Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How do I help Them????

This will be my 4th Christmas without Ashley. The first year, we were the sense that we were the most recent ones (in our circle) to begin the walk on this road called grief and loss. It was a hard year, that first year of learning how to live again, learning how to go forward empty.
The more time has passed, the farther down the road we travel, others have begun to follow. Many of them are dear to me. Parents have buried their children, Men have buried their wives. Those of us who walk the same road, we understand, we remember. For the ones who have lost, time stopped. For those around them, life continues. For the ones who hurt, confusion sets in as they watch time pass in front of them, but feel like they stand still. The ones who hurt....they don't know what they need. The ones who watch, wonder how they can help.

My cousin recently lost his young and vibrant wife and mother of three. In an instant life changed forever. She entered glory and left behind those who must struggle to survive. Desperately wishing I could change the past or even fast forward into the future, even I wondered how I could help him. Was I crazy? I have been there myself. I tried to remember  what helped us. Being lost in each moment, I listened to all the offers of help...."just call", they said. My memory bank was full, how would I know who to call? "What do you need?" "How can I help?" I don't know what I need, I don't know how you could help me. I realized that I didn't even know what I needed. Some days I would pray ( and still do ). I would tell God...."I don't know what I need today, but I don't feel right, I know I need something. Could you please supply what I need, since I don't know what to ask for?" Some days I was in dire need of help but was too "paralyzed" in my pain to be able to seek help. I needed God to seek it for me...and others to listen to His small voice prompting them.

There were days that I never even prayed, but God sent someone or something at just the right time. I didn't always willingly accept it, but soon realized that it was indeed what I needed. If God knows what I need, and he supplies all of my needs, then He will let others know how to help me. God wants to use me and my needs to bring others to HIM! I encouraged others to pray. Not only to pray, but to really listen. Hear what God wants from you, and DO it. Don't just do it, but do it for God! Don't expect anything in return....not even affirmation, or thanks, or a response of any kind. It is about God! NOT you! I encouraged my cousin to tell others to pray and listen and respond.

As I read a blog today of a friend who started on this ugly road of grief only in July, she so beautifully and perfectly painted in words the very thing I am writing about. I desire to share her words, so as to help others to understand the hurting, to give them grace, forgiveness, and help, the kind of help that comes from being the hands and feet of our father. These are her words...slightly altered to protect her privacy...
right now...
we don't have much to give to each other...
let alone to anyone else...
So we apologize for not meeting your expectations
and for holding too high expectations
for you...

We can't see past our emotions,
We can't see past our great loss

We are blind
groping the walls
seeking light
the way out
reaching and begging and pleading
for help
for salvation....
from this lot.

But God thought us worthy of this lot
so we bear it.

mind you...
we may not bear it silently as Jesus did....
we may bear it....

completely recklessly
and inappropriately
while screaming,
while silent,
pious or angry,
thrashing against it all....
or numbing our way through it all
but we will bear it
we have no choice

God is faithful to do what He says He will doregardless of how we feel
or how we act
or what we believe
or what we doubt....

but it sure doesn't help
when we don't see
or feel
or hear....
It feels very very lonely
It is very very lonely
It feels like rejection
like punishment
like the wilderness...
Sometimes we get a glimmer of God,
when He sends someone...
when He calls out to them...
and they answer Him with a
"Yes, Lord- I am willing."

He has called out to many
but few answer His call
few answer THIS CALL-
He sends that still small voice to their heart and says... 
I want you to call them and just listen-
they may never pick up the phone.
Stop by their house-
they may close the door.
Send a note-
you may never get a response.
Call them again-
pat them on the back
hug them
even if they resist hugging you back
don't take it personal
this is not about you
this is about Me
text them a song, or a poem
send them a picture
write them a memory
let them know you miss her too
talk about her
even if it makes you uncomfortable
pray for them...
read scripture over their family
really pray for them
Stop telling them what to do
just listen
I am calling you
They need you
Are you willing?
They have NOTHING to give you back.
They will drain you,
....but I want you to help them....
are you willing?
You will never get praise
or rewards on this side of Heaven
No one will know you are helping them but Me."


Being where I am today, having walked this road for some time, knowing I still feel this way at times, many times, I am also able to look back and remember. I am able to encourage others to remember these people who are not too far away from all the hustle and bustle. They sit silently in the shadows. They are hurting. Take time to pray for them. Ask God how you can help them. Listen to him. Answer his prompting, no matter what earthly response you get. Tell no one of your deeds....give God the glory, and allow yourself to be blessed in serving Christ.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Standing on Promises

It is July again. Three years later. I can hardly believe it has been three years, it seems like yesterday and forever at the same time. I remember sitting on my porch in the days to follow Ashley's death. My friend wished she could pick me up and move me three years into the future. She said that it would get better. She knew because she had been where I was 16 years before me. I listened, but couldn't possibly imagine making it through three years. I could barely survive each moment. In my heart I truly believed that I would not have to make it for three years. God would come before then. Surely this must be the end. My world had fallen to pieces. My world had ended. I waited every day for Him to come. Each morning I begged of him that today would be the day. Every night I begged him to let me wake up in His presence. My bags were packed. I was ready to go. I had no attachment to this world. Nothing meant anything to me anymore.

No one could promise me anything. I wanted people to tell me how to make it. I wanted instructions. I wanted assurance. No one would promise me anything. I tried to make promises to myself. I became angry by the promises people make to others. Promises to pray for them, when they wouldn't really pray. Promises to stand by someone no matter what, and then forget with time, or give up when the going got tough. I did not promise to pray for anyone, knowing that I would fail them. I couldn't sing songs because I couldn't say the words and not mean them.

Last night, as I put my little girls to bed, Grace asked me once again, "when will God come to take us home?" I tell her I don't know when, but I do know that He WILL come. He promised us that he will come. I know that God always keeps his promises. He can not break a promise. As I lay there I thought about the other ways I answer my kids difficult questions and fears. I usually answer them with promises, God's promises. "He will never leave you, nor forsake you." "He will be with you wherever you go." "He will provide all of your needs according to His riches in glory." "He loves you." "He will never let you go." A song began to sing itself to me. "Standing, standing, standing on the promises of God, my savior, Standing, standing, I'm standing on the promises of God!"

I have been giving my children, and so also myself, the only promises that I know will be true. The old hymn reminded me that I am standing on His promises each day. But what if I am not sure if they are true? What about my doubt, my unbelief? I tell my children these things, these promises, but what if they are not true? They believe without a doubt. What about my unbelief? The second verse says "Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God." Even in my doubt and unbelief, His word is Living and Will prevail! It will not fail. I will choose to stand, even blindly, on His word, His promises, because I have nothing else to stand on! I am teaching my children to be faithful to God's word, faith, void of myself, but walking forward blindly.

As I read more on the old hymn, Kenneth Osbeck in his book "Amazing Grace" writes: "Bible scholars have pointed out that the phrase "fear not" appears in the Bible 365 times - a reassuring promise for each day of the year. A daily dependence upon the divine promises is the only real remedy for our human fears." (Amazing Grace, pg. 85) Growing up in a church that filled each Sunday service with the hymns of old, I often wondered why we had to sing these old songs. I loved to sing them, and I knew them well. As I page through my hymnals I am amazed by how many of them I know, not only the words, but the music in several different harmonies. In my deepest, darkest moments the words and music of those old hymns fill my soul. They force me to sing, to remember the words that have been impressed upon my heart. Those words, all these years later, are now teaching me about my faith. They are reminding me of the truths found in the gospel. They have often been my only comfort, like a gentle rocking for my soul.

I am standing on the promises of God, my savior today. Every day. I will continue to tell my children of the promises I know, and trust that God will impress them on their hearts forever.

"Standing on the Promises" by R. Kelso Carter

1. Standing on the promises of Christ my King, thru eternal ages let His praises ring; glory in the highest I will shout and sing, standing on the promises of God.

2. Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God.

3.Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord, bound to Him eternally by love's strong cord, overcoming daily with the Spirit's sword, standing on the promises of God.

4. Standing on the promises I now can see perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me; standing in the liberty where Christ makes free, standing on the promises of God,

5. Standing on the promises I cannot fall, list'ning ev'ry moment to the Spirit's call, resting in my Savior as my all in all, standing of the promises of God.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

When Mommy Says a Prayer

Every night at bedtime my children wait until I pray. The prayer is often the same old prayer, but they can't sleep without it. They want me to pray for angels to keep them safe at night, to watch over them each day. I want them to hear me ask God for them to always love Him, to always serve Him, and to love Him and others the way He loves us. I thank Him for the strength He gave us for that day, and ask Him for more of it tomorrow. I am amazed by the comfort it brings my children by my simple little prayers.

Because it is Mother's Day, I want to reflect on my Mother, rather than the fact that I am a mother. I still go to my mommy when I need a prayer. I always know she will pray. Prayer is often the only thing I ask for these days. No one can give me what I need, but God. No one can fix my pain each day. No one can give me strength. No one can comfort me. God can. Sometimes I can't pray, but Mom can. What a blessing it is to have a Mom that prays!

When Ashley died, I crumbled. My mom was there but couldn't pick up the pieces. She wasn't enough. As my mother and my friend, she decided to equip herself with the "tools" she needed to help me best. She wanted to know what my life would be like, she wanted to catch a glimpse of the journey I was about to embark on. My mother began to read. She read books about heaven, she read books about one mother's journey through loosing her son. She read about the darkness. Much of it was for her own comfort and desires, but it was because of me that she read. She was preparing herself to meet my needs, she was searching for ways to pray. I am so proud of my mom for caring so much. When she felt helpless, she did not quit. She equipped herself, and went to God, asking Him what I needed.

When I tell her nothing, she prays. I believe she asks God what to pray for. There have been days that I have called in tears. I have been desperate for strength, not knowing how I would face another second. I would ask for her to pray. It is rare that we pray aloud together. Praying is so often done in private. It is something that is not seen, and rarely is recognized in public. We can't take credit for our prayers. They are between us and God. We can rejoice in answered prayer. We can weep when our prayers seem to go unanswered.

It was my last mother's Day. (that was three years ago) Because our business is busiest over Mother's day, I don't usually plan for much! I wanted to do something special for my mom. One thing my mom always wishes for is to have her children with her in church on a Sunday morning. She craves this especially because only one of her children lives close by. Two of us live far away, along with all of her grandchildren. I knew it would be a treat for us to come to church. Since my husband had to care for flowers in our greenhouse that day, I packed up my four kids, drove 2 hours north and showed up on the pew benches of my parents church. I can still remember my mother's face when she realized it was us sitting there. We had a lovely day that day.

Mom, I wish I could give you that surprise today. I do not have the strength. I am so very tired. My heart is so broken. I wanted to do something special for you today. Something that will make you shine. I want to rise and call you blessed. Remember when I was little? Do you remember when I entered that competition in the local newspaper? I had to write a small paragraph about my mom. I wrote about you, and me. That little paragraph won the prize and was published in the paper for Mother's Day. So, today I decided to write this blog about you. You are a wonderful mom. You have been and continue to be my best friend. You give all you can give, and when there is nothing to give but prayer, you just Pray. Thank you, Mom, for saying a prayer for me. I love you! I always will.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Father's Love

Valentine's Day is two days away. I remember the way Ashley prepared for this day, carefully designing cards for the one's she loved, wording and rewording until she said it just right, cutting and pasting, trying her hardest to capture the vastness of her love and squish it onto a single card. She paged through magazines and browsed the card racks at stores trying to get ideas for the perfect cards. She would often beg me to let her buy a card from the store (she thought they did a better job), but mommy never relented, a card must be homemade, those were the best a little girl could give. As the day approached, Ashley was disgusted that this day did not deserve "a day off" status, like other holidays! Valentine's Day was a favorite for Ashley. It was the designated day for proclaiming our love for others! For Ashley, every day was valentine's day. She told me every day how much she loved me...that she loved me sooooo much, that in all the world, she would only pick me to be her mommy. Love. Ashley understood Love. She didn't just say how much she loved others, she showed them, every day!

Every year, I also spend an afternoon cutting and pasting as I make valentines for my children. I reflect on my love for each one of them as I make their cards. Although I begin with blank paper, I am amazed that I end up with a unique card designed with love for each one. Today, as I cut and paste, I can't help but to reflect on the lesson of love that my heavenly father has given given me a glimpse of this year.

Dear Ashley,

You taught me so much about love. Before you, I knew what it was like to be loved by my parents. I knew what it was like to love and be loved by my friends, my siblings, my family. I knew the love of my husband, and I knew that God loved me. When you came into my life, I began to know the love that pours from my soul, from the depths of my heart into the tiny life of my child, my flesh and blood. I never knew a love like this until you were born. I wondered how it was possible to love someone so much! What is more, you loved me back even more than I could fathom. Even though I was filled with flaws, you loved me anyway. I thanked God that He would give you a love for me despite who I am.

I loved you more and more. How could it be possible that the love I had for you the day you were born could possibly grow bigger, deeper, wider? As I loved you, I was showing you God's love. You loved God. As you grew, you loved Him more. The more you knew Him, the more you loved him. You would always tell me how much you loved me, and then you would say "but I love God the most." You pointed me back to God.

My heart and soul bleed as I ache for you. I so desperately want to hear those words again. I want to tell you how much I love you. You are gone. But, God remains. I can't always feel him. In the darkness I have wondered about His love. I could not understand. When I held you, in my joy, I knew God's love. How then, do I know God's love in my pain? God can't reveal to me the fullness of his love at first glance. His love grows bigger and deeper and wider as I walk with him.

A few weeks ago my heart was torn as I faced a very large mountain. God gave me the strength I needed to make it that day. Then, when I was fully poured out, I saw that I had only climbed the foothill to the mountain. For the first time in over two years, one of your siblings began to wail for you. The screams of death resounded from this house once again. I had no energy to face this mountain that day. There was no acceptance of my comfort. As I was forced to sit still and helplessly wait, I began to understand a glimpse of another aspect of love. God's love, in pain. My heart bled in agony as I listened. I longed to fix the pain. I wanted to take it far away, to wrap my child in my arms and remove the storm. But, as the storm violently surrounded me, patience filled my soul. I waited. I knew that my child needed to walk through it. I knew that my child would be stronger on the other side. I knew that although it was horrible, my child needed this in order to heal. I had to wait. I would walk my child through.

My eyes began to open and my heart wept as I felt my Father's love for me. I knew that his heart hurts when I am in pain. I knew that he patiently waits for me to walk through the storms, because he knows where I will be when I come through them. He knows that I need to face them, to endure them. He knows that each storm I walk through is making me stronger. He loves me in my pain. He understands.

God chose to show us love through the simple relationship between a parent and a child. I am also his child. He loves me the way He loves his son. God has given me the chance to understand the love a mother has for her children as I hold them in my arms. He as given me the chance to love my child through the searing pain of death, and he is showing me a glimpse of what it is like to love my child in pain and suffering.

God's love is deep, and wide, and high....and I will not see it fully until I am with him. Although I knew that God does not delight in our suffering, it was not until I loved my child through their suffering that I could even remotely understand that He is love even in the storm.

Happy Valentine's Day, my sweet girl!