Blessings

Today’s message from Andy Stanley is part of a series called “When God?” I find these messages always seem to come this time of year when I am in reflection and need a reminder of although it might appear God isn’t answering me, or listening to me, He is giving me something you cannot buy or wish and that is GRACE.
 
As I end a 4 day time of reflection of what I have lost I am also reminded about the magnitude of Grace that God has bestowed upon me over the years to keep moving forward. It’s not always easy, but through my trials and losses, God is raised up as it is He who lifts me up each and every day. – my post on Facebook and Twitter today

http://www.buckheadchurch.org/messages – link to get to the messages if you are interested.

 

A very special song from Laura Story – Blessings that touched my heart.

It is my wish for each one of  you who follow my blog and find yourself wondering “When God?” – this song is for you and the messages from Andy Stanley may be just what you need to hear.

until next time,

m

 

 
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Reflections of Grace

Continuing my series of blogging through Susan Duke’s “Grieving Forward – Embracing Life Beyond Loss”

Chapter Three – Reflections of Grace

I came to know and see grace differently after Britt’s death. I don’t think I ever really knew what having grace meant before even after my mom’s death some 18 years earlier. Grace was a foreign concept to me even being a christian which I know might sound odd.

In this chapter the author writes about her experience during the funeral of her son. There were moments when she felt like escaping, found what some people said to her was insensitive and also found a message that gave her a gift she has treasured all these years. I too experienced those same things. From the letters and flowers to the numbers of students who filled the room, to the moment when her best friends got up collectively along with her boyfriend and gave a testimony to the impact she had on their lives. It touched my heart then and the memory of that moment still does today.

A Cocoon of Grace….

Knowing that God has been with me through this entire journey has been a comfort like none other. The author speaks of that throughout this chapter. One of the quotes from the bible is one of my all time favorite. I wrote it on a piece of paper and carried it with me for months. When I would have moments where I didn’t think I could carry on, I’d get it out and read it. Or I’d reach in my pocket while at work and just grasp it and know it was there and repeat it over and over to get through the moment.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted / and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Palsm 34:18)

What does that look like? It looks like someone noticing you are having a moment and they come and comfort you. They take you by the hand and say “go take a break I’ll cover for you”. You get a card or letter that day that makes all the difference. An email arrives with a message that has been heavy on your heart. It’s all coming from God through others. It’s called Grace.

Surviving Tomorrow….

This came early for me in the book and when I originally read it I couldn’t imagine surviving an hour. Coming to terms with the fact that I couldn’t have controlled what happened to Brittany. That I did what I could over the many years to get her the help she needed to be as healthy as possible. I gave her the best life I knew to give. I was a good mom. What I did have control over is how I would respond to her death. How I would move on. How I would honor her memory moving forward.

Some days moving forward has meant progress and some days it has meant moving backwards. Just when I think “I got this” – it all comes crashing around me and I feel as though I am fooling myself. But at the end of the day I know I am a survivor and I am here for a purpose. Although a piece of me is gone forever. The poem I wrote about missing Brittany speaks to that missing part of my heart. That hole that will forever remain. But God’s grace has placed a patch over it and the ache isn’t as bad today as it was in the early days.

I’ve learned that today is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed. Some days I’m better at surviving than others, but I am surviving and as painful as that is some times it is better because of the grace God grants me each and every day.

until next time,

m

The Final Chapter

Chapter 15 = Heritage in a Graveyard

This is the last chapter in the book by Jerry Sittser “A Grace Disguised”. As I reflect on this chapter I am reminded of the amount of Grace that God has extended me these past 4 years since Brittany’s death. And it is in those moments of Grace that I have been able to keep going and to realize that although I have endured a great loss and lived with many losses, I live today knowing I am a survivor.

In this final chapter Sittser writes about taking his children to the cemetery for a stroll to see the burial-place of his mom and wife, their mother and grandmother and their sibling who parished in the auto accident. For those of you close to me you know I’m not a fan of cemeteries.

Over the past 20+ years, I can recall going to my mother’s maybe 3-4 times. I find it very difficult to go there. Actually in all honesty I find it unbearable to go there. I can recall two times, other than the day of her burial, that I went to see her burial site and to take flowers. Once it was with Brittany, perhaps she was somewhere around 10-12 years old. I didnt’ want to get out of the car. I pointed out in the direction and told her to go and I’d wait in the car. So off she went and then I felt bad for doing that so I got out of the car and went over to her.

She was just staring at her headstone, as if she didn’t know what to do. Then I got down on my knees and wept – I missed my mom so badly and I think it was then that Brittany understood what loss looked like and how much the relationship between mother and daughter meant. I got back up and dusted myself off, as I always do when I’m in pain, took her by the hand and left. I didn’t return again until a few years ago with my niece Devon.

Devon and I went to the cemetery one day and I got out of the car and found it to be much easier this time. Perhaps the sorrow that fills my heart today from Brittany’s death has made things like walking up to my mother’s grave easier. We cleaned off the headstone, which is still a sore spot with my family, it bares the name of her short-lived marriage and not our last name. Devon and I placed flowers there and spent a few moments in quiet. Then left. I never want to go back.

For me it is a place of sadness and a place that reminds me all too well of how much I have lost in my life. This feeling is why Brittany is not buried. Her father and I chose to cremate her and she is with me today. For me it’s just better. I don’t have to go to a burial site to see her – which has always been a hard thing for me to do. It would seem less painful.

1-1/2 ago my aunt passed away and for the first time I returned to a cemetery where some of my family is buried. As I stood over my great-grandfather and great-grandmother’s graves, I was reminded of good times, but such sadness overwhelmed me that I had to turn away and walk towards the car. My uncle in fast pursuit as he knows, probably better than most, that death is devastating to me no matter how long it has passed.

Going to a cemetery is a painful reminder for what has passed no matter whose buried there or not. It’s a symbol of loss, pain and devastating grief and so I choose not to go again. I have enough reminders as I look around the room at my daughter’s pictures – I don’t need more. I honor my families memories in my own mind and in my picture albums. That is how I best respect that life. It works for me.

Sittser reflects about his thoughts on his own heritage and his role and for me he nails it here in this passage:

“Heritage has always been important to me, but never more than in the last three years. Much of who I am is a product of the heritage given me at my birth. My story is part of a much larger story that I did not choose. I was assigned a role for which I did not audition. Yet I have the power to choose how I will live out that story and play that role. I want to live my story well and play my role with as much integrity and joy as I can.” – Jerry Sittser

I couldn’t have said it better myself. That my friends is why I continue to grow in my faith, accept God’s grace to move on and continue my story. But know I will always have that pain, that sorrow, that hole in the space where Brittany lived. And some days will always be harder than others. So as Mother’s Day approaches, please pray for grace because this holiday is one of the toughest I live through each and every year.

Until next time

m

A Grace Disguised

I’m so excited to blog through this next book “A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser. As some of my dedicated readers know I have found it rare to find a book that can come close to seeing grief through my eyes. Although our experience of loss is not the same; for his is much more tragic, he chose the right words that so creatively and accurately describes my pain.

I hope you get something out of this series as I did reading his book. I highly recommend it to anyone who has suffered a loss for it offers hope, spiritual rebirth and a new-found belief that the soul can heal and grow through loss.

“The experience of loss does not have to be the defining moment of our lives. Instead, the defining moment can be our response to the loss. It is not what happens to us that matters so much as what happens in us.” – Jerry Sittser

In the beginning of the book the author writes about the previous edition and reflected back over the years of his experience. What I related to most was on page 19 of the book where he talks about writing. I believe as he does that writing about one’s experience, thoughts, feelings, emotions can be healing.

At times during my four years I felt as  if my writing would either make me or break me. In the early days the writing was so porous one could see my pain on the pages of my blog. I allowed many of my readers to “feel” my pain as much as I could. Not because I wanted to bring everyone else down; but to allow you to see that the clichés of the past needed to go about what grieving people need to do or should do. But to allow you to see what’s real about grief.

Sittser talks about being able to read his own journals and was able to see his journey and how far he’d come. How he had changed as a person. He believes as I do that the hope is that our words can bring help to others. But in no way does it diminish our own losses. That our losses are as real and horrible as they were the day they happened.

“The good that may come out of the loss does not erase it’s badness or excuse the wrong done. Nothing can do that.” – Jerry Sittser

So much of what the author writes about in this book has been very validating for me as someone who has suffered so many losses. So it is my hope that you, my dear and cherished followers and any of you who have come upon my blog for the first time, take a moment and reflect that even though our losses have been great. The power to heal resides within  us. It is how we live on that makes the difference between living or just existing.

until next time,

m

A Sorrowful Night

I won’t lie I did something I haven’t done in a while and that’s I cried myself to sleep last night. You see I’m in that period of the dark times where Thanksgiving is upon us and my girl’s birthday, what would have been her 22nd birthday, follows shortly thereafter. And then there is Christmas.

I was feeling very sad last night as I lie in bed thinking to myself “why is life so damn hard” “why aren’t things falling into place” and “why am I hurting more than usual”. I could have answered those questions in so many ways, yet I just couldn’t seem to find the right one, that is until this morning. But first I must lay the foundation for what is going to happen next and why I think it’s important to move forward.

Just make sure it’s palpable for you to know what it’s like to be me I will try to put it into words for I’m not sure you really understand the gravity of my loss(s). Then I will explain what I intend to do about where I sit now, numb and finding life somewhat meaningless.

The day I said goodbye to my mother was extordinarly difficult. I was seven months pregnant with Brittany and as you could imagine very hormonal. But I was able to put it together and continue on. But underneath that calm exterior I was slowly dying. What I mean is my life as I knew it was no more. I just spent the next two months sitting in the rocker that was in the baby’s room and rocked. Asking God “why”? Then two short months later my sweet baby was born.

Five years later, my grandmother, to whom I was very close was about to die and I was called to her bedside to say goodbye. As I entered the room I called out “Red”, my nickname for her and I was the only one allowed to call her that. She was on a vent and unable to respond, however, I saw a tear stream out of her eye as she attempted to move her head in the direction of my voice. And then she passed.

The nurse there knew I was in nursing school and offered to me a chance to do something she felt would be “healing” for me. I helped prepare my grandmother’s body before she was taken to the funeral home. It was I guess in a strange stort of way a healing process, but still during that time, I found myself silently working and asking God “why”.

Over the next 12 years I found myself asking God “why” so often I was beginning to wonder if he had turned an ear to me. Taking care of my daughter who had suffered a great illness at the age of 11 months and the many side effects from that illness was often too much to watch. Though I asked God often “why” I never really got an answer. I just did what any other mother would do, I care for her, I debated with doctors for her, I fought for her and in the end I lost that fight.

When you watch three of the most dearest people you know and love uncondtionally die right before your eyes – it changes you.

I am not the person I was the day I watched my mother take her last breath as I whispered in her ear that it was ok to go that the baby and me we’d be ok. I’m sick with nausea just thinking about that moment now as I write this.

I am not the person I was the day I watched my grandmother die and helped prepare her body for the funeral home. Knowing that the second most important woman in my life was now gone from me. Now I’m left to be a mother, and a mother of a child with health problems and no mother figure to ask for help. No one to reach out to for help. I just suffered alone.

Then as I watched my daughter suffer from her illness, set back and success, it was all such a roller coaster of emotions. She suffered in school, subject to redicule and bullying so often it would make you want to scream at people and say “what kinda kids are you raising”. But most often I felt helpless and sometimes even hopeless.

Through it all she remained upbeat, optimistic and at times, I thought she’s a better person than I because I would have given up. But no she just got up every morning and with a smile faced a world that didn’t understand her much, or didn’t want her around until she met Carolyn and Andy. They truly understood her and knew what I knew all along – that she was a true gift from God and we were so very fortunate to have her in our lives.

Then that dreadful moment came when I watched helplessly as they tried to revive her for the fourth time in 12 hours. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that is more gut-wrenching than to watch from a distance, yet knowing everything that is happening and understanding that nothing was going to work, but yet praying for a miracle. A miracle that never came.

So now as I sit her today facing another empty set of holidays I have to do something different. I have to get back to what I know works for me and that is reading about triumph over failure. Reading about faith and the grace that it can bring to a sorrowful filled person. I have to get back to what has kept me out of the trenches for the past four years.

What I have been doing is spending too much time trying to make other people happy. To be the “negotiator” of relationships. To appease those around me as if I have been chosen to do that. Because I have not. I’m not here to apologize for anything or anyone. I’m simply here to write out what I know to be true about grief. How it’s torn me from limb to limb and yet I’m still standing.

I have to get away from all the other noise that’s been consuming my life and take care of me. If I don’t – I know this for sure “I will not survive”. I will die of a broken-heart and I don’t believe that is what God has intended for me at this point in my life.

So I have chosen to blog about another book, for it is in this way I can show how and why I have made it from hell and back several times over. And hopefully help a few people along the way.

My next book topic is: “A Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser – How the soul grows through love. The reason I chose it is that his words really helped me see that I could keep going and keep believing in love even when it seemed as though I didn’t feel I had the capacity to have love again for the fear of losing it was too great.

Stay tuned…..

until next time,

m