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April 6, 2015

Settling In

I wrote this last summer and didn't post it.  It applies as much today as it did then, so I thought I would share it...

As I continue to make my way through grief, I see that grief manifests itself differently over time.  I do not spend as many days in deep, intense despair as I did a year ago.  Instead I have a constant level of sadness that isn't as debilitating.  There are even days when I feel joyful.  The good days come more frequently and the difficult days are farther apart. Rather than wondering how I will move forward in life, I see that I am moving forward.  I prayed that God would heal my heart and He is.  It is happening slowly, over time.

One part of grief that is surprisingly tricky for me are the times when I do feel better.  I've had many moments over the last few months where I look forward to moving into the next phase of living, away from grief.  There is joy mixed with a strange sting of sadness in these moments, but the joy usually outweighs the pain of acceptance.  I frequently ask God, "Lord, what do you have next for me?  What do you want me to do now?"  I know that I'm still here for a reason and I anxiously wait for Him to answer my questions.  

Gently, God has shown me a few things He does not have for me right now.  In doing that, He also allowed me to see that just because I feel better than I did before, I still have intense underlying sadness and a low tolerance for stress.  Something as simple as a trip to Michigan to see my family, something that was joyful in the past, is draining.  The first few times I went, I couldn't understand why I felt so wiped out after returning home.  I realize now that I seriously underestimated the effects of grief on my ability to handle stress, even good stress.

Feeling better does not equal done with grieving.

Thankfully, God knows this and He allowed prayers to go unanswered and doors to remain closed when I tried to get ahead of myself in moving forward.  Because He showed me the far-reaching effects grief still has on me, I am able to let go of my expectations of what I think my future should look like.  By letting go, I am free to settle into the very real present where He has me now.  That freedom, the kind that only He can give, is so very exciting and welcomed.

March 24, 2015

Encouragement

Last week we marked March 18th with mellow sadness.  We were not devastated like last year, but David's birthday is one of those heavy, weighty days where grief will not be ignored despite our schedule, preparation, or circumstances.  On March 18th, we simply clear our schedules so we can do whatever we need to do and be whatever we need to be, without added pressure or stress.

When I woke up last Wednesday, I thought, "I wonder if anyone will remember..."  I'm not on social media anymore.  I don't regularly write on a public forum like this.  Will people still remember that he was here and that this day marks something special and sad and sacred for us?

Before 10am we received our first text message of encouragement.  It came from one of the men who spoke at his funeral.  In addition to sharing that he prayed for us that day, He told us how he mindlessly reached into the abyss of his closet and happened to pull out a bright blue shirt to wear that day.

I was encouraged.

A few hours later, another friend, the other man who spoke at David's funeral, offered some very kind words, some encouraging truths and a great post from The Rabbit Room entitled "There is a Narnia."

It filled me to know that my son was remembered so lovingly and our pain was not forgotten.

As the day went on, more texts came in from all over the country.  Cards arrived in the mail from dear friends, new and old.  They were all tiny pockets of very filling encouragement.  

By the time evening rolled around, I decided that I wanted to do a little something more to mark his day with Justin and Abby.  Last year we decided a birthday cake would be weird because the birthday boy wasn't here to enjoy it.  Instead we ate his favorite meal, spaghetti.  This year we decided to be a bit more festive, so we got ice cream and ate it at his grave.  We had sweet conversations about what his birthday party in Heaven would be like, who would be there (Granny and Daddy Hob, both Mamaw's, Dyrk, Liam, Aaron, Mr. Dillon, King David), and what kind of cake he would have (either Granny's chocolate cake or her sloppy pineapple cake, made with heavenly pineapples).  Then Abby imagined what kind of pet he might have (most likely an elephant with a little monkey to ride on David's shoulder as he rode on the elephant's tusk).  

It filled my heart to speak with Abby about David in such a joyful manner, knowing that heavenly birthday party or not, he had a great day - and he has a great day everyday.  He is more than okay.  He is great because he lives in the presence of God, and one day I will be there, too.  That is the best kind of encouragement - biblical, lasting, can't-take-it-away-from-me encouragement.  

When I woke up on March 19th, I felt that wonderful lightness that comes when the heavy burden of grief lifts overnight.  I am always so grateful for these mornings.

The day flowed a little more easily for all of us.  There was more laughter, sarcasm, and silliness, so a pretty normal day.  When Abby came home from school, she checked the mail as she often does after getting off the bus.  On this day, she found a package from the Disneyland Resort: Lost and Found Department.  Trying to wrack our brains as to what we could have left behind the previous week on our vacation, she tore into the well-wrapped package.  When she finally got to the goodies, she discovered a brand new Woody doll with a very special "Sheriff David" badge in place of Woody's normal badge and an autographed picture of Woody and Buzz.  In response to a note we left for Woody while we were there, they replied with this very thoughtful gift.  


What a wonderful encouragement...  One day after his birthday and the encouragement still rolled in.  

The gift itself was kind and thoughtful and so special to us.  It brings a smile to my face when I think of the loyal Sheriff standing watch on the shelf in David's room.  However, the most satisfying part of Woody and every other note and text we received is the very thoughtful, loving, tender Father behind each piece of perfectly placed encouragement.  These gestures - sometimes small, sometimes large - carry me, and they will continue to sustain me as long as I'm here.  The God who sustains me when I cast my burdens on Him, is the same God who knows the hairs on my head, who uniquely created me in my mother's womb, and knows every need I have before I even ask.  I trust Him to comfort me and heal my broken heart and help me weather birthday's and every other kind of day that comes.  Thank you Lord for deep, all-consuming, soul-satisfying encouragement that only comes from You.


"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights..."  
James 1:17(a)

January 29, 2014

Pig-Pen

Hello.

It's been awhile.

Sharing my grief in this manner is not something I've wanted to do.  I may not want to do it again beyond today, but for now here I am...

Last fall I went through Grief Share, a grief recovery ministry offered by my church.  I really looked forward to the structure it provided, both in walking me through grief and in my daily living - I answered the questions in my workbook each day and it gave me a little structure in my wide-open schedule.  I went to all but two of the meetings.  I shared things and learned things from the women in my group.  I saw how the Lord transformed us all in our grief.  At the start of Grief Share the facilitators were quick to point out that we wouldn't be done grieving when the 13-week class was over, but it would help us "work through our grief." 

Working through grief is not fun.  For me, in addition to grieving the loss of David, which is painful enough, I learned so much more about the other junk I've been carrying around and wasn't even aware of. 

For instance, I've known for awhile that I struggle with pride, but when it came time to confess and repent, my heart wasn't really going there.  I didn't know how to fully mean it.  My pride wouldn't let me confess that sin because it meant I had to give it up, and I/my pride wasn't ready to do that.  In grief, however, my sinful pride reared its ugly head in a way that finally got my attention.  I wanted to solve the problem of pain and sadness my own way, and in doing so I unknowingly started down a very slippery path.  It was only then that I internalized the ugliness of my deep-seeded pride and my desperate need for Jesus.  Left to my own devices, I will screw up, no matter how "together" I think I may have it. 

This is just one of the bags of junk I uncovered.  A loss of purpose in this world, awareness of my ever-present self esteem issues, and struggling to know who God says I am are a few of the other bags I tote around.  All of this and I miss my little boy.

Grief is far messier and larger than I could have imagined.  I started a new 13-week session of Grief Share last night.  I couldn't believe that I shook with fear and anxiety last night just like I did on my first day in the fall, afraid to speak for fear that I would faint.  Today, I can't believe I did all that work in the fall only to peel back a layer and see an even bigger mess waiting for me now, complete with the bags mentioned above and bags of junk yet-to-be-labeled.  This time I feel angry and frustrated and discouraged that this whole grief process doesn't seem any better than when I started. 

In Jerry Sittser's book "A Grace Disguised," he writes, "I did not go through pain and come out the other side; instead, I lived in it and found within that pain the grace to survive and eventually grow. I did not get over the loss of my loved ones; rather I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am. Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it. I learned gradually that the deeper we plunge into suffering, the deeper we can enter a new, and different life - a life no worse than before and sometimes better."

You know what stands out to me in that paragraph?  Decaying matter - it stinks.  As the loss of David becomes a part of who I am and changes me, I wait for the stench of the decaying matter to dissipate.  Many times it seems like that stench may never go away, but somewhere inside me I hope that the rest of his paragraph is true - enlarging my soul, entering a new life, and finding grace and growth in the pain.  That means I must continue to plunge into the suffering. That, too, stinks.  I don't like that option, but anything else would be running from the Lord.  As He graciously showed me through my pride, running from Him is not an option. 

Yours truly,
Pig-Pen