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.