Thursday, December 25, 2014

Dear Matt,

Dear Matt,
It's Christmas. My grief moms group hasn't met in a couple of weeks. The busyness of the holidays has kept us apart, and we are all struggling. Thank God for the internet and FB chats! We talked yesterday about wanting to crawl under the covers and sleep until the new year, or go away somewhere, anywhere. The holidays are, undeniably, a time for family. But for us, they have become painful reminders that our families are not complete. Nonetheless, we treasure the joy of the season, for we know the truth, that Christ's birth is the reason we can truly celebrate. There is joy in that.

We talked about heaven, which we often do, wondering what it's like. We envisioned the excitement, joy, and laughter that must surely be present. We pictured our kids in the company of angels, having parties, and hanging out with other loved ones. We talked of what our kids would be saying, telling us to "Get it together." and "It's all good." We talked about hope, truth, and joy. We mentioned you all by name: Matt, Dustin, Kaylie, Tyler, Declan, Sloan, Craig, and Trevor. We cherished seeing your names in writing and the freedom and validation in mentioning them.

We don't talk about the "What ifs" or the "If onlys," because we've learned that they aren't productive. They only serve to send us spiraling down, and we've worked so, so hard to fly! We want so much to make our kids proud of us. We remind ourselves often of how short this life is. Not because we don't know how short it is (for our children's deaths certainly did that), but because we struggle with how long life appears when we look ahead to it without our kids. We reassure one another that this short life will soon transform into a glorious reunion.

In the meantime, we treasure what we have. We count our blessings. We cultivate thankfulness and choose joy. We appreciate the little things. We cherish our families. We cling to God's grace. We make new memories, and we savor the ones we were blessed to have. We cry. We laugh. We wish we could have a snapshot of our "angels" together, but then we realize that we don't need one...because we get to spend eternity together, never to be separated again by death, for "there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain..." (Rev. 21:4)

I miss you, Matt. I wish you were here. I will always wish you were here...until I am there. 
Love, mom

P.S. - I hope you like your tree. :)


Friday, December 19, 2014

Candle Lighting

This past Sunday, we attended The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting ceremony. It's held annually on the 2nd Sunday in December from 7-8pm.

Needless to say, it's an emotional experience. I found myself staring in awe at the large number of candles lit around the room. Sad, and yet comforting. Comforting in knowing we are not alone, yet sad because there are others experiencing the same kind of loss. It is a reluctant camaraderie, but one that binds us together in hope and community.

Our particular group met before the 7pm lighting to share in a potluck meal. It's been a wonderful time to meet. There are no pretenses as to why we're there, and there's no expectation to be cheerful. It's okay to just be. To be cheerful if we feel like it or to cry if we feel like it. It's a recognition that the holidays are tough because someone we love, our child, is missing. It's the acknowledgement that no matter how many years have gone by since the loss of our child(ren), there will forever remain an empty spot in the family.

We lit our candles and spoke our children's names. There is nothing more precious, or comforting, than speaking their name. Several in our group also recently ordered stones with each of our children's names on them, and they were amazing to see and hold during the service. We began the service by lighting five specific candles. Our chapter leader lit the candles and read the following: (written by Darcie D Sims and Sherry L Williams)

As we light these five candles in honor of our loved ones,
We light one for our grief,
one for our courage,
one for our memories,
one for our love,
and one for our hope.
This candle represents our grief.
The pain of losing you is intense.
It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.
This candle represents our courage;
To confront our sorrow,
To comfort each other, and
To change our lives.
This candle is in your memory.
Remembering the times we laughed, the times we cried.
The times we were angry with each other.
The silly things you did, and
The caring and joy you gave us.
This candle is the light of love.
As we enter this holiday season, day by day we cherish
the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved
for you. We thank you for the gift your living brought to each of us.
This candle is the light of hope.
It reminds us of love and memories of you that are ours forever.
May the glow of the flame be our source of hopefulness now and forever.
We love you.

I loved the idea of lighting five candles, one each for our grief, courage, memories, love, and hope. However, I have to take difference at the glow of the flame being our source of hopefulness. For the Christian, the source of our hope is Jesus Christ. The hope of eternity, found only in Jesus, is what gives me the strength, comfort, and courage to continue this earthly life until my life is done. 

Our candles lit, we watched a slide show of our loved ones as soothing music accompanied their precious photos. We shared poems, memories, and tips for getting through the holidays. The hour passed quickly for the remembrance of our beloved children, and it was time to blow out our candles. It seems like such a simple thing, to blow out a candle. But it can be painful, as it feels as yet another ending, another good-bye. Thankfully, I had just read a Compassionate Friends leadership post on Facebook that spoke of ending the service and the mixed emotions that can accompany blowing out the candles. It was endearing to me, and I shared it with those in attendance. It said, "Remember that we are not extinguishing their flame, we are pushing their light and their love into the world." 

I found this statement to be quite comforting, and it gave me the strength I needed to blow out my candle. There were many tears, many hugs, and much hope at the end of the service. We gathered around in a circle and took turns bidding good-night to our kids. For whatever reason, I hate saying goodnight to Matt, so I always end by saying, "I love you, Matt. See you later."

As we drove home, I was thankful for the support and compassion of The Compassionate Friends group. It has been said that the time with our children, no matter their age at their death, would never have been enough for us, but yet we can be thankful for "the little while." With tears running down my face on the drive home, I was able to say, "Thanks for the little while." 

Finally, as I stated earlier, there is nothing more comforting for bereaved parents than hearing their child(ren)'s name(s). If you didn't participate in the candle lighting ceremony around the world, just know that you can light a candle any time, any where in memory of their precious child(ren). If you do, would you please let that parent know? It would make their day, I'm sure of it.

Friday, December 12, 2014

There's no pain killer for grief

 I wish there was a pill to take for the pain of grief when I am ambushed by those aching, bone-deep moments of missing Matt. Those moments come like a thief, unexpected and unwanted, breaking and entering into my heart. I miss my son, and the missing is made more intense with the holiday season. 

Matt's siblings wanted to get out the Christmas decorations last week. As long as I didn't have to do it, it was fine by me. (I've never been into decorating, regardless.) We put up a small, artificial tree that we call Matt's tree, in addition to our regular live tree. Last year, we decorated "Matt's tree" with Christmas ball ornaments in his favorite color of blue, along with origami birds and blue ribbon. (Blue was his favorite color, and he liked to do origami when he was younger, about pre-teen age.)

This year, I decided to decorate his tree in a Green Bay Packer theme. (Thanks to a Facebook friend for the idea!) I went shopping in search of green and/or yellow ornaments and garland. Driving to the store, I shut the radio off after trying three different stations. (All were playing what I call "jacked-up" Christmas songs.) I was surprised to realize, however, that I actually didn't mind them this year. It just depends on which ones are playing and how "upbeat" (or "jacked-up") they are. Last year, they were unbearable. 

However, no sooner did I step into the doors of the retail store when the sound of, you guessed it, Christmas music blared from the speakers. There's just no getting around it if you're out and about during December. It wasn't long into the shopping trip, either, before grief ambushed. It just seemed everywhere I looked the message on every shelf and aisle was "family." And here I was shopping for ornaments for my son who died, who is no longer here. It just sunk me into a pit, and I left the store empty-handed, heart bleeding. I cried all the way home.

I slept horribly that night, and the next morning dawned dreary and rainy. I ached for Matt, to hear his voice, to watch him interact with his brothers and sisters. I miss cutting his hair and buying him shoes, both things which I did this past week with his siblings. I tried to throw off the heavy cloak of sorrow, to swallow the lump in my throat, hoping to shove the ache out of my heart. Instead, I yelled at the kids all morning. I wondered, "Why isn't there a pill for this horrendous pain?" 

Lunch came and the kids had corn dogs. I listened to the conversation around the table and heard the kids asking who wanted the "crunchy" part. The crunchy part. The kids used to fight over who got the empty sticks because the crunchy part was what was left on the stick after they ate the corn dog. Matt loved the crunchy part. It was his favorite. I heard Matt's sister eating her "crunchies," and I started to cry. I just wanted him there. Ambushed by a corn dog. Heart ripped open. Wondered why I just couldn't call it a day. Death sucks. Grief sucks, and there is no pain killer for grief.

After lunch, however, I talked to one of the women in my grief mom's group. (I will forever be grateful for these women!) She shared that when she's struggling, God often reminds her to keep her eyes on Him, that He doesn't tell us to forget our kids or shame us, but says, "Look to me." What a word of encouragement and truth. I needed to hear that, for I had taken my eyes off of Him. I saw, like Peter, the circumstances around me and doubted. (Matthew 14:28-31) I saw the countless Christmas's, birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions ahead without Matt and began to doubt that I could get through them. I feared for Matt's sister, who still struggles with anxiety and appears so broken at times, that she would ever be whole again. I doubted God's goodness, that He would allow such brokenness.

But God. God, in His precious Word to us, whispers like the tender, compassionate, and loving father that He is, reassurance and grace. His word came to me, once again, through the words of Ann Voskamp. I bought "The Greatest Gift" this last week and began to read the daily Advent readings. The December 1st reading highlighted Isaiah 11:1-2 and verse 10. Verse 1 says, "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit."(NAS) The first paragraph of the day's reading continued with the following: 

The mattering part is never what isn't. The mattering part is never the chopped-off stump. It isn't what dream has been cut down, what hope has been cut off, what part of the heart has been cut out. The tender mattering part is --- you have a Tree....

I finished the reading weeping. They are powerful words for a hurting heart. Words that identified with a heart that felt cut out, cut off, and cut down. A heart that very much resembled a chopped-off stump. God knew our hearts here on this earth would be broken, wounded, and hurting. So He provided what mattered. A Savior. One who would weep with us. One who would ultimately die for us. My hurting heart was humbled. And it was hopeful. Hopeful because I have a shoot to hang on to. A shoot that sprang from a seemingly dead stump. That shoot is the salve I need for the pain of my grief.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Today, I laughed with friends, and I cried with sorrow because our son wasn't here to share it with us. But, in everything, I will give thanks. Because "the joy of the LORD" is my strength, I made it through today. (Neh.8:10) So thankful for God's word spoken through people like Kay Arthur:

Praying a gentle Thanksgiving to those whose hearts ache with the pain of missing precious loved ones, who sat with grateful hearts at their table today with an empty chair. May you know God's comfort, peace, and love.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A book give-away!

***I received an email from Rafflecopter saying they had "issues" for a few days during the give-away. Therefore, I will be giving the book to whomever contacts me first. Thanks for understanding!***

The holiday season is upon us, and the retail world would like all to believe that if they just had that "one" thing, their life would be so much better, so much easier, so much more perfect. But those who grieve know better. They know that it isn't about "stuff." They may fail to see joy, or even find one thing for which to be thankful during this season. It's one of the reasons why I wanted to do a book give-away. I hope that giving away this particular book will be a blessing and a comfort to whomever receives it.

Enter a chance to win via Rafflecopter: 

Rafflecopter book giveaway

Friday, November 14, 2014

When you see the tide coming in

It's begun. The tide is coming in, and I can't out-run it. It began a few weeks ago already when several people innocently asked, "What are you doing for Thanksgiving?" Thanksgiving? I hadn't even thought of it. I was blissfully unaware. It hadn't even been on my radar. And I liked it that way. I was happy. But with one word, Thanksgiving, I turned and saw the tide coming in.

Oh, what a drop in my spirit there was with the reminder of the holidays. The holidays. Where I just want to crawl into bed, pull the covers up over my head and sleep until Jan. 2nd. If only I could. And I am not the only one who feels this way. It has helped me tremendously to talk to others who have "been there, done that." Others who are doing this grief thing right alongside us. They have given precious validation that is needed by all who grieve, regardless of how long they've been on the journey.

The thought of the impending holidays sucked me out into the tide. I spent several days flailing in a deep sea of grief until a dear friend candidly reminded me that my poor attitude was because I was looking ahead, going where I didn't need to go. She spoke the truth, that I needed to look only at today, not at the end of the month, and certainly not at next month. I couldn't see God's grace for the moment because I wasn't looking at or staying in the moment.

Thanks to the wisdom we've gleaned from GriefShare, we already have a plan in place for Thanksgiving. I know that we'll be o.k. for Thanksgiving Day. However, I continued to focus on the days ahead, and that is what caused me to drift in an ocean of sorrow. I had failed to cling "to the rock that is higher than I." (Psalm 61:2) I neglected to remember that God is the great I AM. He is the present-tense God. I had been trying to borrow strength for tomorrow when tomorrow wasn't here yet. My friend's hard, but truthful reminder was exactly what I needed to hear. The words she spoke became the life-preserver I desperately needed.

The raw, bone marrow-deep pain of losing my son has settled, though grief remains. Tremendous healing has taken place over the past three years, but healing does not negate the sorrow scar that remains, and will remain until we are reunited in heaven. Healing does not remove the heartache or the intense missing moments that come with or without warning. With warning, like knowing the holidays are approaching. They are inevitable. They happen every year. Or without warning, like Wednesday, when I went through the little boys' clothes, finally switching out their summer shirts for winter ones.

It was painfully bittersweet. I pulled out a colorful, striped sweater from the box and smiled a bittersweet smile. It was one that Matt had worn when he was little. When I went upstairs later I came across a picture sitting on the table in the hallway of Matt and his youngest sister. It was when we only had two kids, and one of the rare times we've ever had professional pictures taken. I glanced at the picture in passing, but stopped when I saw that Matt was wearing the very sweater I had pulled out only an hour before.

I didn't know whether to consider that a "God-nod" or a painful reminder. See, I still have an incredibly difficult time looking at pictures. Because when I see pictures of Matt, my sweet, smart little boy whom I called Mateo and insisted when he was small that his name was Matthew, not Matt, all I have are bitter thoughts. It's not something I am proud to admit, but it's true. Instead of being thankful for the years I got to have with him, I am (at times) bitter that I didn't get more, that his life was cut so short.

In meeting so many others on this grief journey, however, I've come to realize that it's never enough. The time with our loved ones, no matter their age, is always too short. We always want more. We don't want them to suffer, either, but yet the time is still not enough. Nothing has shown me this more than talking to grieving widows and other bereaved mothers. Widows who were married for decades still long for more time, and mothers of adult children do likewise.

But then I talk to my bereaved mom friends whose children's lives were much, much shorter than Matt's. And my heart aches for them because I realize I do have much for which to be thankful. I have memories, photos, and milestones. I have the sound of Matt's voice, the memories of his mannerisms, and years of his presence. They grieve the loss of that many more unrealized dreams and expectations. It shows me that the loss of a loved one isn't about how much time you got with them. It's not a competition as to whose "wound" is worse. The result was the same for us all. Our hearts were devastated. Our worlds were shattered by the death of our child/ren. Our circumstances have all been different, but the result was the same, loss.

It's been what we've done with that loss that has drawn us together. We have reached out, struggled to find others who innately understood what it was like. We have all dared to dive in and ask the tough questions and been honest with our anger, disappointment, and yes, even bitterness. Yet, we have also chosen to take it all, the pain, the anger, the hurt and bitterness to the Only One who can transform it for our good. We don't deny the pain, but we choose to see blessings in the midst of it. We recognize that when it comes to grief, we have a choice in how to respond.

The holidays are coming, whether I like it or not. I can choose to bury myself under the covers, or I can choose to acknowledge my grief and do something with it. I can trust God for the grace to get through it, keeping my eyes on Him, or I can keep my eyes on my circumstances and fail to grasp the strength, God's strength, that He provides moment by moment. I can do something different, create new traditions. I can choose to honor the memory of my child in so many ways. I can honor God by being thankful for the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.

This holiday season, I will take one day at a time. I will honor Matt's memory by putting a Green Bay Packer ornament on the tree. I will attend a "Surviving the Holidays" GriefShare session, not necessarily for me, but to support others who are newer to the journey of grief. In doing so, I can reflect the hope, love, and peace of Christ, without which none of us would make it through. The tide is coming in, but Christ is the One who calms the troubled sea of our grief-stricken hearts. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Combining the bitter with the sweet

So, I tried ignoring it, the fact that last Friday my 16yo. daughter is now "officially" older than her big brother Matt, who lived 16years, 2 mo. and 27 days this side of heaven. I found myself ridiculously busy, buzzing around like an angry bee. Only I didn't, wouldn't, allow myself to stop and just deal with it. I mean, life is busy. There are things to do and people to see, as they say. Throw in homeschooling, the Halloween holiday, a sleepover, a Trunk-or-Treat event to prepare for, and a visit with relatives, and you have the makings for a cauldron of nasty, stuffed emotions. If only grief were convenient, eh?

I needed to acknowledge my grief, but, honestly, I cared too much about what other people would think. I was worrying about whether they'd think I was having a "pity party." I put society's expectations on my grief. Because, you know, why would you still be grieving 3 years after a loss? But you know what? It's not a pity party. It's grief. I am sad. I miss my son. I grieve the fact that my second-born child is now older than my first-born child. It's not supposed to be this way.

I had my own expectations, too, about grief at this point. I guess I had thought we were over most of the "big" hurdles or that this one wasn't such a biggie. But it is. It is the bitter with the sweet. The sweet is that I get to have a daughter that is sixteen. But the bitter is that everything I experience with her is now something that I never get (or got) to experience with Matt. The bitter is that she is now being referred to by others as the oldest. She is not my oldest. She will never be my oldest. She is my second-born and treasured just as much as my first-born, as all my children are. It is bitter. So very bitter.

Yet I know, of all women, how very, very sweet it is to even have children. I am beyond grateful for the children that remain with me. I know, of all people, how quickly they can be taken from you. We are not promised tomorrow with our loved ones. We are not even promised the rest of this day with them. I want to be thankful and continue to say as I did in the beginning and even put on Matt's funeral program, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord," (Job 1:21b) but I am wrestling with how to balance the bitter and the sweet

As grief wears on, as sorrow lingers and miraculous healing doesn't happen, as loved ones remain physically hidden from sight year after year, and longing squeezes the lungs with breathless aching, and as time marches on, relentlessly separating us further and further from the last moments we had with our loved ones, sweetness doesn't flow as freely. Sweetness is hard-fought effort. Sweetness becomes an intentional gathering of joy. It is the mining of it in the dark interior of the bitter.

Perhaps it isn't a balancing act of sweet versus bitter, after all, but a compounding of them. I'd been trying to juggle the bitter with the sweet when I have, in all reality, misunderstood that it isn't about balancing them, but blending them. I have wanted one without the other, or at the very least, one at a time. But God did not spare His own son from grief. Jesus not only suffered loss of loved ones, but of His own life for us. Jesus was a man well acquainted with sorrow. (Is.53:3) How can I think that I should be spared if He did not spare His own son whom He loved?

We would all, in all honesty, like to be spared from pain and grief. But pain is purposeful. Pain presents to us the opportunity to choose, to choose whether or not to trust God, to believe Him and His word. Satan, however, uses our pain to whisper lies, saying things like: "See? He doesn't care. He isn't good. It isn't fair. This is too much." Pain shouts. Pain distracts. Pain tries to pull the plug on our connection with God. Yet pain is the very conduit that leads us to Christ.

It's what we do with our pain that allows the bitter and the sweet to either combine or combust. Denial disconnects, and anger explodes. I tried both the past couple weeks, and it finally dawned on me. I had been trying to juggle the sweet with the bitter, only to keep dropping the sweet and grasping the bitter. But, you see, it is only in tossing up the sweet with the bitter that they are blended. And when they blend, the bitter is made sweet. Still bitter, but sweet. Only God can take the sweet things we offer up to Him and, in the process, blend the bitter into something good, something that reflects the One who made both bitter and sweet.

And that reflection? That reflection will look a whole lot like Jesus. Jesus, who was despised, rejected, and bearing scars, but also holy, perfect, and whole. I am not denying the bitter. Neither did Jesus. But I'm also giving thanks, finding every sweet morsel I can because, well, Ann Voskamp says it best:

“...I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives.”
― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

This giving of thanks, of plucking the sweet things of God amid the bitter, is how we deflect the lies of Satan and extract the bitter poison from this temporary, sin-filled life. It is how we are able to live through grief, by drinking in the goodness of God though tasting the bitterness of this world. Sweet thankfulness allows us to "taste and see that the LORD is good." (Ps.34:8) I choose to be thankful.

Friday, October 31, 2014

My remembrance stone

The Bible, in the Old Testament, speaks about remembrance stones. God's chosen people, the Israelites, set up remembrance stones as ways to honor God, to remind themselves and their children of God's faithfulness, how He rescued them from their enemies and brought them through impossible circumstances. God has done the same for me. He has brought me through what I thought, and even wished that, I wouldn't survive: the death of my 16yo. son, my firstborn.

So I did what I said I would never do. I got a tattoo. Two tattoos, to be exact. My first tattoo was three weeks ago. It is Matt's signature, in his handwriting. I have thought about getting a tattoo for three years (as long as Matt's been gone). I waited because I knew I didn't want to do it as a response to my pain and grief. I also wanted to be sure I wasn't going to regret it since they are, essentially, permanent. I am glad I waited, too, because I didn't know, until recently, that a person could have a signature tattooed. (Matt's actual signature is about a 1/3 or more smaller than my tattoo, but they can't do tattoos that small. They took his signature and enlarged it.) I am so, so happy with it. I love seeing it every day. I love that it's small and simple. I feel as if I have a part of my son with me every day.

I knew immediately, however, that a tattoo of Matt's signature was not the only one I would get. As special as it is to have his signature, I knew I wanted something else that signified what God has done for me. I wanted to set up, so to speak, a remembrance stone. I could think of no better way to do this than by getting a tattoo of a cardinal with some Forget-Me-Not flowers in Matt's favorite shade of blue.

From the beginning of this grief journey, the cardinal has been our "sign." Matt loved watching the birds daily while siting at the dining room table. He knew every one. His favorite were the Indigo Bunting and the Cardinal. Our family of nine ate lunch and supper together every day, so Matt's absence at the dinner table was particularly difficult for me. But the LORD knew. For the first year after Matt died, a cardinal showed up at the feeder at dinner time every single day. Every day. No matter what time we ate dinner, the cardinal showed up. It was as if God were saying to us, "Don't worry. Matt's closer than you think. The veil between here and eternity is so thin."

The cardinal tattoo is my remembrance stone of what the LORD has brought me through. He has done so much for us. Our hearts still ache daily and Matt is still gone, but God continues to be our comforter. He is our Rock. He is the reason I live and move and have my being. (Acts 17:28) I don't ever want to forget what He has done for me in surviving the loss of my son and also in giving me eternal life. Because of that, I have the hope of a glorious reunion with Matt and eternity in the presence of God, my Father, and His son Jesus Christ where there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. (Rev. 21:4)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Women of Faith

I attended the Women of Faith conference last weekend. I hadn't planned on attending because I knew there was no way we could swing it with our budget. However, I was completely stunned when a friend showed up at my door the night before the conference with an unexpected gift, a ticket to the Women of Faith conference. Yet, even with the gift of a free ticket, there was still an estimated $150 in hotel cost, transportation, and food. But God is good. My hotel, transportation, and lunch were taken care of, as well. God made a way where there was no way.

I had wanted to go for several reasons. One reason being the theme of this year's conference. It was titled, "From Survival to Revival." A second reason for wanting to go was having Kay Warren in the line up for scheduled speakers. My mom's group had read Kay's book “Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough.” Kay is also a grief mom, having lost her adult son to suicide 18 months ago. I knew she would likely be speaking on something I would relate to. Lastly, Matthew West and Natalie Grant, as well as Anita Renfroe, were the entertainment. (I wasn't disappointed!)

Each of the speakers talked about the struggle of faith in difficult times, overcoming life's hurdles, what happens when life doesn't go the way we plan, and how to find hope again. They each shared their story, and each individual story was filled with chapters of their lives that were stained with loss, heartache, and grief. They were chapters that they, at one point, didn't want included in the story of their lives. Oh, how I could relate! How I wish I could erase this “chapter” (the death of my son, the last three years) from my story.

But what I recognized in all of these brave speakers was the same message I heard right after Matt died (and continue to hear). You are loved. God loves us so very much. There is nothing, nothing, in our lives that He doesn't use for good. Now, this doesn't mean the circumstances are good. They most certainly are not good. But God will use those horrible circumstances for good. He wastes nothing. Not even our sorrow. And what I realized, in listening to the Women of Faith speakers, was that, without these chapters we would miss how great, how sufficient, and how near is our God.

You see, God is the author of our story. We simply think we are the one holding the pen, but in reality, it is HE who dips us, His pen, into the black ink of life's trials and temptations. And it is us, His pen, who determine whether we will pour forth a flowing script, testifying of His faithfulness and love in our lives or spill out an unintelligible blot upon the page of this short life. The chapters are not what we would have chosen, but we are held in the hand of the Author who poured out His life for us, an author who purposes good out of bad, beauty from ashes, and life from death.

I left the conference a bit down, honestly. But I also left secure. Secure in knowing that this chapter, this chapter of child loss, is not the final chapter. The story of my life doesn't end with grief. It ends with joy. Joy in being held. Held in the grace of God. Held in His presence. Held by His love.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dear Matt

Wednesday night, I had the most wonderful, amazing dream. I dreamt that you had come back. I remember feeling such incredible, indescribable joy. Joy like I've never felt before. Joy that I've wondered if I would ever feel again. Joy that, for once, went as deep as my grief. You were back, and I soaked in your presence, your voice, your body, your hair, your skin. I have missed you so. I was so, so happy. I asked others in the dream, "Is this for real or am I dreaming?" Because I knew if it was a dream, I didn't ever want to wake up. I went searching for a camera because I wanted to take as many family pictures as we could. I watched you playing with your little brothers and thought, "Yes. This is what is supposed to be. Finally. I have missed seeing this so much." The feeling of joy was just so overwhelming, so bone-deep! Every fiber of my being felt joy.

I could sense the rise to consciousness, however, as daylight began to stream through the windows, and I knew that it had all been a dream. I didn't want to leave it or lose that feeling of immense joy. I fought against waking, but it was useless. I could feel sadness trying to creep in, but then I wondered, "Was this the same feeling of joy that we'll experience in heaven? Is this what it will to feel like to be reunited, both with Christ and with you?" How could I be sad when I have this kind of joy to look forward to? I miss you every day, Matt. I love you. Love, Mom

I believe the LORD gave me this dream because I have wondered for so long if I would ever have joy as deep as the grief I have felt. The answer is yes. It may not be here on this earth, but it is a surety. Because of this surety, I can face today...and tomorrow. I can face this life without my son because God has promised me eternal joy. Joy without sorrow, joy without sin, joy without separation.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Buried deep

I struggled with God last week. Or I don't know, maybe it was the week before. I'm not sure, because it all seems so long ago, the struggle. The struggle to see. The struggle of being still. I had it out with God and fell at His feet, begging Him to please let me see. I was so tired of waiting and walking by faith. I grew impatient and just wanted God to let me see that this whole Christian walk thing was real. To reassure me that His promises are real. I missed my son, and missing makes a mother scream. And it's not the same pain of missing David, our Brazilian-exchange-student-turned son, who moved to Florida two months ago. I know that David is here on this earth, alive and well and less than 2,000 miles away. I can pick up the phone and talk to him and hear his voice. I can Skype with him whenever we want. Who can say, however, how many miles away Heaven is?

I pleaded with God to give me an answer, to just show me something, some sign that would help me in these aching, withdrawal tremors of missing Matt. But I didn't get an answer. I climbed into bed that night with a heavy heart, wondering why God was silent, wondering why this faith thing has to be so hard some days.

The next day, still heavy with missing Matt, still wanting to see, I went to my Precept Bible study on the book of John. The video that evening was on chapter 14 of John, and Kay Arthur spoke about peace. Her talk was titled, "Six Things You Can Do When Your Heart is Troubled." "Really, LORD?" I thought. Tell me He doesn't see and hear the heart cries of His children. I knew He had a word for me. I knew He had heard my cry. I needed to hear from my Abba Father. I wanted Him to comfort and reassure me.

Peace, as Kay explained, is "not an absence of outward turmoil. It is an inward sense of goodness that is unrelated to circumstances. It is undisturbed, untroubled well-being." She went on to explain that there are six things you can do when your heart is troubled.

1. Believe. The key that unlocks the inner sanctum of peace is faith. And faith is taking God at His word.
2. Remember that God does not lie.
3. Look to God's future for you.
    a. look to eternity (not to the temporal)
    b. look to your heavenly father
    c. look to your calling - the words and the works you do manifest God's glory
4. Ask in His name - according to Jesus' character and His word
5. Never forget that you are not alone.
6. Love and obey.

I chuckled to myself when I heard the first point. It was as if God was telling me, "See? I told you so. Just keep believing. Trust me." But it was point number two that brought quick tears to my eyes. How I needed to be reminded that God does not lie! His promises are true. Eternal life in heaven is real. Our loved ones are alive in heaven, and we will see them again. The pain of missing Matt had blinded my vision of the truth last week, and I had lost sight of hope.

In my missing Matt, I had grown impatient. And God, who is El Roi, the God who sees when I don't, gave me hope, again, through the words of Ann Voskamp. How to keep hoping when you want to give up. My hope was buried deep, yes. But God's word takes root in the dark and grows until it reaches the light. What a seed of encouragement! Hope sees in the dark with eyes of faith. When I cannot see, God does. And He plants hope.

Speaking of hope, here's to spreading some in the lives of 10 people last week:
Matt's GoFundMe update

Friday, October 3, 2014

My girl's group

The women in the photo above are my sisters in grief, my mom's group. They "get it" because they have all "been there, done that." They are mothers who have lost a child(ren). These women are on the same journey I am, though each of our journeys are unique. We each met through GriefShare and Compassionate Friends, but have continued to meet long after the group sessions were done. We occasionally go out for drinks and/or dinner and have done several book studies together. We're currently working through Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts.

Every parent who loses a child is on their own journey, and it is a most solitary experience. Yet, though we each walk our own path of grief, we are not alone. The way is filled with fellow companions. It is an ever-fluid journey. From the beginning of my journey, God, in His great mercy, gave me what I desperately needed. Others who had "been there, done that." As anyone knows in almost any situation, having others who truly "get it" is a balm to the soul. It brings comfort in a way that nothing else can. That's what these ladies do for me.

It's funny, too, because we've each been told how strong we are. But we aren't strong because we possess some inherent strength that other people don't. It's because we've made a choice. A choice to trust God, to believe that this world isn't all there is. We've determined that the best way to honor our child/ren's memory is by living the best life we can. We've chosen to hold on to hope. Hope is the difference in our grief. Hope in God and in His Word is the anchor when we are sucked into the pit of pain. The pain of missing our children, the pain of the "what ifs" and "if onlys." The pain of enduring days that "should have been" occasions our kids experienced.

I am blessed. I wish these women were not part of "the group no one wants to be a part of," but I can honestly say I am so thankful for them. I pray that other bereaved moms would find the comfort, encouragement, and joy that I have in having a mom's group in this journey of grief.

Friday, September 26, 2014

How Suffering Forms Us

I came across the following video this week. It was worth every single minute spent watching it. SPOT.ON. Spot on.

How Suffering Forms Us: Jerry Sittser on Adversity as Spiritual Formation

Jerry Sittser is the author of "A Grace Disguised." It's been one of the most powerful books I've read thus far on the grief journey. Jerry and his family were the victims of a drunk driving accident in which he suffered the loss of his daughter, his wife, and his mother.

Stay watching to the end. There are several minutes of Q & A time in which he gives excellent, insightful answers.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dear Matt

Dear Matt,
Today I got a Voter Registration Card in the mail. When I read the front of the card, my first thought was, "Why are they sending me this?" Then I turned the card over and saw your full name printed on it.

And my heart sank. My immediate next thought was how incredibly long it's been since I've seen your name printed, since you got mail. It set the ache in my heart to throbbing, as if someone came along and kicked me at the point of amputation.

You see, most days, I'm o.k. Most days, the ache is drowned out by the dailiness of life. It's always there, for sure. However, at this point, it's become second-nature. So much so that I've learned to live with it, always aware of it's presence, but having become so accustomed to it that it no longer incapacitates me. I've learned to swallow the bitterness, to choke it down when it comes unexpectedly like this. I've gotten good at redirecting and marching on. Not because it doesn't hurt, but because it's necessary.

It seems counter-intuitive, really, but it's the healthiest choice. Much like back pain, actually. The first response with back pain is to move less because of the pain, yet the best action is to move more. As my PT used to say, "Motion is lotion!"

Now, of course, at the time of initial injury one doesn't do that. One takes the time to recover, waiting a bit for the injury to settle down, to heal a bit before beginning the process of recovery. Then, slowly, little by little, as time goes by, as one is able, PT begins. Grief is a lot like that, too. In the beginning, one has to allow time for the grief to settle down, to just let the loss be loss. As time goes by, however, one can't stay immobile. It's not healthy, and healing will not happen if one doesn't take the necessary steps for recovery. 

Wednesday was PT. I put the Voter Registration Card on my desk, allowed myself to cry for a few minutes for what isn't and what will never be, then I took a deep breath and determined to do my exercises. Exercises which consist of speaking truth, of remembering that this world is not our home. Exercises in faith, hope, and trust in the Great Physician. The ache remains, my heart still throbs, and I still miss you more than words can say. But I'm doing what I need to do, son, because I know that if I endure, doing God's will, then I will receive what He has promised. (Heb.10:35-36)


Saturday, September 13, 2014


I read this blog post Tuesday night and much of it struck a familiar chord with me. Though this woman's circumstances are entirely different from mine, I realized we are both living with one foot in this world and one in the world to come. It's just not an easy place to be, honestly. But she identified what I have been missing. Determination. Determination to figure out how to live this life well without my son.

Frankly, I've been coasting. Life is flat. I want what I can't have. My son. A life without sorrow. Joy untainted by grief. But that's not possible. So what do I do?

I give thanks. I remember, as Psalm 13:6 says, that "He has been good to me." I focus on the hope that remains. I remember that sorrow will be a part of this life, but that the life to come will never be touched by grief, death, tears, or pain. (Rev.21:4) I focus on what I do have. I cling to the LORD and remember what He did for me. I remember that He, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. (Heb.12:2) Because He did, I can.


I am thankful that Christ was honest with us. He said that "in this world, you will have trouble." He said that death and sin is a part of this world. But. But He also said to "...take heart! I have overcome the world." He told us "these things, so that in me you may have peace."(John 16:33) The apostle Paul encourages further with these words: "But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:7)

One can not get through this world believing in anything but Christ. It is not health, wealth, or a good attitude that pulls one through. It is not one's strength, one's will, or even one's positive thinking that gets one through. It is believing in Jesus Christ, taking Him at His word and living by faith in Him.  It is doing His will, being obedient to His Word. It is trusting Him when doubt, fear, and lies are shrieking along with the pain of your loss.

I had lost sight of hope lately because I had also stopped giving thanks. I took my eyes off of Christ and had fallen into Satan's trap. I couldn't see a way out, but once again, the words of Ann Voskamp spoke truth.

Giving thanks throws a shovelful of dirt into the pit, and every shovelful thrown in is a step out of the pit. I'm still in the pit, but I'm throwing thanks by the shovelfuls as quickly as I can. I am determined because of Him. Because of Him, I am able. Because of His strength, His will, and His Word. Thank you, Jesus.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Everything changes

Yesterday was insanely busy. I didn't want to be busy. What I wanted was to lie in bed and give in to my sadness. I felt as if I were losing another son. And I was, but in a whole different way, in an entirely different kind of pain. Our Brazilian son (former exchange student who never went back after the exchange program ended) left for Florida, returning to his family. David has been with us for two years and has become a son to us. But, at age 19, the same age our son would be, he has "left the nest."

I didn't expect it to be this hard. I didn't expect change to happen so fast. One would think I'd be used to it by now, but I'm not. Then, last Thursday I attended the funeral of a dear friend. This is what I wrote about Betty two weeks earlier:

She was just an old lady to some. To others, she was the little, petite woman who greeted people as they came in the door to Sam's Club. But to us, Betty was a ray of light. A star that shone brightly. She was quick with her tongue and purposeful with her step. Several years ago, she took the news of her husband's Alzheimer's disease with courage and grace. This past year, emphysema slowed her down, but didn't put a dent in her determination to kick it back. She met every challenge with strength and faith in God.

A few weeks ago, she may have walked a bit slower, but she was every bit as capable of doing what she set her mind to doing. Monday, however, her lung collapsed and she lay fighting for her life. But Betty's body had had enough, and she finally met her Maker.

Betty leaves behind a grieving family and numerous friends who will miss her terribly. She doted on her grandchildren and couldn't speak an unkind word about them if she tried. Which she didn't. She was a woman who took charge and didn't like being told what to do. She was a woman who gave generously and gave all. Betty, however, is now rejoicing with Christ, alive and well. She has received what she was promised when she chose to follow Jesus many years ago. Life eternal.

We miss you, Betty. And while we grieve the loss of the light you brought to us, we look forward with hope to seeing you again.

Betty's death and David's leaving have brutally reminded me, once again, that change in this world is inevitable. The sooner one learns to accept it, the better. It doesn't make the pain any less, by any means, but it does bring reassurance. Reassurance in the One who never changes. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Who am I to say?

On Monday, our second oldest child attended her first day of post secondary classes at a local college. She is now a junior in high school. I can't even begin to describe the feelings I've had this week. Matt, our firstborn, never got to experience his junior year of high school. He "should" be starting his sophomore year of college.

It's only expected that the onset of fall would bring back-to-school (particularly, back-to-college) conversations to the forefront. Conversations I try to avoid because they seem to be as salt in a wound. However, I listen with, I hope, a sympathetic ear to a parent bemoan their legitimate pain of temporary separation from their young adult. Yet I wonder if they have forgotten that, while they take their son or daughter to the campus dorm, I am left to drive up the hill past the cemetery where we buried our son. 

I try to focus on what I have instead of what I don't have. I try to not think about the "what ifs" and the "if onlys." I try to just "suck it up" and deal with what is. But some days I just want to scream, "It's not fair! It's so not fair!" Some days I simply ache to go back, before Matt died, to the time when joy was pure, untainted and untouched by sorrow. A time when joy wasn't fused with grief.

Honestly, it's been a week of struggling against feeling sorry for myself, of biting my tongue from responding to those conversations with, "I'm happy for you. Truly I am. And I don't negate the pain you feel as your child leaves home. But I'm not the person you should be talking to." It's been a week of reminding myself of the blessings I've been given, to remain thankful for what I have, which is much. The struggle to remember that God's word says I am to "rejoice with those who rejoice." Indeed, they have also wept with me. (Rom.12:15)

The battle, ultimately, remains to be trusting God, believing what He has said in His word. When I entertain feelings of self-pity, jealousy, and bitterness, I have effectively decided that I know better than God. That my ways are higher than His. I am the clay saying to the potter, "What are you doing?" (Is.45:9) I have set myself up as God when I argue against what He has allowed and claim that He is not fair. I have taken my eyes off of the Light of the world. (John 8:12) I stopped looking to the Light this week and ended up seeing only the dark, the broken, and the lost.

But God? God sees into the dark. He sees into the broken places. He finds the lost, the doubting, the scared, the angry. And He speaks to them, to me. I prayed this morning to somehow get out of this "funk" I was in. And He heard me. I never fail to be amazed by God. That He should love a sinner, a whiner, and an ungrateful woman like me is amazing. It makes me love Him all the more. I am humbled and overwhelmed. Again, through the voice of His people, the LORD answered my prayer and spoke to my hurting heart. First, through Ann Voskamp's post and then through Jennifer Dukes Lee's post today.

I have worried this week about ever finding joy again, real joy, joy without grief attached. I have worried about how I'm ever going to make it another "x" number of years without my son. I've worried about whether I will lose any of my other children. But, honestly, I don't need to worry about it. Because Jennifer is right. When I worship God, worry is destroyed.

Friday, August 22, 2014

When you are helpless

The day after the three year anniversary of Matt's death was tough, to say the least. It felt like the fallout from a bomb detonation. I see the devastation and wreckage left behind after losing a child, and it still astounds me that we survive.

As a parent, seeing my children struggle with the loss of their brother is like watching shrapnel soar. I can't stop it, I can't dodge it, and I am powerless to save them from it. I miss my son even in my dreams. I long to hear his name spoken daily, to see his handwriting, hear his voice, and watch him walk through a room. I know what it is to ache in the very bone marrow of one's being. I know what it's like to lose a child, but I don't know what it's like to lose a brother.  I can only view their loss as a spectator, witnessing the aftermath.

However, I emphatically agree with Theologist/philosopher Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig when she says that "suffering together matters." And while her post is referring to suicide (referencing in wake of Robin Williams'), there is an astounding parallel in dealing with the grief-stricken. Stoker Bruenig says, "It made us tired, too, this constant striving, trying to get him to eat, to shower, to come sit with us. Sometimes it was easier just to let him alone, which was something we only entertained because we were so tired of trying."

One of Matt's younger sisters now struggles with deep anxiety. Before losing her brother she was a happy, highly social, and outgoing girl. She appeared to be handling the loss of her brother as well as could be expected. However, two years after the loss she suddenly "fell apart." She quit her job, refused to leave the house, and would no longer socialize with even her best friends. Panic and anxiety arose with any and all social activity.

We had been proactive, too. We went to grief camp where we threw eggs. We participated in a memorial walk. We talked about Matt. We encouraged the kids to share their feelings. I did what I could and knew to do as far as helping her deal with her grief. I took her to GriefShare, gave her Matt's blanket to sleep with, shared appropriate grief books with her, bought her a journal, and gave her a memorial necklace. But it wasn't enough. Her anxiety didn't go away.

Aside from losing a child, I think the next worst thing for a parent to experience is to watch them suffer. I wish with all my heart that I could take this away from her. When her anxiety rears it's ugly head, I hurt deeply for her. I want to fix it. I want to take it away. I want to make her better. I am angry at death. I'm angry at what the loss of her brother did to her, to us. I'm angry because I am helpless.

But helpless is not hopeless. We sought counseling as a next step. The first counselor wasn't a good fit, so we found another. Thankfully, this one is a good fit. And while there is no magical cure, there is progress. I am helpless to help my daughter, but I can, at least, give her the tools she needs to deal with her grief and anxiety. Now, I can't make her use them. But I can speak truth to her. I can continue to trust the LORD for her life. I can continue to cling to the God of hope. I can show her what it means to be real with her grief. I can encourage her friends that the best thing they can do for her is to keep inviting, even if she never says yes. That if we "suffer with" in times of sorrow, then we shall also eventually "rejoice with."

"There is no high hill but beside some deep valley.
There is no birth without a pang." - Dan Crawford

Helpless, yes. Hopeless? Not on your life. I pray that my daughter will replace the anxious thoughts in her mind with the truth of God's word. I pray that my example will point her to Jesus Christ. I pray that she will see hope.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A sigh of relief

The anniversary of Matt's death, his birthday, and his sisters' birthdays are over. I feel like the elephant foot on my chest has been removed. I just want to move forward. There have been so many "firsts" this summer. I know most people think all the "firsts" occur the first year after loss, and they do. But the "firsts" continue long after the first year. Every "first" is a hurdle to jump. It's an emotional battle, and I guess I'm just tired of fighting them.

So many times right after Matt died I heard the phrase, "This will make you stronger." I remember thinking, "I don't want to be stronger. I'm just fine the way I am, thank you." But having gone through all of these "firsts" has, indeed, resulted in making me stronger. I am stronger despite my not wanting to be. It's most certainly not the way I wanted to get stronger, but it is what it is. These experiences have made me tougher. Tougher mentally and spiritually.

This strength, really, is a reflection of the healing that has taken place. The wound has healed, but the amputated appendage will never return, be replaced, or grow back. Healing means that we adjust to life as it is. That we learn to live without our son. We bear a terrible scar for life. But through it all, God has been faithful. He has provided the hope we need to carry on.

My life isn't all about grief. The sky is no longer covered black. There is a hunger and thirst for life again. I've learned how to live daily with my son's absence. Never for a second of the day do I forget that Matt isn't here. But I have learned to replace the "He's gone" thought with a "I will see him again" truth.

All of these "firsts" lately have been a huge battle against feeling sorry for myself. Again, however, speaking the truth effectively extinguishes the flames of pity. When joy and thankfulness show up, the pity party is over. Keeping my eyes on what lies ahead instead of what lies behind is the key to not getting stuck in grief. Max Lucado said it well this week in my daily UpWords email devotion titled, "A Vision of the Reward."

Paul said in II Corinthians 4:16-18, “We do not lose heart. . .for our light and momentary 
troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our 
eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” Hear what Paul called “light and 
momentary”—not what I’d have called them, and I think you’ll agree. Imprisoned. Beaten. 
Stoned. Shipwrecked three times. In constant danger. Hungry and thirsty. Light and 
momentary troubles? How could Paul describe endless trials with that phrase? He tells 
us. He could see “an eternal glory that far out-weighs them all.”

And you–you want to go on, but some days the road seems so long. Let me encourage you 
with this: God never said the journey would be easy, but he did say that the arrival would 
be worth it!

I can breath a sigh of relief because I know that this world, with all it's sin, pain, and heartache, will some day be replaced with a new and perfect one, one without loss or grief. One in which we will be reunited with our loved ones, never to be separated again. One in which we will finally see God face to face, to spend eternity with Him who died for us. Not only will I sigh a sigh of relief when this happens, but one of contentment and awe.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It is what it is

Monday was Matt's oldest sister's birthday. Her 16th birthday. I should have been joyful, but I wasn't. I really, really struggled. Seeing her turn 16 was so painful. Painful because it means that in less than three months, she will officially be older (lived longer) than Matt. Painful because Matt's not here. Painful because he didn't get more than 16 years and 4 days less than 3 months. I feel like the worst mother in the world for feeling like this on her special day, for not being able to be 100% joyful. It completely sucks. 

I hate that grief is soldered to any joy I now have. Before my son died, joy was untainted. Before, I could experience joy without feeling grief. But now? Now, joy is no longer singular. It doesn't show up without it's companion, Grief, lurking in the shadows. Yet I look at my daughter, and I am so thankful for her. Thankful for every day God allows with each of my children. I cherish their uniqueness. I see time fleeting and my children growing so quickly. I ache because I really do know how short this life is.

Yet I am comforted because I also know that this life is not all there is. Eternity awaits for us. But until then, I remind myself that it is what it is. I can either find the blessings and cherish the sweet moments, or I can focus on what I don't have. I can look forward (with patient hope) to seeing my son again, or I can wallow in the past and miss the present. I want to savor the moments I have now while looking ahead to the promise of eternity. It is what it is, but it is not without hope.

Friday, August 1, 2014


To say that the 3 year anniversary of Matt's death was emotional is an understatement. While the Gofundme campaign was a tremendous success, it was incredibly bittersweet. I am grateful beyond measure that we did this on the 29th for the 3 year anniversary, but I am all too happy July is over. Physically and mentally, I am shot. I feel like I could sleep for a week. Emotionally, I'm not in a good place today. I try not to think about the accident (or the funeral). But that's like trying to tell someone with an open fracture not to think about the pain, to think about something else. My mind is a tangle of emotions, a see-saw of grief and joy. The anniversary of Matt's death is sandwiched between his youngest sister's birthday (on July 25th) and his oldest sister's birthday (on August 4th).

I'm just tired. Tired of reminding myself of the truth. Tired of trying to convince myself that it won't always hurt like this. Tired of trying to be strong. Tired of seeing Matt's sisters and brothers hurt. Tired of carrying my faith. Tired of missing my son with no relief from the incessant ache. I want someone to carry me. I want to crawl up in my Father's lap and be held.

I found myself doubting greatly this week, wondering if God's promises were really true. Wondering if what He says is really out there, if heaven truly exists.

What I found was grace to make it through the day. What I found was comfort to carry on. What I found in place of my doubts was truth. Three different times I picked up various books (Jesus Calling, Beth Moore's Jesus, the One and Only, and Streams in the Desert), only to read the same precept in all three, that God cannot lie. It is impossible for Him. My Abba Father soothed my fears. He reassured me of the truth. I am held.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

3 years ago today

Three years ago today, we somehow lived through the worst day of our lives, the day our son died. There is still, three years later, a feeling of disbelief. At particular moments, there is still a part of me that wants to curl up in the fetal position and die. It was such a "normal" morning July 29, 2011. It began with no hint of the silent tsunami that was about to hit, shattering our world, our lives, our hearts into a billion broken pieces. It is so very true that life changes in an instant. But until it happens to you, you remain blissfully ignorant of the reality of it.

As the anniversary date of Matt's death drew closer and closer, I found myself struggling more and more, feeling myself slipping in the miry clay of grief. I couldn't get a foothold. But God, who is El Roi, the God who sees (everything!), saw my weakness, my hurt, my pain. And He answered me through Ann Voskamp's weekend post. Right at the end of her post, just before I was about to click on the "X" to exit the browser page, I read the last paragraph.

Hey soul? Come close here-- It's going to be okay...
That Mount Everest you're climbing today? God is greater.
Those obstacles you're facing right now? God is greater.
This storm you're weathering through? God is greater.
Today, just hold on to these three words, your refrain for the climbing, the overcoming, the pressing through wind: God. is. Greater.
—Ann Voskamp 

God is greater. God is greater than my grief. He is greater than anything this world throws at us. He is greater than our doubts, greater than our biggest fear. He is greater than all of it. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. This is the refrain I have kept on repeat as we approached today.

Because He is greater, we can do great things. Great things like this:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Grief is a cancer

It's the 25th. Matt's younger sister's birthday is today. And I'm struggling to focus. I couldn't sleep last night and finally made it to bed at 1:30am, only to be woken at 5am by a coughing child who needed a nebulizer treatment. Birthday party plans are bursting at the seam, and the cake is finished. (It's family tradition to make our own cut up cakes, though we've gotten quite competitive with ourselves the last several years! It's fun to see how our skill level has increased from the earlier years.)

The battle to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" is strenuous. When I think back to three years ago, I don't remember this day at all. Instead, what I remember vividly is the 28th. The 28th is the day I took Matt's sister out for a birthday lunch with her best friend. And what stands forever etched in my memory is that that is the last day our lives were untouched by the cancer of grief.

Grief is a cancer. Once discovered, daily life becomes a continual battle to kill it. Life becomes consumed by it. It takes every ounce of one's strength to fight it. It is relentless and cares about nothing but destroying the one it attacks.

But thanks be to GOD, there is an effective treatment for the cancer of grief. It is God's word, God's strength, and God's perspective. The truth of God's word concerning death and disease is the "pill" we take to fight this cancer. Grief leaves one exhausted, but leaning hard on God one finds the strength to get through, to make it to the next day and the day after that and the day after that. Choosing to see the affliction of grief through His eyes is the course of treatment most effective for fighting off the relentless killer of joy. God's perspective on our sorrow and loss is the key to overcoming this cancer. It is fought with hope and thankfulness. Joy is preserved through thanksgiving and the cancer of grief is rendered powerless by it.

As we approach the 29th, I am thankful that there is a plan in place for commemorating it. I don't have to wallow in self-pity or focus on what we have lost or will never have on this side of heaven. I am thankful for the many who have come alongside us in our battle against grief. I am thankful for the outpouring of generosity for Matt's Gofundme 3 Year Remembrance Event. (A new goal has been set, and I hope you'll check it out!)

I am thankful for a God who knows what I am going through, who walks beside me through it, and who gives me the strength and hope to fight this cancer of grief. I live with grief, but greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Matt's 3 year remembrance event - Day 4

It is day 4 of the GoFundMe campaign and, thus far, $760 has been raised. Words truly fail to express how much this means to us. Truth be told, my faith was small. When I set up the fund, I wanted to leave the dollar amount blank, but the field was required, and it wouldn't let me leave it empty. I thought about putting $500 for the goal and, honestly, I didn't think it would even come close to reaching that. But I felt God whispering to me, "Do the impossible. Trust Me." So I stepped off the ledge of fear and doubt and typed $1000 in the goal amount field. And already, on day 4, God has amazed me. Oh, Me, of little faith.

In 11 days, we will be marking the three year anniversary of our son's death. (July 29th) We want to observe the date by "paying it forward." Matt was brilliant when it came to computers. He especially liked to troubleshoot and repair computer issues. To pay it forward, we'd like to raise money that will be used on July 29th to pay a computer repair bill for a random customer(s) at a yet undecided local computer business. Matt would be 19yrs. old now, and we have no doubt that, were he here, he'd be working at a computer business in town. No gift is too small, and your act of kindness is tremendously appreciated. If you would like to honor his memory with us, please click on the link above.

*Just a special note about the photo I used. I took it the night before Matt's BPA club state competition. He ended up placing 1st in PC Troubleshooting and Repair and 5th in Java Programming.

To all who have donated: THANK YOU! Thank you for allowing God to use you to strengthen my faith and to honor our son's memory. We continue to grieve, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Matt's 3 year remembrance event

In exactly two weeks, we will be marking the three year anniversary of our son's death. (July 29th) We want to observe the date by "paying it forward." Matt was brilliant when it came to computers. He especially liked to troubleshoot and repair computer issues. To pay it forward, we'd like to raise money that will be used on July 29th to pay a computer repair bill for a random customer(s) at a yet undecided local computer business. Matt would be 19yrs. old now, and we have no doubt that, were he here, he'd be working at a computer business in town. No gift is too small, and your act of kindness is tremendously appreciated. If you would like to honor his memory with us, please click on the link below.

*Just a special note about the photo I used. I took it the night before Matt's BPA club state competition. He ended up placing 1st in PC Troubleshooting and Repair and 5th in Java Programming.