To Help You Heal

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Life is hard. We all find ourselves up against “it”. There are lots of things.

  • A family member is diagnosed with cancer.
  • Your child tells you that they were sexually assaulted.
  • Your spouse leaves.
  • Your kids are bullied.
  • You are bullied (because let’s be honest, it happens to adults).
  • Your dreams fall apart.
  • You lose a friend to drug addiction.

This is just a short list. There are many other things that we go through that make us feel like we’re struggling to stay afloat in a sea of trouble. We can barely get to the surface long enough to catch our breath.

And that’s the problem. We feel like we’re fighting through, on our own, barely able to stay alive. There’s no one throwing us a life-preserver or helping us to shore. But here’s the truth—everyone is going through something. And most of the time, they don’t realize that we are too. If they do perceive our agony, the other problem is that they think they don’t know how to help. Let’s be honest, most of the time we don’t know how to help ourselves, which makes us feel incapable of helping someone else.

But the greater truth in all of this is that we are not alone. God is absolutely with us. He is fighting for us, and with us. He will equip us to not only survive, but to thrive despite our troubles. And when we learn how to do this, it gives us the ability to do the same for those around us.  We can offer that life-preserver we so desperately wanted to receive.

So what do you think? Think I’m totally out of my mind? Or do you agree with me? Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle, too burned out to truly believe that you’ll make it through, but too tired of fighting to surrender yourself to the thought that “this is all there is.” DON’T surrender. This stuff you’re fighting is NOT the end of your life. It’s not the end of beauty and joy and redemption that God has planned. The resurrection days are just beginning if we stand in faith and don’t give up.

David said it well when he wrote Psalm 25, verse 16 reads like the cry of a desperate heart: Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted.”  Here is what I know about God: he hears, he answers, and he comforts.  

Come with me on a journey this summer. We’ll talk about the hard stuff. And we will heal.

Follow along on my blog (https://whisperandwonder.wordpress.com) and my author Facebook page for video chats.

 

Death Defying Dreamer

A year ago my life was distinctly different.  I had a dad.  His cancer was back, he was entrenched in the fight, but he was here and I was thankful.  In the ebb and flow of life I missed the memo that grief would nail me as the seasons changed, but it has come.  Sorrow floods my heart and my mind wanders down the road I’ve walked these past 10 months without him.  I try not to think about the way he will be missed at our Thanksgiving table, the gifts I won’t be buying for him this year, and the multifaceted way it touches us all- my mom, my siblings, my husband, my kids.  We all feel the loss and it is immense.  I try not to think about it, but the sorrow lingers.

My life tells a story of broken dreams and love that redeems them all.  I do not mourn as one without hope.  I know, that even now, God is redeeming the pain I feel and bring beauty from it.  He loves me too much to leave me in this broken place.  He will move me through it, gently taking my hand, carrying me if need be, and walking with me until we are on the other side.  In the midst of my ache, he comforts me.

Let me tell you what God did last week~

Monday morning I received a glorious invitation- a friend asked me to accompany her to the first ultrasound of her 15-week pregnancy.  I was elated. I haven’t seen a baby in the womb since I saw the pictures of my youngest (now 8 years old).  I love the mystery and wonder of life, and eagerly counted down the hours, thankful that the appointment was later that afternoon.  All babies are special, but this is an extra special baby.  My friend and her husband have 2 children on earth and 6 in heaven.  Her journey has been one of great sorrow, but amazing hope and steadfast faith.  God has woven our hearts like sisters, not just friends.

As we sat in the dimly lit room, eyes fixated on the screen, smiles filled our faces.  This baby is perfect in everyway.  We heard the heart beat, saw the profile and laughed as he/she wiggled and waved.

This appointment was one of the hi-lights of my week.  I’ve soaked in the shared joy of this precious life and thought a lot about broken dreams.  My friend has persevered through devastating loss over and over again.  Her heart has continued to believe the gentle whispers of Jesus and the promise of life over her family.  She walks toward life even when circumstances looked like death.  She refused to give up and now she is entering into the beauty of this dream and inching closer to the day when she will hold this perfect one in her arms.

She is a death-defying dreamer.

I’ve felt God unfolding this phrase in my heart; encouraging me as I move through this holiday season filled with a mix of emotions.  I want to be a death-defying dreamer too.  God has spoken promises over my life and I long to hold them.

We all have dreams that seem to die before their time, places where we’ve reached for something that never did find it’s way into our grasp.  In those moments it’s hard to keep reaching, especially when disappointment and discouragement come more frequently than fulfilled longings.  I speak to my soul—Don’t give up, don’t stop dreaming, keep pushing forward, keep reaching.  Don’t loose heart.

What is waiting on the other side of those dreams is breath taking and I want to find it.  I inhale deeply, lift my head and align my vision with the one who continues to light the fire of inspiration inside me.

Lost & Found

In honor of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day~

On Nov. 14, 1997, I gave birth to my first child, a daughter we named Elise.  It was not an easy pregnancy or delivery.  The days following were the hardest I knew, at that point of my young 19 years.  Elise was born at just 26 weeks of pregnancy and passed quickly from our arms to the embrace of heaven.   The amount of time I spent with her was not enough.  I felt utterly lost—robbed of the life our family was supposed to enjoy together.  There was no way to realign my expectations with this reality.

A journey of deep healing forced itself upon me, I didn’t have a choice.  I had to trudge through the valley and keep going if I were ever going to make it out alive.  Most days I felt saturated by the raw rains of fall.  The façade around me was barren, echoing the climate of my heart.  Colorful leaves now gone from the trees, their branches hung naked.  It was the emptiness I felt inside.  Nature understood me.  It grieved with me and cried out on my behalf.  Winter’s ache came next, cold and stiff.  I struggled to warm myself against it.  Somewhere along this season’s journey I found the healing God offered.  He was with me all those days when I mistakenly thought I was alone.  He whispered love as leaves fell over me; he soothed the sorrow of my soul while cloaking me in gray.  He covered me, sheltering me in a safe place where I yielded to the sorrow.  As I waited in the stillness comfort came and he did that which only he can do—forging wholeness from the broken pieces of my heart while I was unaware.

I learned to love Jesus in new ways that year, as I found myself diligently looking for evidence of his closeness.  I breathed differently, aware that I inhaled his very presence.  He would never leave me, which meant he was always with me.  I asked him to show me how to see my life differently.  I wanted to look through his eyes of promise.  Without his lens I’d never find the beauty in this life.

My circumstances didn’t change as winter moved to spring.  My heart still ached for Elise and longed for the day Charlie and I would discover a new life growing inside my empty womb.  But in the midst of this sorrow I found an answer deeper than those things for which I grieved and the questions which resounded.  I found a love that ran deeper than my loss.  I found the arms of Christ encircling me, and felt his endless devotion like I had never known before.  I discovered that he IS enough.

It wasn’t that this discovery made life easier, but it settled me.

Friend, he longs to settle you too.  If you are facing the chill of fall, do not give in to the cold embrace.  Keep fighting, don’t lose heart; take one more step.  I promise you, Jesus promises this- The Lost Are Always Found.

The Grief Train

A freight train ran over me last week.  I saw it in the distance and tried to tell myself that we weren’t on the same track.  I wanted to deny the potential of what was looming on the horizon line.  I wanted to turn the other way so I couldn’t see the puffs of steam getting closer.  I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and hum loud enough to drown out the constant chugging.  I wanted to close my eyes and pretend that I lived somewhere else, in a land untouched by grief and the Christmastime loss of my dad.  I wanted all these things, but they didn’t happen, they couldn’t happen.  While I saw the train coming, I was unprepared for its arrival.

I had no real expectations for Father’s Day, no distinct thoughts about my heart’s well being.  I knew our schedule surrounding the day and tried to allow for a few moments of quiet time.  In the midst of feeling the loss I also wanted to celebrate my husband Dan, who is an amazing father to our kids.  We were going to spend the day together, and host a picnic in the evening for my family.  No big deal, right?  I told myself that I could do this, celebrate Dan throughout the day and honor my dad through the dinner.  Sometimes though, I lie and tell myself that I’m capable of things that are way outside the realm of possibility.  This was one of those times.  I hoped that if I said it often enough, that it would indeed be true.  In the end, a lie is still a lie.

I don’t know the precise moment when the train hit, although I would guess it was pretty much about the time my eyes opened and I took a deep breath of the morning’s gentle air.  I awoke to a day I’d never faced before, my first fatherless Father’s Day.  I pursed my lips and exhaled slowly, reassuring myself that I could do “this”.  I rolled over and said, “Happy Father’s Day” to Dan.  At the culmination of those 3 simple words, a solitary tear went streaming down my face.  I knew that the game was up, my lies were over and this was going to be a very exhausting day.

By 10 am I had applied mascara 3 times, discovering that it’s practically impossible to separate and coat wet lashes.  I wanted to look like my normal self even though I felt awful.  I’m not a “cute crier”.  My eyes get puffy and my nose gets red.  No amount of makeup can hope to mask my emotion.  I discovered this 20+ years ago, but I haven’t given up trying.

The day was filled with activity, some planned and some created.  Constant movement seemed to be my final attempt to hold my emotions in check, when what I really wanted was to throw myself face down on my bed and weep until my eyes shed their final tear.  This approach of busyness was as unsuccessful as the first.

Upon the arrival of this grief train, it parked itself in my station and refused to move.  I pushed and I pulled, but I was no match for the size and weight of this train.  It’s not like I haven’t grieved my dad’s death in the past 6 months.  I’ve spent a lot of time pouring out my heart before the Lord, my husband and friends.   I’ve gone through countless boxes of tissues since Christmas.  I’ve mourned the individual and cumulative loss over our family: it covers my mom, my kids, my husband, my siblings, my nephew, and me.  It’s complex.  I know this well.  What I did not know was that today, the loss would feel fresh and new, as if it just happened all over again.  The train hit hard, pushing me back to square one where a million memories from past days played like a movie reel in my mind.  The past infringed upon my future and spoke of all the things we would never do again.  It was a crushing blow.  My head already understood this, and while it wasn’t fresh there, I was reliving it in my heart as if I’d never felt it before.

Today there was no ability to hide behind the thoughtful processing of this loss on my family.  It was all about me.  This was Father’s Day.  I did everything I could to change the focus, to stay busy, to maintain emotional control, but I felt helpless.  I thought back one short year to a different time.  My dad was battling lung cancer, he was weak from the treatment regimen, but he was here.  I was thankful.  Last Father’s Day we celebrated with his favorite cheese steak from a local sub shop and milkshake to wash it down.  We teased that he could eat as much as he wanted—the doctor’s would love a little weight gain.  The rest of us would have to ration our bites so that we didn’t pack on the pounds.   We talked about “next year” when he would be feeling better and the world would be brighter.  There were so many memories we wanted to make together.  Now, those conversations felt like empty promises, hopeful grasping-at-straws that yielded no results.

As I stood in front of my dad’s grill, making his signature meal—burgers and hotdogs with baked beans on the side, my heart was broken into a million tiny pieces.  Smoke from the grill stung my tired eyes.  I’d finally stopped the trickle of tears that flowed off and on all day.  Now my eyes watered from my responsibility of “head chef”.  I thought to myself, “I can’t win.”  

Dinner was good, dad would’ve been proud.  This year we all laughed that I didn’t quite succeed in replicating his style—my burgers weren’t as dry as his typically were.   On the outside I smiled, inside I sternly reminded myself that there would be no tears during the picnic.

Night finally came; darkness covered me, offering a quiet place to rest my head and cry.  My responsibilities were finished and I was free to weep.   The sorrow and anguish of my soul poured forth, and like the grief train, there was no stopping it now.  I wept for hours.  Dan laid beside me in silent support.

Finally sleep enveloped me.

Monday dawned, my eyes opened and yesterday’s emotion resurfaced.  I tried to shove it away and hoped this day would be better.  To some degree, it was.  I still felt Sunday’s sting and wished that it would go away.  As the day wore on and my emotions remained unstable I had a life-giving realization.  Once again I’ve been looking with eyes of disgust at grief, when really, it calls to me as a friend.  Grief offers the opportunity to validate my feelings and the legacy of the one who has left me behind.  The piercing of my heart reminds me that I’m vibrantly alive; I still have the capacity to feel pain and loss, and this is wonderful.

I knew from past experience that brokenness is beautiful and suffering produces deep peaceful joy within me.  So I yield myself to feel the pain completely and will allow this loss do its complete work.  I will not shield my heart or turn away.  Grief is like a mountain that I overcome only by tunneling through it.  I step aboard this grief train.  I’m not afraid of it anymore.  I see the conductor give the signal—it’s time to leave the station.  Methodical shoveling fuels the engine’s fire.  The resulting steam puffs over my head, the chugging begins its gentle lullaby and my heart awakens to a different perspective.  This train did not come to run me over; it came to take me somewhere.  I don’t know where we are going, but I trust the One who’s in control of the adventure.  There is a mountain that I must go through.  God knows my heart, he sees the pain and he promises beautiful redemption for my pain.  This knowledge doesn’t make the loss any easier, but it promises that loss is not the end; it is the beginning.

As we depart the station and head out of town I settle into my seat.  I look out the window and see familiar places; I wonder how long it will take to get through the mountain.  I lay my head against the glass and close my eyes.  The gentle bumping of the tracks settles me.  Shallow breaths become deep and steady.   I feel a new invitation come as Jesus extends his hand and offers me a place of rest.  He sees my weariness; he knows I need stamina for this trip.  He asks me to close my eyes and lean into him.  Jesus offers safety and peace.  I don’t have to figure it out.  I simply have to trust that he is holding all the pieces in his hand and that somehow he will make a beautiful mosaic out of my tear stained shards of glass.  His rest envelops me, this time it’s different.  This rest does not simply cover my sorrow; it infuses me with strength and a promise:

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5 NIV

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