Monday, July 29, 2013

Two Years

The 29th. Again. Only now it's 2 years. We no longer attend GriefShare, but started going to Compassionate Friends. (Went through GriefShare 4X's and decided it was time to move forward to something else.) Both groups have been instrumental in providing the comfort we've needed. I thank God for providing them. I can't believe how many new friends we've made these last two years and all because of loss. Thankful, yet sad. Thankful we're not alone, yet sad others have lost as well. Bittersweet, indeed.

Dh has taken the day off of work. We are planning a bonfire later in the evening with our three closest friends; families who knew Matt best, all of whose oldest boys were his best friends. We'll throw some eggs as well. Still the best cheap therapy. :) We will also present the scholarship gifts collected for the BPA club. But what I really would like to do is crawl into bed and stay there until the 30th. *sigh* Guess that's not an option. God, however, knew that and has already provided. A dear friend, also a companion to grief through the loss of several children, is bringing us a couple pizzas for lunch. I cried with gratefulness. So humbled by His grace and provision.

Two Years in Heaven
(by Angie Cherney)

You've now been 2 years in Heaven,
and I wonder what it's like.
They say it's great,
but I can't forget that fateful date.

Two years in Heaven,
it seems like another life.
They say it's time to move on,
but the pain is far from gone.

Two years in Heaven,
and an ocean of tears.
My LORD says don't be afraid,
His strength won't fade.

Two years in Heaven,
How long will it be?
Grief continues to lurk,
yet faith must finish its work.

Two years in Heaven,
I need you to know.
I wasn't ready to say good-bye,
I didn't want you to die.

Two years in Heaven
is like eternity here.
But in the blink of an eye
God will let my spirit fly.

Two years in Heaven,
what will it be like
when we join you at last,
and this grief will be past?
*Poem may be reprinted with permission and changes made only to the number "two."*

Friday, July 26, 2013

If I Could See

I came across Amy Grant's song this week titled, "If I Could See(What the Angels See)" and found myself wondering, once again, why doesn't God give us a glimpse of Heaven? I think this is one of those things that, even if God explained it to us, is simply too far beyond our understanding. It's why He, instead, tells us to have faith. More and more, I am realizing how important faith is.

Of course, while I'm struggling with this, and the fact that it's only days away from Matt's two year homegoing date, I stumble across yet another song I remember Amy Grant singing. Of all things, it prefaces a Precept blog post.

God's name for the impossible moments in life.

Tell me that God isn't intimate with His children, and I'll tell you you don't know Him. God does a lot of things I don't understand, but I believe this: If God could be understood and explained, what kind of God would He be? Not much of one, I'd say. Lay down your need for understanding and put your trust in the only one true God. He loves you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.


Friday, July 19, 2013

The paradox of grief

I made reference to Tanya Chernov's book, "A Real Emotional Girl" in my last post. One of the lines she wrote really struck home with me. She was talking about how, after a loss, people will tell you that "it" (the grief, the pain) will get better. Only she discovered that it never really got better. It only got more familiar. When I read that, I nodded in agreement. To an extent, that's completely true. Living with grief gets awfully familiar. The physical pain, yes, subsides and lessens over time. But while it's not as physically painful, the sorrow remains just as deep.

As we drove away from the farm leaving the 4th of July weekend behind, I spent time reflecting. As I sat thinking, I had an unexpectedly profound moment. The thoughts that hit me were: "I have grieved all I can grieve. Every fiber of my being, every cell in my body, every molecule in me, has wept. I have held nothing back in my sorrow." I think there was then a turning point. A point where I "officially" stopped mourning. It wasn't a conscious decision to stop. It was, I feel, a moment when GOD, through the Holy Spirit, told me that it was done. My time of mourning was over.

Now that, most emphatically, does not mean that I don't (and will not) still grieve or won't still experience days and moments of grief. But the outward display of my sorrow is over. It doesn't mean I won't cry when I feel like it or no longer express my grief, but I have, in a sense, ceased rending my clothes and have gotten up from sitting in the ashes. It doesn't mean I no longer grieve, but that I am now standing and going forward.

Maybe that sounds strange to many, especially those who have seen me "functioning" for more than a year now. But functioning does not reveal an accurate picture of the heart. Anyone can go through the motions of existing. The outward wound can heal and even the scar can look pretty good, but only God sees the heart, the place where the real damage took place. Only He sees the healing, too, that's happened on the inside. The outside is but a poor reflection.

I guess I'm rather surprised, too, because I thought that "turning a corner" was going to look a little different, a little better than this. I mean, I knew that I wasn't going to get my son back, but I guess I thought healing was going to be "prettier." I was hoping the scar, the amputation, wasn't going to be as obvious. I had a misconception of what healing looked like. I've had to come to terms with reality. Embracing a life without my oldest child was something I fought fiercely. Figuring out what moving forward looks like while not negating my son or his life is the paradox of grief.

I believe I've finally come to accept that Matt is gone and he now lives, and is alive, in Heaven. I've concluded that I don't have to get over my son, but I do have to get over grief. I have to think of my son and not the loss of my son. I have to view the death of my child as one of the many chapters in the book of my life. It is a chapter that I wanted so desperately to leave out. But I didn't write this book. God did. He is the author. I am merely the words on the page. Because of that realization, I've decided I want those words to be light and hope. Light and hope for my family and for others who are walking this journey. I want to be able to say, "I am an overcomer."


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Grief at bay

I can honestly say it's been an o.k. week. We got back from the farm and had to jump into the week with both feet. Two of the kids celebrated birthdays on the same day this week, and we were in cake up to our noses! About the only family tradition we have is that I make the kids' birthday cakes from scratch. The awesome thing about this is that 1) I've gotten better at making them and 2) Artsy girl loves to express her creativity with baking and has learned to make fondant from scratch. She and I also took some Wilton cake decorating classes which helped. :)

We have two more birthdays in the next three weeks with the two year anniversary of Matt's homegoing sandwiched between them. Joy and grief, a broken record; the needle of sorrow stuck in the groove of loss. Thankfully, there is One who picks up the arm of the record player, moving it ever so slightly, with care and precision, and keeps the music going. Slowly, I am learning to listen for it.

The birthday cakes devoured and the guests gone, I decided to wind down with a book. In my BC days (Before Children), I used to inhale books, often reading a 500 page book in two days. (It's been a long time since doing that!) However, the busyness of the week compelled me to "check out" mentally. Rather than finding escape through food, I chose reading. :) I'd been to a writing conference back in April and had wanted to read a book titled, "A Real Emotional Girl" by Tanya Chernov ever since. (Ms. Chernov was one of the speakers/authors on the conference panel.) I knew it was a memoir on the loss of her father, and identifying with loss is what drew me to it. I picked up the book a few days ago and was transported back to my BC reading days almost immediately upon starting chapter one. I now have three chapters left to read. I haven't gotten anything else around the house done since I started reading. Let's just say, "Moderation in all things" is a very wise saying, indeed!

It's been a relief to not live in grief this week. It's all-consuming fingers have loosened their grip and there is a reason for it. I believe God has pried Grief's claws from around my heart by speaking a word to me this past week about grief. I'm still processing it all, but I hope to post sometime in the next few weeks about it.

And speaking of relief, another bit of refreshment has been in playing Mandisa's new song, "Overcomer." It's one of my absolute new favorites!   


Friday, July 5, 2013

When God doesn't give you what you want

We are spending 4th of July at the farm. It is incredibly bittersweet. My heart aches badly, and both Tim and I cried ourselves to sleep last night. Just two years ago, I watched as Matt sat at a table in the Courtenay Hall playing Bingo. Our family was so excited because he only had one spot left to cover for the “blackout” game and win $1,000. We all wanted him to win. (He didn't.)

We played Bingo again last night. I can't tell you how many thoughts went through my head as I sat there. And while I experienced joy in watching the kids play Bingo, the sorrow in my heart simmered thick and heavy. There is so much of grief that requires self-control, self-control of one's thoughts. So much strength to exercise in not letting your thoughts go to “What if” and “If only.” We didn't come last year because it was just too painful. (It's still painful, but in a different way.) The kids had fun last night, but I left exhausted.

Lying in bed, I found myself getting angry at God, asking Him, “Why? Why couldn't I have that 4th of July family picture from 2011?” “Why couldn't there be just ONE good picture of Matt from that weekend? God you knew he was going to be gone just 25 days later. Why wouldn't You give me that?” “Is that really asking too much, Lord?” I lay there thinking, questioning, wondering. I thought of Moses and how, because of just one act of disobedience and unbelief, he was denied entrance to the promised land. (Num. 20) It didn't seem fair. And my son's death, my firstborn, at the age of 16 doesn't seem fair.

Yet I know enough of God's Word to know that He is just, and I've learned that there's a difference between fair and just. Fairness is about being equal. Being just is about doing what is right. Knowing the difference helps me to see that God is not “picking” on me or my family. It's important for me to remember this because I need to know that the character of God, in whom I am putting all my trust, my faith, and my life, is good. I need to know that this hurt, this pain, this loss, is filtered through a Sovereign Being whose main motivation is love. I don't profess to understand to how He works. I just know that He purposes good and not evil for His children.

The loss of my son has, unquestionably, caused a change in my faith. I have questioned deeply what I believe, why I believe, and who I believe. As I said, I don't, by any means, profess to know how God works, but I've come to the conclusion that not all things need to be understood in order to be trusted. It's similar to the argument I've heard about the wind and how one can know that God is real. One can't see the wind, yet one can see the effects of the wind. A person can rightly conclude that the wind is real, though they can't see it. Likewise, one cannot see God, but one can know that He is. One also doesn't have to understand God in order to trust Him. However, it is of critical importance to know God's character. And how does one know His character? How can one trust someone they don't know? Only by getting to know them. And the way to know God is through His Word.

When God doesn't give you what you want what do you do? You either believe God or you don't. You choose to be bitter and angry at the Giver, or you choose to trust that His motive in the “No” is pure, holy, and just. You either have great faith or little faith. You either allow the trials and storms to uproot you, or you allow them to be the catalyst that propels your faith to take deeper root. Like it or not, God uses the sorrows in this earthly life to change us for the better and to draw us closer to Him.

Though losing a child makes no sense, I know that the principle of growth God gives in His creation holds true in loss. The strongest trees are those that have weathered the storms and developed deep, deep roots. Our nature is to take the easy way out, to gain the victory without running the race, to reap the reward without paying the price. We want beauty without scars. But Christ didn't take the easy way out. He was disfigured and scarred. He paid the ultimate price. He gave His life for us, for me. If God does absolutely nothing else for me in my life, His saving me is enough. God hasn't given me what I wanted. I don't have my son back. I don't have one last family photo. I don't have that last good picture of Matt. But I have faith. I have faith, hope, and love. I have a deep faith in the One and Only True God, hope in His Word and in eternity, and the love of Christ Jesus, my LORD, from which nothing can separate me.