on a day i’m needing some courage

DSC05420_2There are some parts of my life right now that I am actually getting excited about again, where I see amazing things happening and I am getting to be part of how God is working in a larger way. Some of those things have come as a direct result of Naomi and the path I’ve gone down since she went to Heaven. I don’t for a minute believe that she had to die for these things to happen. I don’t think God works that way. But I do see that there is good coming out of something that was and will always be bad – because death was never in the plan originally. It wasn’t what we were meant for. We were made to live, to live abundantly. It really does amaze me when I can sit back and see these places where I see life coming out of the death of someone I love so very much and out of my deep grief. I am thankful for that.

But then there are these other parts of my life that feel so incredibly hard and insurmountable. These are things that were there before we knew Naomi was sick. For a large part of this past year I just ignored them because I couldn’t handle anything else and really I found I didn’t care so much about those things because I was hurting so badly. But recently I’ve been starting to face them, to wake up, so to speak, once again to these realities. Today, it all seemed so big that I just wanted to give up (and just maybe the screaming and fighting and needs of two little boys on top of these things was just pushing me a bit over the edge?)

One of the things that I have found in myself over this past year is, I guess, courage. Perhaps I could call it candor? I struggle incredibly with self-doubt and with wanting to please others. However, this past year I think that I have come to a place of seeing how futile the self-doubt truly is. I’ve begun to learn to trust more of how I hear the Lord speaking to me and who he has made me to be. And because I have faced what I never thought I could face, I’ve learned a courage that is not built on my own strength, but on a deep knowledge of my weakness and God’s all sufficient strength. So these things in life that feel really hard? I know I need courage to face them, but courage and patience, candor and wisdom to do it in God’s strength and as he leads.

This afternoon with these thoughts in my head (and after escaping to the park with those two energetic boys) I opened up my copy of Jesus Today by Sarah Young, asking God to speak some words of strength to my flailing heart. This book of devotionals are written as if Jesus is speaking directly to the reader. Sitting on a bench in the shade while sand flew through the air and a hole to China was being dug, this is what I read:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be discouraged, for I will be with you wherever you go. You can choose to be strong and courageous even when you are feeling very weak. However, the weaker you feel, the more effort it takes to choose to be strong. It all depends on where you look. If you gaze at yourself and your problems, your courage will melt away. The choice to be bold rests on your confidence that I am with you and for you…When everything seems to be going wrong, refuse to get discouraged. Remember that I am a God of surprises: I am not limited by the way things are or by the paltry possibilities you can see. I am infinitely creative and powerful…I am good to those who wait for Me.

One of the verses that went along with this entry was Lamentations 3:25-26, one of my favorite passages of Scripture this past year:

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

I so needed to hear these words of truth today. Sometimes it is hard for me to hope for good things in the future, because often I have a very specific idea of what that looks like and yet I know that what I think would be good for me and my family may not actually be what is best. It is hard to hope and dream after one has had their dreams shattered because you wonder if those dreams were right and if they were then why didn’t God bring them to fruition? I don’t understand God’s ways. But I am seeking to trust him and follow him because even though I don’t understand him, I know, deep in my soul, that he is good, that he loves me and that somehow he will bring redemption and restoration to all that is lost.

Advertisements

on prayers in the mess and not being alone

DSC04796_2A month of Sundays has come and gone since I’ve written here.

Sunny, 90 degree days of shorts and sandals followed by pull the wool socks back out, chilly days we’ve had this May. Celebrations of graduation, a trip out west, visiting gardens and watching baseball along with school and work and the day to day business of living have filled our days.

I’ve stumble for words, for the right words to put here this month. Because in everything I do I want the “right.” But my life doesn’t often feel orderly and put together. Most of the time it feels messy and like I’m just barely keeping my head above water and,

oh Jesus, help!

I pray that a lot.

Oh Jesus, help!

I think its a good prayer. I also wish I remembered to pray it more. Like when I am so done with repeating myself for the fiftieth time to my boys. Or when I smell the warm air and am transported back to one year ago in the hospital with Naomi on my first Mother’s Day as a mother of three. Or when I am about to board a plane for Portland and leave my boys for a week for the first time since my daughter died. Or when I have so much to do and all I want to do is go to bed. Or when I hear about tornadoes and children dying and homes destroyed. Sometimes I pray. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I want to pray but can’t. But all the time Jesus is with me. And He knows. He knows the struggle and the mess and the joy and the sorrow.

In grief and in life I think sometimes all we need is to know we are not alone. And to know we are loved.

You are loved. I am loved. We’re all a mess. And Jesus is here in the midst of it with us.

This is what I know to be true.

On new life and the intermingling of joy and pain

calalillies

“I want to feel both the beauty and the pain of the age we are living in. I want to survive my life without becoming numb. I want to speak and comprehend words of wounding without having these words become the landscape where I dwell. I want to possess a light touch that can elevate darkness to the realm of stars.” – Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds

I stumbled across this quote here and it simply captured me and spoke to some of the questions I am living right now and that, it seems, many others are in light of the events of this week in our country. You go looking hard enough any day of any week and the questions and pain, the suffering so many are enduring, will overwhelm. It is hard to live without answers. It is hard to “live the questions,” as one of my college professors always challenged us to do. It is easier to push those questions and seeming contradictions aside and go on with the day to day living, the day to day numbing.

I’ve had several people remark to me lately of how amazed they are at the openness that we have had regarding this journey of loving and loosing our daughter. I too, wonder at that. And while sometimes privacy is important and the sacred should be guarded and not all stories are meant for public consumption, there has been at the core a need for me to share my story, Naomi’s story, our family’s story. It is a way to feel both the beauty and the pain. It is a way for me to shake off the ever encroaching numbness, to find light in the darkness that I walk through. Every day, I have to look for the light, for God’s presence. These past couple of weeks, I’ve had to look harder. Things have felt a bit darker.

I had the amazing privilege this week of meeting a tiny baby girl, less than twenty-four hours since coming into this world. And after placing her first hand-made butterfly hat on her tiny head, made just the night before, I took her in my arms and thanked God for her safe arrival here. As I held her so her momma could hold her big brother (who was overjoyed to rediscover momma’s lap), I remembered the text this precious girl’s sweet momma sent me just hours after giving birth…that on the day of her daughter’s birth she was remembering me and my daughter’s birth, just a year ago. I tell you, this little newborn girl has one amazing, beautiful momma who has been such a faithful friend to me and my family. It was an honor to meet her third born, her daughter.

Holding this tiny little baby in my arms was a miracle in itself. Me, sitting there, with that ever present question..why? Why me? Why my daughter gone? I can’t pretend that I didn’t leave work early the day before, when I got the news of her birth because I couldn’t stop crying. I can’t pretend that my breath didn’t catch when I saw her older brother holding her, wearing a hand-me-down shirt from my youngest boy, who never got to hold his sister.

I used to think that the pain had to leave for joy to return to my heart. But now I see that the joy and the pain intermingle and the light is made brighter because it shines in dark. I think this is the way it will be until I see Jesus one day face to face. Sometimes I struggle to accept that. But the joy, when I allow it in, comes, and His peace, too.

So this is hard and it hurts but she, this new little princess, is a gift to her momma and daddy, yes, but to me too and to all who love and hope and long for life to overcome death. And me holding her this week, that was a miracle too, because I could run and hide from all things baby and girl because it reminds me of what I’ve lost. I could hide from all my friends who are pregnant or have tiny little ones. But I don’t want to loose out on all that joy, all the sweetness and hope and love and somehow, God, in His amazing love and grace, keeps taking my pain and allowing me these moments of light, these moments where I experience joy in the midst of sorrow and teaching me not to dwell in the wounding but be cradled instead in the arms of love.

On Pain ~ when you are trying to not feel it

**I wrote most of this post several weeks ago. But I still wanted to post it because I want to document what this whole experience has been like for me.**

Its amazing to me how hard I work to avoid pain. Have a headache? Pop a motrin. Got a sore throat? Take a throat drop. Fall on the ice while going to the car to fetch a toy for your child (ahem)? Please don’t ask me to move for the rest of the day because my leg hurts, badly. Cut your finger while prepping dinner? Go to bed! (I wish!)

I spent a good portion of the day one day a week or so ago sitting on the floor with a crying child (who shall remain nameless), explaining consequences for actions, discussing good and bad choices and mostly just being with him in his pain. At one point he said to me, “I will do ANYTHING good and have ANYTHING else taken away but please don’t take away ….[that thing I really really wanted to do]…”.

My son was trying to find a way to avoid the emotional pain caused by the consequences of his actions. He pleaded with me over and over not to make that thing his consequence. It was hard, so hard to stand firm because I hated seeing him in such emotional turmoil.

Lately I realize that I have been pleading with God, myself, my husband, to not let this be my reality – the reality where my daughter, who would be nearly ten months old but for the fact that she got really sick and she died. I found myself distraught this past month over the evidence that, no, I am not pregnant.

Just last week I was remarking on how things seemed to be more even emotionally for me. I felt better able to “manage” my grief. I could see healing happening and I felt like I was starting to move forward. At the same time I was struggling to feel connected to Naomi. I had such a short time with her, we didn’t really get to know her much at all. And while I was relieved that the raw, sharp, biting pain of early grief had subsided into a deep ever present ache, I also felt more distant from my daughter.

I have been discovering that when I employ various strategies to numb the emotional pain of loosing my daughter I also numb out the joys of knowing her as well. Now, some of the coping strategies are just that. I need to cope. I need to be able to keep living so I can’t live in the pain all the time. But when I avoid it for long periods I find myself not only escaping the pain but also in some ways unable to feel the joy and love that she brought to my life. And there is oh so much love and joy she brought to me. God has used my daughter in my life in ways I never could have imagined. But I am so grateful.

Life is precious and fragile and painful. I don’t want the pain, but through it, and sometimes in it, I see love and beauty that simply takes my breath away. So today I try to face the pain as best I can with the prayer for strength and grace in all the places I need it most.