Running Hard after Christ

Posted: February 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

16BEST_SPAN-tmagArticle

Here it is the 26th again….how long will I be counting the months?  I counted the weeks until it was 30something. And every Wednesday as the clock neared 10 pm, I re-lived those final moments of watching Patrick’s final breaths until he was gone.

Now 14 months later, gone means so much more.  Gone means forever.  It’s more real with its meaning louder than ever.  It screams at me when I enter the empty house, when I run the dishwasher now only once a week, have one load of laundry, carry out one bag of trash and crawl into my side of the bed with the other side still made.  It screams at me when I don’t have to ask anyone what I should do, where I should go or what I should eat.  Or when I want to share some silly detail about my day or some random idea I have. My life’s partner is gone and left behind is a huge void.

There are a thousand and one ways that I miss him:  his smile, his touch, his leadership, his friendship, his counsel, his voice, his understanding, his encouragement, his perspective, his laughter, his wisdom, his love and overall just the balance of being the other half that he was for me.  He is never far from my thoughts.  It’s still so hard to accept that what we had is over.  I am not the same person…how can I be?  Death is not natural and it changes us.

Isaiah 53 is a chapter I have been focusing on lately.  Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  He was crushed with sorrow.  I now have an understanding of what crushed means.  Even the word “crushed” sounds heavy.  It’s such a weight that it feels physical.  It’s overwhelming.  Sometimes like I can’t breathe.  Other times like a weight on my shoulders; and yet other times a fog like I can’t see through.

But Jesus was crushed for my sin, for Patrick’s sin, for everyone’s sin.  Because of this when I look at his stripes where He was beaten and crucified for me, I know that He rescued me from eternal death, which was my worst problem.  And likewise, He will rescue me and heal me from my grief and pain. It may not be complete on earth, but someday in Heaven for sure.

Recently at a surprise birthday party for a close friend, as I looked around the room at the dozens of smiling faces, random thoughts zoomed through my head….

  • how everyone else there were couples…they still had their spouses;
  • how much fun Patrick would have had and how he would have probably been involved with the roast or some other aspect of the party;
  • how life moves on with deaths and birthdays daily;
  • remembering Patrick’s own surprise 40th when we would have never imagined he wouldn’t make it to his 50th birthday;
  • and finally how blessed I am to count these people as friends.  They continue to walk next to me in my valley and I can rejoice with them in their celebrations.

Those thoughts are normal (I think) but it’s a choice for me where my thoughts land and on what I will focus.  So I left the party that night focused on thankfulness.

The mailbox rarely brings cards anymore and that’s ok.  But one came last week that stopped me in my tracks.  It actually wasn’t even a card.  As I opened the non-descript white envelope, I expected that it was some generic insurance offer.  I was shocked to immediately see a generous amount of money folded in the middle of a one page typed anonymous letter.  Such unexpected kindness reminds me once again that Jehovah-Jireh is my provider.

But what sent me immediately to the floor were these words,

“Patrick was so influential in the life of our family by continually encouraging us to run hard after Christ.  We continue to be encouraged and inspired by your desire to run hard after Christ even in the midst of such heartache.”

There is no higher of a compliment that anyone could ever give me!  Patrick had a lot of sayings, but anyone that ever listened to him for very long knew that his main mantra was to tell everyone “run hard after Christ.”  He said it in prayers; He preached it at weddings; He wrote it in the Bibles given to graduates every year; He counseled it; He believed it; He lived it.  Patrick always said he was a simple guy with a simple message.  But that simple message says it all.

So now, more than a year after he’s gone to have someone tell me that they can still see in my life that I am running hard after Christ….well, I needed to hear that.  On my kitchen floor, I sobbed, thanking the Lord.  It was a sign of God’s goodness affirming my weak faith.  Because often I feel like all I’m doing is showing up; All I’m doing is barely surviving; All I’m doing is the next thing.  But that’s enough, because Christ has already done the rest.

Because of Jesus…

Even in my sadness, I have peace.  He understands.  He sees.  He knows.

Even in my pain, I have confidence.  He is with me.  I can trust Him.  He has a plan.

Even in my grief, I am thankful.  I am blessed beyond anything I deserve.

Therefore, I will continue to run hard after Christ….one tiny step at a time.

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

The Deep End

Posted: December 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

Hands-Drowning-Sea

I am not a strong swimmer.  In fact, at best I’m a weak swimmer, in spite of my parents’ best efforts to make sure I learned the how-to’s.  Every summer I was entered into the next level of lessons and every summer I barely passed the test at the end.  I never got the breathing technique right.  Terrified, I would stand at the end of the diving board before I quickly plugged my nose and jumped in feet first.  As a teen attending camp, I dreaded the “swim test” to be allowed out onto the dock where the cool kids hung out and jumped off.

Not much has changed…now as an adult, if it’s really hot, I may do a lap of a backstroke or a short underwater swim…from one safe side to the other.  Basically, all I can do is tread water for about 60 seconds and hold my breath for 20. And I still can’t dive.

Don’t get me wrong – I love water.   Looking at it, sitting next to it, dangling my feet or lying on a raft.   Just don’t ask me to put my head under.  I enjoy calm waters, but I would never jump off a boat without a life jacket.

For the past two years, I have been in the deep end.  And this isn’t a pool with the edge nearby or a rope in view.  This is the middle of the ocean with no boat in sight and no visible horizon.

In December 2011, I received the news that my husband had ALS.  In December 2012, I watched him take his last earthly breath.  Now it’s December 2013, and I have lived an entire year with the pain of grief and loss.

I have been rocked to the core.  I have hit the bottom.  Both years have been horrendous and I would never want to re-live either of them.  I have no idea how I made it through one day of this, let alone two years.

Before 2011, I had experienced trials.  Life was not always easy.  God conformed me into His image through many lessons. There were losses through a miscarriage, death of grandparents and my much-loved in-laws. And we experienced disappointment through rejection and betrayal.  Living life in the ministry, I’ve walked with countless others through their own sufferings: death, divorce, bondage to sin, along with the natural consequences of living in a sin cursed world.

Like standing on the beach and looking out at the ocean, I knew there was suffering.  I had tiptoed into it and experienced it to a small degree.  But this is different.  This is an over-whelming, life altering, in your face, I-can-not-survive-this type of pain.  Most can sympathize; they can’t imagine and kindly admit that.  A few can empathize.  They have walked this road before and I see in their eyes that they can relate.

I have been dropped into the ocean and it is a very lonely place to be.  Many rafts have held me afloat:  A loving family, a supportive church, Godly friends, the Bible, GriefShare, and counseling.  For each of these, I am truly grateful.  But this is still a path I am on alone. Each grief is individual—no one really understands.

That is, no one but Jesus.  He alone can relate.  He alone carries me.  I look at the cross.  I consider His life, His suffering, His rejection, His sorrow and anguish.  I consider how He resisted temptation to the point of sweating blood (Hebrews 12:4); how He shed His blood for me, a sinner, who could never earn salvation on my own (I Corinthians 15:3-4). By His stripes I will be healed (Isaiah 53:4).

I have stopped asking, “Why?”  I refuse to spiritualize the matter and say that I know why God took Patrick; or that I can see “the good” that has come from it.  Humanly, I will never get it.  I know many people have benefited from his story and from watching him faithfully trust God until the end.  I enjoy hearing about how God has used this in people’s lives.  It does bring some comfort to hear people talk about Patrick. (Please don’t stop telling me what Patrick meant to you!) But truth be told, I wish God had chosen some other way to minister to those needs, because I would rather have my husband still by my side.

Selfishly, I would have never chosen for my family to be the example of this.  We are all changed.  It has left a hole that will never be filled.  We have struggled to figure out how to be a family of three when our leader is gone.  We each have our individual pain–and then there is the pain of watching the other ones suffer and not being able to fix it.

It feels like drowning.  In my darkest moments, I have wanted to give up.  It seems easier to just swallow the water and let myself sink.  “The enemy crushes me.  He makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead, so that my spirit grows faint within me” (Psalm 143:3). I can relate to this psalm of David.  Crying, sobbing, wailing, screaming…sounds come out of me that I never knew existed.   The tears spill daily and the stronger episodes interrupt me at least once a week.  Thrashing about in the deep end is exhausting.

I now ask, “How?”  One of the things I have not doubted is God’s sovereignty.  I know that our days are numbered before one of them even happens (Psalm 139:16). So if this was God’s will and timing for Patrick (and it was), then it’s also His will for me and for my kids.  As long as I am still on this earth, He has a purpose for me (Philippians 1:6). Our family’s story is only one tiny part of the Kingdom purposes God is carrying out.  I am on the path that He has put me on.  He is carrying me.  Earth has nothing I desire; nothing here can satisfy me.  The only peace and fulfillment I long for and will ever find hope in is through my relationship with Jesus Christ.

So that’s what gets me out of bed.  The Gospel of Jesus. The first step of the day is always the hardest.  I fight the temptation to hide under the covers.  But fight I must.  Cry, pray and push; cry, pray and push.  Repeat as often as needed.  Let the emotions come as they will; face them and embrace them. When the wave passes, take another step. Sometimes when I lack the words to pray, and the tears are blinding my ability to read, I simply meditate on four words that describe what Jesus is to me:

He is my Creator;

He is my Savior.

He is my Sustainer;

And He is my Comforter.

He has already rescued me from my greatest need (Romans 5:8), and He continues to keep my head above water.  He created the vast ocean and He put me in it, but He has never left me alone (Joshua 1:9).

Because of this, I have peace and I have hope.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;  we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed….Therefore we do not lose heart….For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (II Corinthians 4:7-9, 16 & 17)

 

9 Months a Widow

Posted: September 26, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

ourhandsfinalBefore, during and after….mentally that’s how I divide my life.

Before the diagnosis of ALS…
During the sickness…
After he’s gone…

Two years ago my life was perfect…at least as far as I was concerned.  Married to my best friend, enjoying our two teenagers, serving in life and ministry.  We were looking forward to the next phase of life, anticipating a new position for Patrick and the kids heading off to Christian colleges.  My new photography business was blooming. Our home was full of love and laughter and we were all happiest when extra guests joined us.

Then came the strange symptoms, doctor visits and tests.  With the results that no one is ever prepared to hear…

A disease with no cure; A certain death sentence.
Immediately our world turned upside down;  our future dreams shattered

Within 24 hours of the diagnosis, two thoughts kept crossing my mind

  • my life as I know it is over
  • my husband will be dead, my children gone and I will be alone

I was right on both accounts.  I just didn’t know how quickly it would all go down.

During his sickness, we were in survival mode.  We dealt with each new decline, while trying to maintain any sense of normalcy and enjoy our marked time together.  Patrick led by example.  He refused to let us stop our lives; he didn’t complain; his smile never waned. He trusted God completely.

Looking back, I realize that I stayed strong because I had to.  We were still a team.  Patrick needed me.  I became his hands, feet and mouth.  I helped him go wherever he wanted to go.  I protected him when I knew it was too much.  I became his advocate for everything.

Near the end, I told him I would be ok.  I thanked him for being an amazing husband and wonderful father.  I told him he had run the race well.  Although he couldn’t respond verbally,  I knew by his eyes that he loved me. He didn’t want to die, but neither did he want to stay on earth in a paralyzed body. So in the final week I asked God to release him from his pain and take him to his heavenly home.

No words can describe watching your soul-mate die.  Heart wrenching is an understatement.

Nine months have already passed.  I don’t know how.  The minutes drag, but it still feels like yesterday.

I knew there were no guarantees of an easy life on earth and that I was not exempt from suffering, so I thought I could handle this. I was wrong.

I thought since I knew the scriptures and believed in God’s sovereignty, I would be ok.  It would be just mind over matter.   I was naive.

I thought God’s grace meant the pain would be minimal.  I had no idea.

Grief hit me like a freight train.  I was unprepared. The intensity of my emotions is visceral and beyond description.  The pain of separation is palpable.

I wish I could say something different to the “how are you” question.  I usually just give a weak smile and say “ok.”  I’ve never been a good liar.

The truth is I am still struggling.  Day by day, hour by hour, sometimes even minute by minute.  I cry every day…it’s just a matter of how hard and how long.  No one has been more surprised by any of this than me.  I’ve been shocked by my neediness and ashamed of my weakness.  Basically, I’ve never been more disappointed in myself.

But God…
He knew all along.  He’s not surprised by my responses.
He meets me right where I am & accepts me.
He assures me through His promises.
I can’t get enough of His word.
Each step I take is a step of faith.

Initially I looked for answers of how to get through this grief process.  I wanted steps that I could check off.  I wanted to pass with a high grade. But there is no magic formula or short cut.  No anesthesia to numb the pain.  The only answer is God himself.

There is no timetable…it has already taken longer than I would have chosen.  Although each person’s grief is unique, I’ve now learned that two to four years for the deepest part of the valley is considered normal.  I’m not in control of any of it.  It’s like a vicious roller coaster I can’t get off.

But I’m right where God has me.

The battle is fierce…to fight my flesh; to fight the enemy’s lies; to fight off despair.  God’s Word is the solution and God’s people the support.

Three young widows, previously just acquaintances, have befriended me and taken me under their wings.  One local and two out-of-state, each further along in their journeys, they have kindly opened up their hearts and shared their stories of pain. They assure me that I am not crazy and remind me of God’s goodness.

And I know God is good.  He is faithful.  I have much to be thankful for. Both Paige and Parker are doing amazingly well at their respective colleges.  They are both where they should be, doing what Patrick and I had always hoped for them.

So I continue to walk by faith and not by sight.  I function to the best of my ability for each day.  I smile and laugh when I can.  And I’m not ashamed when the tears come.

I will never be the same.  My life as I knew it is over.  But God has a plan.  He has a purpose for me and I will be healed.  For now the wound is fresh and the pain raw.  Someday the wounds will cover with scars, but I will be transformed.

To this end, I pray and I wait.

“I would have despaired unless I believed that  I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord.  Be strong and let your heart take courage.  Yes, wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14

943016_10151455368375662_785373157_n

Twenty-four years ago today, I said “I do” to my best friend. The vows we read were traditional so much so that a few of Patrick’s aunts were uncomfortable with the “submit” part and told me later I didn’t need to do that! LOL! Like every young bride, I truly meant every word I spoke even though I couldn’t have possibly understood what it would be like to really live them out. It’s like reading about having a baby…you don’t fully understand until you are in the delivery room.

At the end of the vows we looked each other in the eye and said “til death do us part.” Those are probably the words I thought the least about. Who thinks about death when they are 23? Now here I am a widow in my 40′s. Eighteen months ago, when we received the diagnosis of ALS, I started thinking a lot about dying and now six months since Patrick’s death, I am still wrapping my brain around it. Like reading about it before, it didn’t really mean much until now when I am actually living it. It’s a million times worse than anyone can imagine. Each step is painful and the hole is huge. I have read a lot of books on grief and the best illustration I can find is that losing a spouse is like losing a limb. It’s complete amputation….without anesthesia. And even when everyone else has moved on and thinks the amputee is doing ok because they are functioning, that person is keenly aware that their former life is over and nothing will ever be the same. Some days the fog is thicker than others, but everything requires effort.

Without God, I don’t know how people survive this…It is only with His Word and His Spirit that I am daily getting out of bed and doing the next thing. I am not strong – quite the opposite; I’m not hanging on by a thread…God is carrying me. Many passages of Scriptures get me through each day. I’m so thankful for years of memorizing because sometimes I can’t even open my BIble, I just quote verses in my head all day long. Thinking of Christ on the cross and His suffering for me is comforting…along with the fact that He is suffering with me now and holds all my tears in a bottle. Psalm 143 is my current favorite and I feel like David wrote it for me – I am breathing it in and out all day long. My head believes the truth, but my heart lags behind…It’s a battle to focus on the eternal perspective when the pain is overwhelming.

But looking back on my wedding day and knowing now what the journey brought us…would I say “I do” again? Without a moment’s hesitation….DEFINITELY! Our marriage wasn’t perfect, but it was solid and we had many more good times than bad. Patrick was my best friend and we were partners in everything. Life with him was an adventure filled with joy. God allowed us many, many times of blessing….the privilege of serving the Lord next to him was so fulfilling. Bringing our two children, Paige  and Parker, into the world and sharing the joys and challenges of parenting, is a forever blessing. After so many years of marriage, you become a lot like each other and there are many qualities of Patrick’s that changed me for the better. I could go on and on. It was my privilege to be his wife and my honor to care for him through the ugliness of one of the most debilitating diseases there is. And although I never could have imagined such a thing, I am thankful I was by his side and able to hold His hand and watch him take his last breath, knowing that God was welcoming Him into Heaven. And now he is in a perfect place, pain free and he’s talking, eating, singing, laughing and running in the presence of His Savior.

Yes, I am still struggling and some days I selfishly want him back with me. Honestly, I do not look forward to the future without him. I still have a long road of grief and mourning to go through. But I know I am right where God wants me to be. Faith and suffering do go hand in hand; sadness and belief are not opposites.

“For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life; In your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.” (Psalm 143:11–read the entire chapter when you have time)

Patrick’s Book Released!

Posted: April 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00061]

(Guest post by Tim Stevens)

Last fall when I started talking to Patrick about my desire to put his sermons in a book, he was quick to agree. I found out later that several people had been trying to talk him into writing a book for many years. He loved the idea, but was always so busy investing himself in his family and youth group.

It took about a month, but he sent me an email with the 11 sermons he had selected…along with links on where to find the audio files. When I saw him in Pennsylvania in October, we talked about the project (well, I talked and he smiled and grunted). I promised him I would see the book through to its completion. I asked him to do his part and live long enough so we could have the book at his funeral. He laughed.

We didn’t make the funeral, but we did get it done. And the book is fantastic.

I know readers of this blog comprise the people who love Patrick the most. Here is what I’m asking:

  1. Buy the book. Buy as many copies as you can. Not only will every penny help the McGoldrick Family Fund–but the distribution of this book will serve to extend Patrick’s legacy for generations to come.
  2. Write a customer review on Amazon. Those reviews really matter. Note: Don’t mention that you and Patrick are buddies, since the review will appear to not be objective. Rather, write a review about the content of the sermons and/or the strength of his life.
  3. Tell anyone you can about Patrick’s life and death, and ask them to buy the book. We didn’t hire a fancy marketing company and don’t have a big publishing company. All we have is word-of-mouth. So spread the word far and wide. Put it on your blog, Facebook pages, Twitter feed, or go old-school and print this page out and hand it to your friends.

The book can be purchased on Amazon, and is also available in the bookstores at Cornerstone Baptist Church (Roseville, MI), Calvary Baptist Church (Covington, KY) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN).

Let’s get the word out!

Memorial Service Video

Posted: January 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

Words are inadequate to express how grateful we are for the outpouring of love that we have received since Patrick’s passing from earth to Heaven.  Your kindness has shown through and we are deeply touched.  The “Celebration of Life” service was one day that we will never forget.  God’s grace was given so that we could focus on greeting each person who was able to come through the line and the afternoon flew by.  We are thankful for the hundreds who came to the service;  God was honored and we were able to truly celebrate Christ, Who is the one Who saved Patrick and for Whom Patrick gave his life of ministry.  Thank you for traveling from near or far to be with us;  And thank you to those who prayed for us through that day and night from all over the world.

We continue to covet your prayers as grief is a new road for the three of us.  A road that was not asked for nor never even imagined, yet the one God has us on nonetheless.  Each day is a battle to think biblically, yet God’s mercies are new every morning.

Enjoy the video of the service:

“Celebration of Life” Service

Posted: December 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

Patrick’s final selfless act was to donate his body for ALS research; so there will be no funeral or viewing.

However, we will be celebrating Patrick’s life and legacy:

Cornerstone Baptist Church
17017 Twelve Mile Road
Roseville, MI 48066

Visitation: Saturday, January 5th, 1:00-5:00pm

Service: Saturday, January 5th, 6:00pm

UPDATE: Childcare Available during service through age 5. Also, dessert reception following service.

Donations

helping_hands
So many people are wanting to help celebrate Patrick’s life and honor his family. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that you consider donations to one of these funds:

Cornerstone Baptist Church — Fellowship Fund

The people of Cornerstone have been so helpful to the McGoldrick’s over the past year. This fund helps others, like Patrick, who have fallen on difficult times.

Mark your gift Fellowship Fund and send it to: Cornerstone Baptist Church, 17017 Twelve Mile Road, Roseville, MI 48066

The ALS Association: Fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Use this link to donate to the ALS national association.

McGoldrick Family Fund

Donations will be invested 100% for the benefit of the McGoldrick’s–most of it to be used to help Paige and Parker with their college education.

By Credit or Debit Card, go to the McGoldrick Family Fund on WePay.com.

By Check…write your check to “Friends of Patrick & Dena McGoldrick” and mail it to:

Fifth Third Bank
40980 Hayes Road
Clinton Township, MI 48038

This post by Tim Stevens. Leave questions in comments, or send confidential questions to tstevens(at)gccwired.com.