Friday, May 30, 2014

An eternal weight of glory

John Piper has some wonderful, encouraging words to say in this:

Though You Slay Me
by Shane and Shane


I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who's broken
The one who's torn me apart
You struck down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I'll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I'll know every tear was worth it all

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need

Though tonight I'm crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You're still all that I need
You're enough for me
You're enough for me

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who's all I need
Sing a song to the one who's all I need

As we continue this road of grief, I am so thankful for the gift of music and God's Word. The month of May continues to be challenging. We've had some tough steps to take this month. Graduations are still difficult to think about, and the youngest member of "the three Amigos" (as we affectionately called Matt and his two best friends) graduates this year. I also set up a teen checking account with Matt's sister, something I had planned to do with Matt the very week he died. His sister and I also had a couple behind-the-wheel driving sessions this week. The anxiety for her has been a bit overwhelming. It makes me sad that there's anxiety instead of excitement. Finally, Matt's sister leaves for vacation early tomorrow for 18 days. I already miss her. I am reassured, however, knowing that she's traveling with David (our exchange student turned  unofficially adopted son). It's going to be a long 18 days without the both of them!

For as difficult as the month has been, however, God's grace has been sufficient. He has granted comfort, grace, and truth. He has given me everything I need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) I am supported by an amazing group of women, fellow companions on this road of grief. We continue to draw strength, hope, and encouragement from one another. I am blessed. For every ache and twinge of grief, I can honestly say that there has also been blessings and joy. I do not lose heart because there is "an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison" coming. (2 Cor. 4:17) Until then, may God's grace be multiplied!

Friday, May 23, 2014

The dance of grief

I stumbled upon Karen Ehman's blog post last Sunday evening titled, "What Candace Cameron Bure’s Waltz Teaches Us About God." The title intrigued me, so I read the post and thought about how much living with grief is like dancing a waltz. This dance of grief is so tricky, so complicated. Grief commandeers as lead partner after loss and is an unrelenting instructor. Try as I might to keep up with the dance lessons of grief, I continue to falter, to lose my step, and to stumble.

It's unlike the beginning of the journey, however, when grief was as an ocean, a tsunami that obliterated those in it's path. Over two and a half years ago, I was swept violently away without warning, but by God's grace, my frantic flailing while drowning cast me onto the Rock of my salvation. God, and His word, was the foundation, the Rock, upon which I stood. He continued to remind me of how very much He loved me. He repeatedly whispered His precious promises to me.

Over the last several weeks, I have longed to be reminded of them again, especially as I tread into new territory with our second oldest. I struggle, not only with the bitter-sweetness of experiencing things with her that I did with her brother, but with the bitter-sweetness of experiencing things with her that I don't, and will never, get to do with Matt.

It's made me grieve yet more this week, thinking of these things; the ache of missing my son has flared painfully. Additionally, three times this week I also saw two boys that looked so much like Matt it made me catch my breath when I saw them. Even their body language, posture, and gestures were similar to Matt's. Both had a buzz haircut, wore dark-rimmed glasses, and sauntered the way he did. I found myself drinking in their appearance like a stranded woman dying of thirst in the desert. They were a younger version of Matt, but both had the same broad shoulders, and one of boys stood with his hands nonchalantly resting in his pants pockets just like Matt would do. I caught myself wondering if this was some sort of cruel trick God was playing on me, or if it was, indeed, a blessing, a gift to have a glimpse of sorts of Matt through these two boys. I'm still not sure. I just know that I hurt horribly, like grief had thrown me down onto the dance floor in a rapid turn of the tango.

I desperately needed to hear God whispering to me, reminding me of His great love, to encourage me and spur me on. I needed Him to tell me to stop looking at what I've lost and, instead, to keep looking to Him. I needed Him to pick me up off the dance floor and lead the way. I don't want to dance with grief. I want to dance with my Father. He is, after all, the Only One in whose hands I am secure and unconditionally loved.   

Friday, May 16, 2014

Faith in action

Matt's sister got her permit on Monday. Honestly, I'm having a hard time with it. I knew it was going to be difficult when it came time to doing some of the same things with Matt's sister that I did with him, but reality hit me harder than I had anticipated. First of all, being at the DMV again was painful. I couldn't help but remember being there with Matt, getting his permit and license.

Second, they have signs posted all over the walls containing driving and crash statistics. Obviously, I know these are good and necessary things, but knowing my16yo. child died in a car accident, I really don't want to think about the fact that getting in a crash at 60mph is the same as falling from a 25 story building. (Just one of the signs posted.) My son, who was wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the vehicle at 55mph. Really, I don't need to go there again by reading signs at the DMV. Needless to say, I had a difficult time while waiting for his sister to finish her test.

Lastly, the joy, excitement, and proud mama moment that I should have for her getting her permit doesn't exist. And that makes me angry. Grief steals so much more than your loved one. I know, too, that his sister doesn't have the same level of excitement, either, in getting her permit that her peers had in getting theirs. It sucks. It really, really sucks.

It is in these circumstances that my faith is urged into action. I vacillate frequently between faith and fear. I cannot, however, allow fear to rule my decisions. Fear cannot be the motivating force behind them; faith must be. Faith is not stagnant. It cannot be. At some point, action is required.  The saying, "Put your money where your mouth is" holds true for faith, as well. The incredible thing is this: God's got us. He knows our fears. He knows our weaknesses. He knows that our faith is tried. How I needed this reminder from Jennifer Dukes Lee that God's got it, not just this week, but every day, for every thing. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

May - making it through a multitude of emotions

I have been struggling with writing this post for over a week now. The beginning of May has been difficult. Difficult because it begins with Matt's birthday on the 2nd and is also, inevitably, preceded by a "29th." On the heels of Matt's birthday is our wedding anniversary, just six days later. Finally, to round things out, Mother's Day falls a few days after that. Needless to say, it's an emotional, heart-wrenching start to the month.

A gray thread of grief now runs through every holiday and special occasion. The loss of a child isn't something one ever forgets; your child's absence never goes unnoticed. It's as if the pages of our lives, though colored in again, are tinged with a gray outline. The naivety of life before loss is irreparable.
These first few weeks of May suck. They just do. I feel like I'm holding my breath until after Mother's Day. I can't wait until the day after Mother's Day. I wish I didn't feel this way, but I do. I've been on this roller coaster ride of grief long enough, however, to know that the plunge will, mercifully, even out.

Getting through Matt's birthday was excruciating, but we did, thanks to one of my best friends and her family. She is a selfless, amazing, and sacrificing friend who continues to be here for us. She and her boys spent Thursday and Friday night at our house while Tim and I went to a hotel. All the children enjoyed swimming in the pool, then went back to our house to play Minecraft (Matt's favorite), and watch LOTR (Lord of the Rings - also Matt's favorite). They also drank a McDonald's Mocha Frappe (again, Matt's favorite) in honor of their brother.

Being able to get away to the hotel alone was a huge relief. It allowed Tim and I to just let our grief out without reserve. We needed that outlet. I cried myself to sleep Thursday night, and then cried for a while on Friday morning. I had also booked a massage for Friday afternoon. It was therapeutic and exactly what I needed.

Matt's birthday past, we limped into our 21st anniversary the following week on the 8th. We are so incredibly blessed and are so thankful for the years God has given us, but celebrating anniversaries now is different. There is joy, there is appreciation, but never are we ignorant of the fact that our first-born is missing from the celebration. We did, however, manage to drag our tired, deflated bodies out for one last date night on Thursday to our favorite Mexican restaurant. After 33 years, it's closing because the owners are retiring. It's the end of an era, really, as we've had date nights there most every Friday evening for about the past five years. It was also a huge blessing because a dear friend gave us a gift card for it.

Our anniversary over, Friday came and, with it, another trying, emotional moment. Our 15yo. took her driver's permit. It hit me harder than I had expected, but it is exactly these times that require an act of faith. It is ironic to me that it fell at this particular time, but God's grace is sufficient. Matt's sister isn't using the same driving school that he did as, thankfully, we have three different ones in the area to choose from. I feel reassured with the one we chose. The instructor seems quite understanding and accommodating. He realizes he's dealing with rather sensitive circumstances, and I appreciate that. As we begin behind-the-wheel driving, I'd covet prayers for us all.

Finally, today is Mother's Day, and I took the advice of Compassionate Friends. I stayed home from church and enjoyed a nice, long bubble bath in the quiet while Dh went to church with the kids.


This morning, I woke up to the 5yo. crying, the 7yo. yelling, and two teenagers having a loud conversation in the next room. And I gave thanks to God because they are here. I am so thankful for God's provision and grace. I am abundantly blessed.

For every mother today, I pray God's grace be multiplied, and for every woman whose arms remain empty, I pray God's peace that surpasses all understanding.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Matt, Guess what?

I love you!

I cherish the memory of this game. Gale, my best friend, started it when Matt was just a little boy, probably as young as three years old. She'd ask him, "Matthew, Guess what?" And he'd always answer, "What?" Then she'd say, "I love you!" He always fell for it. It was a very special bond she and Matt had. I treasure, as well, the FB message she sent him on his last birthday, his 16th. Of course, it went something like this: "Matt, Guess what?" He replied, "I remember...!" Oh, how something so silly can make my heart ache so.  

I wish I could see his FB messages, but because Matt was a genius at the computer he created nineteen-character-long passwords, passwords that are impenetrable even to my computer programmer husband! After Matt died, I discovered quickly that, though my son was under 18, we, as his parents, have absolutely NO rights to his email, FB, or other accounts. It still angers me to this day the hypocrisy concerning minor children. Just months prior to Matt's death, I had been at the ENT with him for a check-up. I, for once, sat in the waiting room when the nurse called his name because I figured he was old enough to go back by himself, and he certainly didn't want his "mommy" coming back to the room with him. How utterly hypocritical, however, when the nurse told me that since he was under 18, I needed to be in the room with him. Seriously???? Let's not forget, either, that as parents we are required by law to feed, clothe, and financially provide for these same minor children, yet aren't allowed access to their dental records once they turn 13! Furthermore, we're not allowed to have our minor child's FB account password or email information. UGH. Enough ranting.

Suffice it to say, my point in all this is simply this: If your child is under age 18, then do whatever it takes to get their account information and passwords down. (Actually, adults also need to have this stuff written down somewhere as well. I've listened to too many widows and parents of single, deceased adult children describe their tremendous difficulties in dealing with the numerous legal and domestic issues that arise after their loss.) Ultimately, when your loved one is gone, any tangible reminder of them becomes a treasured keepsake. After all, it's all you have left of them. Additionally, in an age where letters and communication are now in the form of emails and social posts, they become priceless treasures. 

Not having access to some of these things, however, reaffirms to me the truth, the truth that this world is not our home. This earth is temporary and everything and everyone is temporary, also. We were created for eternity. These things that I miss, that I long for, like reading Matt's emails and messages, they truly aren't what matter. Oh, they are precious. But they aren't necessary. What's necessary is knowing God. And if you know God, then you know truth, for Jesus said He is the truth. (John 14:6)

Knowing truth is what gives me strength to face certain days this week like Matt's birthday and Tuesday, the 29th. Another 29th. It was, however, the first time I hadn't realized it was the 29th until I looked at the calendar mid-morning. It made me smile because it evidenced healing. The amputation remains, but much healing has taken place. The truth is what sustains me for these bittersweet days like today, what would have been Matt's 19th birthday.

I want to say I'd give anything to have him here to celebrate his 19th birthday with him. But I can't have him here, so I don't say that. Instead, I remind myself of the truth. Matt is alive. He is with Jesus. This separation is temporary. Temporary. Temporary. It is why I can now celebrate, though sorrowing.   

This truth that I focus on enables me to do things I didn't think I could do. This year, we made a birthday cake for Matt's birthday. His sister is still struggling deeply, greatly, but I hope having a cake for him will help her. I wasn't strong enough the first two birthdays to do this and, honestly, if it weren't for his siblings, I probably still wouldn't. But I realized that I needed to do it for them. I need to do it to honor Matt's life. I do it for the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

I'm guessing you'd like your birthday cake, Matt. Oh, and Matt, Guess what?
Love, mom