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.