very middle of our twisting, turning, roller-coaster lives that God comes. It is into the ecstasies and agonies of our story that the Bible speaks. The apostle Paul said that if we only have hope for this life, with no legitimate hope of heaven, we are to be exceedingly pitied. But I believe that the converse is also true--if the only hope we have is the afterlife, then we get close to Camus's assertion that the only question man must concern himself with is whether or not to commit suicide. If the only meaning and purpose is to be found through the portal of death, then why even bother with life?"

Wow. How did he know the debate going on in my head for the past several weeks??? For sure, the loss of a loved one leaves you with more questions than answers. Having additional physical pain factored into the equation of grief has left me questioning more along the line of Camus' assertion...and coming up likewise with the wrong answer. 

I know enough of God's truth to know that He isn't all about our happiness. But He doesn't take pleasure in seeing us miserable, either. He's all about our holiness. He desires, as His Word says, that we have an abundant life, a life that transforms more and more into His image. Satan would like nothing more than to see a believer reflect poorly of God. If he can't get us to doubt God or believe lies, then he will aim next at crippling us, seeking to make us powerless and ineffective.

I almost fell for it, too. Only God spoke. On page two. When will my life not suck? I don't know, but the author has already pounded a stake in the ground with an arrow pointing in the right direction. I'm following the way to hope, taking comfort in knowing there are others who've made it through.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Streams in the Desert Devotional poems

The following poem is from the Oct. 6 entry. Such a good reminder to remember Christ when tempted by grief in thinking you're alone in suffering.

"Before you" He trod all the path of woe,
He took the sharp thrusts with His head bent low.
He knew deepest sorrow and pain and grief,
He knew long endurance without relief,
He took all the bitter from death's deep cup,
He kept not a blood-drop but gave all up.
"Before you" and for you, He won the fight
To bring you to glory and realms of light.

This one is from the Oct. 7 entry. Another good reminder when grief weary that there is hope, there is an end.

"Hold on, my heart, in thy believing--
The steadfast only wins the crown;
He who, when stormy winds are heaving,
Parts with its anchor, shall go down;
But he who Jesus holds through all,
Shall stand, though Heaven and earth should fall.

"Hold out! There comes an end to sorrow;
Hope from the dust shall conquering rise;
The storm foretells a summer's morrow;
The Cross points on to Paradise;
The Father reigneth! cease all doubt;
Hold on, my heart, hold on, hold out."

Sunday, October 7, 2012


It's been a hard weekend. David, our exchange student, brought home an envelope from school on Friday addressed to "Seniors and Parents/Guardians of Seniors." I opened it up, glancing at the enclosed information about measuring for graduation caps and gowns, graduation photos, and yearbooks. Thus began a downward spiral for the rest of the weekend. Grief still sucks.

The reminders of what would (I want to say should) have been are far less in frequency, but just as painful as ever. I know that sleeplessness and dealing with this herniated disk/back pain only compound the emotions. In some ways I feel trapped by grief, like being stuck in the middle of an intersection. I know I have to move forward, yet I don't want to leave my son behind.

I think of him every single day, and I have recovered enough to regain routine and daily living. However, I've discovered that I only seem to do that best when I don't look at Matt's things or pictures. But what horrible, horrendous guilt I have in doing that!

Most of Matt's things are put away, but the cold weather this weekend brought out the boxes of winter clothes, which means seeing Matt's younger brother wearing his hand-me-downs. It is so very bittersweet. And while it is difficult for me to see, I know that his younger brother loves wearing Matt's stuff because it makes him feel close to his big brother. I certainly am not going to deny him that. It brings me comfort knowing that his siblings are thinking of him.

I wish there were other mothers to talk to about all this because I don't know if what I'm feeling and thinking is normal or not. I question if maybe it's because our loss is so fresh, and I wonder, hoping that it won't always be like this.

I am glad the weekend is over. It's time to get out of the intersection. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

God's grace

I continue to receive the GriefShare daily emails and find them still to be helpful, for the most part. It is different reading them now, however. The pain isn't like it was 14 months ago. The grief is most certainly still there, but it has changed in form. I'd say it's sort of like looking through different eyeglass lenses. The landscape of loss and life appear radically different than a year ago when reading the devotions through the thick haze of excruciating pain.

I have seen, and experienced, an abundance of God's grace this last year. I look back and literally shake my head when I think of how we have survived such a devastating loss and I don't at all doubt that God gives grace. But. But I struggle. I struggle (read that as "argue") with certain statements. Statements like Romans 5:3 that say "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance..." Really? I have to be honest and say that I don't glory in my sufferings. And I certainly would disagree and say that I have had enough perseverance, thank you very much. 

I have been dealing with sciatic nerve pain due to a herniated disk in my lower back since April. While back pain may seem unrelated to grief, it is similar in many ways. Daily, incessant physical pain is not something one ever quite forgets. One might be able to "put it aside" for a brief time and actually function to some degree, but the pain is always there, unpredictable in when it will return or flare up, much like the ambush of emotional pain related to grief. The temptation to kill physical pain is no different than the temptation to kill emotional pain, either.

So here I sit, blogging at 1:00am, tired and in pain with an ice pack placed strategically between the computer chair and my back. Ibuprofen is not an option because a cortisone shot is scheduled for early afternoon. But this lack of sleep leaves me wondering, "Where is God's grace?" I need sleep. I need relief. Is this herniated disk really producing perseverance? How can the death of my son "work together for good?" (Again, Romans) I don't get it. I don't understand suffering.

As I sat down at the computer with the ice pack, I checked my email, which is when I came across the GriefShare devotion from Day 49. The devotions always end with different resources highlighted at the end of them. What caught my eye was the title of the recommended book from the GriefShare HelpCenter. It was a book titled, "When Will My Life Not Suck? Authentic Hope for the Disillusioned." 

Obviously, that's a title a person in pain is intrigued by! I pulled up another browser for Amazon's website and typed in the title. I was hoping to find a "click to look inside" tab. I wasn't disappointed. I read all of the pages it would allow one to read and I now have yet another book on the wishlist. The author writes well and honestly. He makes reference to the Apostle Paul, and Paul's candidness about his struggles. I can identify. If there is one thing about this grief journey, and about my life, that I want people to know, it's that believers' lives are not about being perfect. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. It is all about God's grace, God's forgiveness, His character, and the completed work of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross. Through those things, we are being perfected.

I strive to blog truthfully, acknowledging that I fall daily into sin, but knowing all the while that my GOD loves me, forgives me, and is always extending grace. I may not feel it, but I can rest in knowing it.