Missions Minded

Posted: April 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

mhungary

God placed a burden for ministry on my heart at a young age. Growing up, I was constantly exposed to missionaries and service opportunities through my home church in Iowa. Our senior pastor had previously been a missionary and many messages included illustrations from his time in the Philippines; there were annual missions conferences and the highlight of every summer was the missions trip with the youth group. In addition, my parents were always offering lodging or loaning cars to pastors and missionaries in need. In our home, those in full-time ministry were respected and honored.

I have vivid memories of being enthralled by Dorothy Adam’s slides shows of Bangladesh. As the carousel turned and the clicking sound announced each new slide’s arrival, I would watch enraptured at the vibrant still images of the faces of those she ministered to; and I would listen as her calm, clear voice spoke, sharing details of a world I could only imagine.

Then came the Bennett family. They were a family in our church raising funds to head to the mission field for the first time and we were their sending church. I was closely connected because one of their daughters was my age. When they left for Australia during my 6th grade year, Becky and I hugged, cried and promised we would save our pennies so that I could go visit her. Five years later, we still didn’t have enough pennies saved, but my parents somehow made it happen. Off I went to spend the summer in Australia. I lived life with them and saw first hand ministry in another country. I was 17 and I was hooked.

After that summer, sometime near the end of high school, I had a conversation with my youth pastor. It went something like this,

Me: “I think God wants me to go into ministry but I don’t know what I could possibly do. I don’t think I can be a pastor’s wife because I talk too much.” (I was also thinking I can’t sew or sing solos either, because I thought all pastor’s wives did those things.)

 Him: “There is no set of certain personality types for God to use you in ministry. If the Spirit is leading you in this direction, just take one step at a time to follow Him. He will help you grow and use you just the way He made you.”

 Me: “So what should I do?”

 Him: “Maybe you should consider a Christian college, so you can gain more Bible knowledge and be exposed to more ministry opportunities.”

Best. Advice. Ever. So glad I followed it. As I entered college, my heart’s desire was to serve Jesus Christ in ministry. I committed my life to Him and told the Lord I was willing to go overseas or stay local, and do so whether I was single or married. I just knew nothing else would satisfy.

Two years later after a couple dates with Patrick, we were sitting in Pizza Hut having a DTR (defining the relationship) conversation. I got out my list (yes an actual list) and checked off the non-negotiables and the preferences. Obviously he passed the test. After my graduation, we were married and I became a seminary wife, working and helping him finish his master’s degree.

For the next 23 years, God blessed us with the opportunity to be in full time ministry. There was so much learning and growing together with the Lord through the good times and the bad. Being a pastor’s wife was truly the fulfillment of my dream.

One of the best parts of working with students for all those years was the opportunity to go on annual missions trips. Most summers there were two trips. If I have figured right, I helped Patrick lead about 20 trips. People joked that Patrick ran a “well-oiled machine” in regards to the summer ministries and they were right. He had it down to a science. I was his co-pilot and we divided up the responsibilities.

There is no greater joy than to watch students experience missions for the first time. It’s like a light bulb goes off in their head that this world is bigger than they imagined. Immediately, their spiritual hearts are enlarged and their compassion is magnified due to such exposure. Like me, many of them are hooked after one trip. They cannot continue to be satisfied just thinking of their own little worlds. Dozens of students returned year after year for the trips and many have gone on to do missions trips as adults and even go into full-time service.

In his final summer on earth, Patrick wanted to go to Jamaica one more time. We wanted to introduce the new youth pastor and wife to our Jamaican friends and pass the baton into their capable hands. We didn’t know until the last minute if he would be able to make it, but with lots of help from everyone involved on both ends, make it we did. Anyone on that trip will never forget the emotions as Patrick said a literal good-bye to his numerous friends there. We all knew they wouldn’t again see each other on this earth. It still seems surreal to me.

Since Patrick died, one of the many losses I’ve experienced has included the loss of these kinds of ministry trips. It was such a major part of my life, the first summer without it seemed very strange. However I have never doubted that I would have other ways to serve. I have never thought I was less of a Christian because I no longer had the title of “pastor’s wife.” Whether in a paid position or not, we are all responsible to be salt and light and to minister in whatever way we can.

I had no doubt I would go on another missions trip someday. I just didn’t realize it would come so fast.

But God is like that, surprising us when we least expect it. Through a connection in my small group, last fall I was introduced to a missionary in Hungary who runs ESL (English as a Second Language) clinics every summer. At the time, I thought this kind of trip would be perfect for me so I mentioned my interest, thinking it would be a few years down the road before I could really consider it. I logically couldn’t see how it could work until A, B and C were covered.

But one email led to another and one by one each question was answered and each hurdle jumped until God made it clear I was go to. So I am thrilled to say that the plane ticket is purchased and I’m heading to Gyula, Hungary in late July! To say I’m excited is an understatement. I am overflowing with thankfulness for God’s guidance, grace and goodness in my life. I am also thanking Him in advance for His provision, as the trip is not yet paid for.

Four women from various parts of the US will make up the team and we will meet in Budapest where we will join with three Hungarian missionaries. The ESL program, called Bridges, has been running for over 10 years and is sponsored by ABWE. We will have a day or two to get supplies and lessons ready (and hopefully adjust to the jet lag). Then we will drive a couple hours east to Gyula where the clinic will be held and where we will stay with Hungarian families. The morning will hold classes for children and in the evenings we will host adult classes. We will also participate in church services. At the end, I will have one day to sight-see in Budapest before heading home. Although this is my first trip to a non-English speaking country, I am the only “newbie” on the trip, so I am thankful to be working with a team that has experience.

In every detail God has confirmed this is the right time and the right trip, so go I must. Join me in thanking the Lord for bringing little joys back into my life!

Psalm 51:2 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

(If you are interested in ways you can help pray for me or support me financially on this trip, please email me at mcgold4@yahoo.com)

hf_125383_growing

No question about it. I am changed. Loss does that to a person. So does any tragedy or suffering, regardless of the kind.

As followers of Christ, we know our goal is to continually grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ. At salvation, we were set apart, but not yet made perfect. So the “in between time” is the process of sanctification….where God brings events, circumstances and people into our lives with the purpose of conforming us more and more into the likeness of His son.

I have been a Christian a long time. Seriously, it’s been over 40 years since as a child I accepted Jesus Christ into my life. Looking back I can see areas that I use to struggle in that are no longer issues for me. On the other hand, I can also see some sins that have been lifelong struggles. Yes, growth and improvement are evident, but still the battle remains.

The process of maturing is lifelong. Change hurts and growth is painful. And let’s just face it…no one likes pain. It’s not fun. Our first reaction is to get rid of it at any cost. It’s human nature to avoid situations where we will get hurt; to surround ourselves with people who make us feel good and to insulate ourselves from danger.

However, it’s during the difficult trials of life that the opportunity for growth is the greatest. Some day I hope to be able to look back at my journey of grief and clearly articulate all the ways God changed me through it.

At this point, I don’t have it all figured out. I can attest to the fact that change is definitely happening in my life and there are positive outcomes, both spiritually and emotionally. Yet, I also see many areas lacking. Grief, like any trial, brings to the surface the heart issues that were already there. I can’t use my grief as an excuse to sin. No, in my vulnerable state, the ugliness of my heart is exposed for what it is.

Change does not always equal growth; It’s not automatic. As circumstances and life events are forced upon us, we can refuse to acknowledge, adjust or submit. If I blame a sin on my grief, then I’m saying it’s not my fault and I can’t help it. Both are excuses straight from Satan, the greatest deceiver that ever lived. But if I can see it for what it is and confess it, then Christ’s forgiveness is freely given. I must cultivate the soil of my heart to be tender and sensitive. Otherwise, a bitter root will grow and I will shrivel up. Essentially, it’s my choice. Though not natural, with God’s grace, transformation can occur.

Patrick and I had the kind of relationship where we talked about the issues of our hearts openly and quite often. We used phrases like “hidden agendas” and “short sin accounts” to help understand where the other one was coming from and get all motives out in the open. When we sinned against one another, we confessed and forgave, even though it wasn’t always easy. Spiritually, we kept each other on our toes, so to speak. I can’t say it was always done perfectly, but we were attempting to be as “iron sharpening iron.” He had a way to keep me grounded and gently remind me not to do or say something that I would regret later. We continually challenged each other to be Christ like and to faithfully apply God’s Word in every area of our lives.

I really miss that.

But even though Patrick was my partner, he wasn’t my Savior. The marriage relationship is a picture of Christ and His bride. That’s why it’s such a unique and blessed union. Even though my earthly marriage is now over, I am still the daughter of the King of Kings. My identity has always been based first and foremost on who I am in Christ. And nothing, not even death, can take that away.

Losing my husband has been the most traumatic experience of my life. It’s painful beyond words, but I don’t want this pain to be wasted. I don’t want to be changed without any growth. I don’t want to survive just to be able to say I made it.

I want so much more than that.

I want to be more compassionate and gentle; to laugh more and worry less; to love more fervently; to generously give my time and possessions; to ignore what’s temporary and focus on what will last for eternity; to enjoy each day as the gift it is; to bear the fruit of the spirit and daily share biblical truth with others. I want to honor the Lord in my words, thoughts and deeds.

But most of all, I want the world to know that I serve Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord of my life. He saved me from my greatest problem (sin) through His death and resurrection. While He prepares for me a place in Heaven, He has given me the Holy Spirit and the Bible to guide and direct me here on earth. He has provided all I have ever needed and will take care of me until my death when I will enter eternity with Him.

Because of my loss, my world has been shaken. My life was turned upside down. I have had nothing but changes for the past three years. I’ve experienced excruciating pain and emotions I didn’t know existed. I am living with intense loneliness and a hole in my heart that will never again be filled in the same way.

But in spite of all that, I have become more and more convinced that there is only one reason to live and only one sure foundation: Jesus Christ. He is worthy of my praise, my trust, my service and my life.

Luke 9:23 “Take up your cross daily and follow Him.”

 I Corinthians 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

 Psalm 86:12  “I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.”

Anticipation

Posted: February 26, 2015 in Uncategorized
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anticipation

There are two kinds of people on this planet: those who live by a clock and those who are late.

An over simplification perhaps, but generally speaking, people fall into one of two categories: the “on time is early” crew and the “chronically tardy” crew.

It’s probably no surprise in which category I land. I was born with an internal clock that is almost audible. I despise being late. On time means five minutes early, and if you arrive just on time, you’re actually late. In fact, few things can cause me more anxiety than thinking I’m going to be late. So to compensate, I over communicate the fact to whomever I’m meeting. Thirty minutes prior, I’m texting them telling them I may be five minutes late….and then I still end up beating them to the destination!

Thankfully, Patrick and I were on the same side of the clock world, so it made for a happy marriage.

Digging down deeper into the clock awareness world, in order to be on time, you are always thinking about the next thing. It’s like living with a constant level of anticipation.

Whether the next thing is something fun like a vacation or not so fun like a work deadline, I am always thinking about what’s next and how I must prepare for it. In order to avoid last minute pressure, I have my list of what to do, organizing my weekly schedule so I can squeeze in each thing…to be ready…for whatever the next thing is.

For most of my life, there have been exciting events to look forward to, most of which were related to sharing life with my husband and watching my family grow. It’s just human nature that regardless of our stage in life, we all look forward to the next thing, whether it’s the weekend, a special trip or a child’s next milestone.

Now that my kids are away at college (where I want them to be) and my husband is with the Lord (where I am thankful he is well) I find myself in uncharted territory. I am walking a twisted path, humanly alone. 26 months into it, the intense darkness has lifted somewhat, leaving a fog where I can see a just a few steps in front of me. I have no fear for the future, but I have no hopes or dreams either.

Perhaps this is the way most people live their lives. I’m not sure. Maybe my life with Patrick was just extra special. That’s why his loss is so hard because I miss the companionship and joy to of sharing life with my partner.

As I continue to be silent, still and wait for the Lord, I wonder, can I live like this…with nothing exciting to look forward to? I know there will be special life moments down the road, especially if/when my kids get married and have children. But those events are seemingly in the distance.

Right now it just feels like I’m the energizer bunny…I keep going and going and going; All the while carrying a weight of sadness in everything I do.

Then I speak truth into my thoughts. I can live like this, I will and I must. All with God’s grace, comfort, and strength. This broken path is the one He has designed for me. He is with me and He will carry me until I have completed all He has called me to do. He’s not asking anything of me that He hasn’t already done.

Focusing only on the here and now is shortsighted and selfish. I can choose where to put my focus. I must be proactive in changing my thoughts back to Scripture when they naturally stray.

So instead focusing on any joy or satisfaction this world can bring, my concentration needs to be on God’s Kingdom and eternity. There is a wealth of Scripture that I need to repeat to myself often:

  • Psalm 73:25 & 26 Earth has nothing I desire besides the Lord. My heart will fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
  • Psalm 84:11 God is a sun and shield; No good thing will he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
  • Isaiah 26:3 God will keep me in perfect peace if I trust and keep my eyes on Him.
  • Isaiah 40:29-31 God is everlasting. If I hope in Him, my strength will be renewed and I will not grow weary.
  • Jeremiah 29:11 God’s plans for me are for my good and His glory.
  • Lamentations 3:22-24 The Lord’s mercies are new every day. He is faithful and He is my portion to help me with whatever I need to accomplish that day.
  • II Corinthians 4:17 Our earthly troubles pale in comparison with what awaits us in Heaven.
  • Philippians 1:6 God began a good work in me and will be faithful to complete it. He’s not done with me yet.
  • Philippians 4:8 Think only on things that are true and in line with Scripture.
  • Hebrews 10:35 & 36 I need to endure with confidence and that will bring great reward. His coming is sooner than I think.
  • Hebrews 11:1 Faith is firmly believing what I can’t see. I know that this world is not all there is.
  • Hebrews 12:1 I need to fix my eyes on Jesus, who already walked this path. He started, finished and endured the cross for my sake.
  • I Peter 1:7 Trials test the genuineness of our faith and it will result in the praise, glory and honor to Jesus Christ.
  • I Peter 4:19 Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to our faithful creator and continue to do good.
  • 2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given me all that I need to live a godly life on this earth.
  • Revelation 21:4 God will wipe away all our tears in Heaven.

Even if this earth never brings me anything as great as my life with Patrick was, there is something far greater in my eternal future; Something that will make all the tears, suffering and loneliness worth it. And that something is based on Someone…Jesus Christ.

Talk about anticipation!

(I’ve always been a Jeremy Camp fan and his newest album did not disappoint. This is one of my favorites.)

Jehovah Jireh

Posted: December 26, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Throughout the past two years since Patrick left this earth for his Heavenly home, I have seen God provide in amazing ways. Actually, LOOONNG before Patrick was sick, we lived our lives being aware and thankful for God’s faithfulness. Numerous times and in various ways through the years, God has directed, protected and provided for the McGoldrick family. From the small to the large, God’s people have been graciously giving to us over the years.

Now magnify it times a thousand and that’s how I’ve watched God’s goodness unfold over the past three years.

2012 – The year of ALS. Patrick was diagnosed, declined rapidly and died within a 12-month period. That year is a whirlwind in my mind. It felt like an out-of-body experience. I never had time to recover from the shock of the diagnosis before I was planning his funeral. I kept thinking this isn’t my life. But it was. Through it all, God knew our needs before we did. From getting into the right doctors to installing a chair lift; from the church renovating our bathroom to a van and scooter being delivered without even asking for them; from the friends near helping in tangible ways to friends throughout the world praying; from the hospice care to the funeral service; to the fund for the kids education….God flooded us with His care.

2013 – Grief Year One. After the shock wore off, the depression and despair settled in. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I was ill equipped to handle the onslaught of the emotions that separation by death causes. I naively thought my faith would shield me from the agony and pain. Coming to grips with the fact that grief was going to be a part of my life for a long time actually helped me face it head on. I am forever changed and that is ok. God can handle my tears and questions. Throughout this year, God gave me the precious gift of time. I continued to work part-time; I flew to a few states and shared special times with quality friends and family. I read and studied; I attended classes and went to counseling. And just when I needed it, at the end of the year, God provided a new full-time job for me.

2014 – Grief Year Two. Most people who are close to me and know me well would say I’m in a better place than last year. But they would also tell you I still have deep struggles. I am not through the valley yet. The biggest difference between year one and year two (that I can articulate at this point, knowing full well other things may become clearer when I am further out) is that the first year was more of a fog and this year has been more clear. That is a good thing and a bad thing. The good part about clarity is that I am able to concentrate longer. I see what needs to be done and I can accomplish those tasks. I understand so many more things that I didn’t have to pay attention to before, such as car insurance, gas prices, the cable & phone options (don’t get me started on that – I don’t know which company is worse to deal with: WOW or Sprint), a 401k, PTO and on and on the list goes.

The bad side of clarity is that I am fully aware of what “alone” means. I know the depths of my pain and I still experience it regularly. I completely get it that Patrick is gone forever and that my life with him is in the history books. I can’t get back what I had. I know what it’s like to trudge through each day without a best friend to share the details and struggles. I don’t want to repeat what I’ve said before, but believe me, it’s rough; and it’s lonely.

The best part of my clarity of this past year has been that I am overwhelmed with the goodness of God and His continual provision. I see it all the time, in little ways and in big ways. Sometimes a need is met before I’m even aware of the deficit. Sometimes it’s financial; other times it’s just the timing of an event or an opportunity that just “happens” to appear.

gen-22-14-and-Abraham-called-the-name-of-that-place-Jehovah-Jireh-as-it-is-said-to-this-dayEarlier this year I started my Jehovah Jireh list. Jehovah Jireh is an Old Testament name for God and it means, “The Lord will provide.” Abraham used this to name the place where he was called to sacrifice his son Isaac. As he chose to obey, he knew that God would either provide an alternative sacrifice or raise Isaac from the dead (Genesis 22).

God provides for me in the same way He has provided for His people for generations. Here are a few examples from my 2014 list:

  • Encouraging cards and texts that I still receive regularly
  • $450 in the mail right before all 4 van tires needed replacing
  • Toilet leaking and plumber fixing it at no cost
  • Both kids’ cars repaired (more than once) and never receiving a bill
  • Driveway and sidewalks plowed all winter (by various people, whom I lovingly dubbed “my snow angels.”)
  • Window Cleaning by professionals with no bill
  • Meds for my kids when they were out of the state or country
  • Amazing summer jobs for Paige and Parker that provided both financially and with ministry opportunities
  • Gas money given to make an extra trip to my brother’s
  • A hotel stay being covered when I visited my son at college
  • Training and facilitating Grief Share for our church’s first time
  • College tuition currently paid in full with no debt
  • A job where I have learned a marketable skill and have had success
  • Friends who have given me an open door policy
  • Adjusting to working full-time and having a long commute
  • Both kids doing well in college and on target to graduate on time
  • Ability to remain in house as the value continues to go up
  • People who share with me stories of Patrick, which I never tire of hearing

As of today, I’ve been a widow for two years. Although I don’t care for that title and it’s not the first word I use to describe myself, it is the box I have to check. It’s my reality. My life has been marked by loss. It’s a part of my story and I am being transformed through it.

I have been called to suffer, just as all Christ followers are. Jesus was the suffering servant and His road lead to agony and death, such as none of us will ever experience. The road of ViaDolorosa was the one He walked. I am called to follow Him. But just as He redeemed us through the agony of the cross (Hebrews 9:22), so likewise He will use our suffering for redemptive purposes. It is not in vain. “Because of Christ, our suffering is not useless. It is part of the total plan of God, who has chosen to redeem the world through the pathway of suffering” (R.C. Sproul, Surprised by Suffering, p.23)

Patrick was an amazing man, although not perfect. He lived his adult life serving this Savior and He died continuing to believe. Now he is part of the cloud of witnesses who is cheering us on to continue to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labor is not in vain (I Corinthians 15:58).MCGOLDRICK-PATRICK-474

I miss him every minute but I continue to move forward, believing and serving God and watching Him continue to care for me and my family.

Peace and Pain

Posted: November 26, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Peace is an abstract feeling and hard to describe, but you dephilippians_4_7_by_kc_lynne-d517uhtfinitely know if you have it or not. If you Google the word peace, you find it defined as “freedom from disturbance” or the “cessation of war or violence.” Some of the synonyms are tranquility, calm and restfulness.

If you ask random people to define the same word, most would say that it’s when everything is going well and there are no current issues that are clouding their minds. The younger a person’s age, the more like they are to associate peace with things going their way. A more mature person understands that peace can be shattered at anytime; therefore, they take moments of peace as they come, often in the simple things of life.

It’s human nature to desire peace. Lack of peace is what drives many to participate in unhealthy behaviors. There are myriads of ways people attempt to drown out their lack of peace. Most spend their lives trying to fill the emptiness and escape the uncomfortable feeling inside. Others never slow down long enough to determine if they even know what true peace is.

My definition of peace had always been related to not worrying. No matter what was happening, if I didn’t have something hanging over my head on my to-do list or I didn’t have that pit in my stomach regarding something that was happening, I felt peace.

Sometimes lack of peace is related to something I can control because of a sin issue. Through my Christian growth, I’ve learned to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit pricking my conscience. I can’t stand that feeling of conviction, but have grown to be thankful for it. It’s God’s protection and I have discovered it’s best to repent and submit quickly. His way is always better for me anyway.

Even when it’s not sin related, we know what it’s like when we have something heavy on our minds. It can keep us up at night or cause us to be distracted all day long. I’ve never met a mom who doesn’t have the tendency to worry about her kids, starting with teething and diaper rash all the way to who they will marry and whether it’s the right person at the right time. My understanding is that the worries about kids don’t end even when they are married. In fact, I know my parents still worry about me.

Worry itself boils down to a lack of trust. Every relationship is only as strong as its trust factor. It is the desire to be my own god and control (or think I can control) my life’s circumstances. It takes my eyes off of the Creator. The only one who really is in control.

When I struggle with worry, I know how to apply God’s Word, control my thoughts and apply His promises. Early in my adult life, I did a comprehensive Bible study on the subject and pretty much considered myself an expert. I’ve taught dozens of girls through the years all the worry verses and how to put them into practice. It’s a spiritual muscle I’ve been developing for a long time.

Three years ago when I was kept awake at night trying to wrap my brain around the fact that Patrick had a terminal disease, deep in my heart I knew this would be the ultimate test. Could I really apply those principles? Would I?

While it has been the most difficult and darkest season of my life, my weak spiritual muscles have strengthened immensely. The things/issues that I would have been anxious about in the past seem minuscule now. I’m not fearful of the future nor the unknown. While I still care about my children, I completely trust they are in God’s hands. He will allow what He knows is best for their lives.

The principles I learned to put into practice with the smaller problems of life really did translate over to the dramatic life and death struggle that came my way. This has not been an easy process and God knows the ugliness of my heart. I still have a long way to go. In fact, I embrace that this is an area I can never get lazy in. Progressive sanctification is just that….progressive. Never stagnant.

This has been the fiercest battle of my life. I’ve wrestled with God. It hasn’t been pretty. I’ve sprawled prostrate before God begging Him to change His plan; I’ve curled in the fetal position on the floor of my closet sobbing that I can’t make it; I’ve crawled into the back of my van in an empty parking lot and screamed at God. I’ve wanted to give in and say it doesn’t work; It’s not worth it and I quit.

But His Word does work. Christ is worth it. And He won’t let me quit.

My new definition of peace entails more than just the absence of worry; Yes that’s still a vital part. My trust with my God has deepened to a whole new level. I can’t be simultaneously filled with anxious thoughts and have my focus on God. I continually make a choice on where to direct my thoughts.

But there is another part of the equation that is new and different for me. Before in my peace, I didn’t have any pain. I would associate pain with that bad feeling that you are not supposed to have. Surely peace also meant “no pain,” because in my experience, pain meant something was wrong. Just get to the root, fix the problem and the pain will subside.

I now know differently. Some pain can’t be fixed. Some pain will never go away. It’s not because of sin—it’s not lack of trust. It enters your life and changes you.

Twenty-three months post the death of my husband and the path of grief is still the one I’m traveling.

But I can honestly say I am at peace. In my innermost being, I am not consumed with fear or worry. My God is carrying me through this valley. He has never left me. He never will.

He’s the same God who guided Joseph, Esther, David, Ruth, Daniel and Paul, to name just a few of the real people we read about in the Bible. Each of them had circumstances that didn’t make sense. They had pain, sorrow and unfair treatment. Yet they cried out to God. They walked with Him, even when they didn’t understand. They didn’t know their future, but they trusted in their God who did.

Peace and pain can co-exist. One does not negate the other. Pain does not mean lack of trust. Peace is not just lack of pain. They are not mutually exclusive.

Jesus is the ultimate example. Even on the cross, in his deepest turmoil and incomprehensible suffering, He was at peace knowing He was obeying His father’s will. He was doing that for me and for you. By His stripes we are healed.

My memories over the next several weeks will be painful ones as I remember the weeks leading up to Patrick’s death. His life and death are constantly on my mind.

But even in my pain, I do have peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace that only comes from God.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daddy's girl blog

 This month on the 26th, we are choosing celebration because it is Paige Marie’s 21st birthday. While I am Paige’s only living parent, she is still the fruit of the womb that God gave to my husband and me. Nothing will ever change that. Patrick will always be a vital part of the equation. He invested into Paige’s life whole-heartedly from the day she was born until the day he died. Now through his legacy, Paige continues on becoming the woman God wants her to be.

Paige came into the world three weeks early and was a tiny little thing at 5 lbs. 10 oz. In fact, all the nurses wanted to come in and see her since they were so accustomed to delivering larger babies. But don’t let her small size fool you, she was healthy as an ox and 24 hours later, we were shoved out the hospital doors and on our way home.

From the get go, there wasn’t a job that Patrick refused to do. He was a hands-on dad in every area. In fact, he hated it when other men said they had to “babysit” their kids. His thinking was that it’s not babysitting, it’s parenting!

Patrick didn’t believe in separate rules or expectations for girls and boys. He pretty much expected the same thing from both kids. Therefore, there was nothing he didn’t teach Paige to do simply because she was a girl. From fishing, soccer and golf to mowing the lawn and shoveling snow; to earning a dollar and finding a deal; from how to speak up, look others in the eye and shake a hand; to Notre Dame and the Tigers; to cooking and eating…Patrick taught it and Paige learned it.

Looking back, I would say Paige was a “daddy’s girl.” But definitely not in the typical way…She was no coddled princess who could get her daddy to let her do anything. No way, José! Patrick certainly didn’t want a spoiled prima donna. He wanted a hard working, common sense, fun loving, Jesus-following girl. He was firm with Paige and she hated to disappoint him; just that “look” from Daddy and she responded accordingly.

In our first home in Kentucky, Patrick would wake 3-year old Paige up at midnight and carry her onto the back deck to watch the raccoons emerge out of the woods. Fifteen years later, after he was diagnosed with ALS, Patrick planned a trip to California to visit family and he insisted on taking Paige with him. From toddler to teenager, he wanted his daughter with him every chance he had.

Patrick was diagnosed with his fatal disease when Paige was 18, in the middle of her senior year. He insisted life continue as normal. Paige went on college visits and participated in all the end-of-the-year events. At her graduation, Patrick was still standing tall, but had slowed down in many ways. In her cap and gown, we snapped a family photo that to this day is the background image on my phone.

All summer, we kept hoping for the effects of ALS to slow down; we were desperate for more time. As it drew closer for Paige to leave for college, we had a difficult discussion. Should she start college or postpone it? She knew the facts…Patrick was dying; we didn’t know if he even had a year left, but we doubted it.

Her college was a couple hours away; Many people offered to help get her back quickly if needed. I promised honest communication. Patrick wanted her to go and told her so, but we didn’t want her to feel pushed away.

The decision was hers and she bravely began her college journey under the worst possible circumstances.

But God in His goodness saw that she was right where she needed to be. In a small Christian environment where many new friends, leaders and professors ministered to her. When she returned the following semester after her daddy died, her support group had been established. They were ready and understanding. It would have been more difficult had she waited to start.

Late in the fall, after a short weekend visit, Paige left us a note on our bathroom counter. After he read it, Patrick sobbed. I’d never seen anything like it. Watching someone with ALS cry isn’t easy; I wanted to stop it. He finally was able to communicate to me how despondent he felt because he wasn’t going to be here on earth to watch Paige grow into an adult. He told me he was far more heart broken for us than for himself. His fatherly heart was torn in two; It was heart wrenching.

After her first semester ended, Paige was able to spend Patrick’s last few weeks on earth by his side, helping to take care of him. Nothing fazed her and she was a trooper treating him with respect, even while watching her once strong daddy now lay paralyzed and helpless. She acted normal and made him laugh. Just sitting next to him in silence, the love between them was palpable.

Often as Patrick was declining, I begged God that He would allow both of the kids and me to be present whenever God decided to take him to Heaven. I wanted it to be our final time as a family of four. We needed to be together.

And in God’s sovereign plan, he designed Patrick’s home going to be over the holidays. I know many people felt that the timing was awful, but truthfully, it was going to be awful no matter when it happened.

I firmly believe the timing was an answer to my prayer. Even though Patrick went into a coma on Christmas Eve, God in his graciousness allowed the three of us to be by his side when he breathed his last breath the day after Christmas.

 I will never forget Paige’s wailing sobs as she left his side for the last time. There was no consoling this girl. Nothing could diminish this level of pain.

At his service, she insisted on sharing a testimony about her dad. She wrote it, gave it to me to read, and it was perfect. No changes were made and she stood bravely in front of over 1,000 people and talked about her hero. Her voice didn’t crack and she didn’t break down. I was in awe.

Father and daughter share numerous similarities. Both love to eat and laugh. They like the “shortened” versions of a story and things that aren’t overly complicated. They’ve never met a stranger and have a lot of common sense. They don’t need the newest gadget or name brand clothes. They don’t try particularly hard to impress others but are friendly to all and “what you see is what you get.”

A few months after Patrick died, I made some comment to Paige about how I wished I had stayed by his side more while he was sick. My thinking was that if I would have known how short his time was, I wouldn’t have ever left his side. Paige looked at me and told me clearly and calmly, “Mom, Dad isn’t in Heaven wishing that you would have done something differently while he was sick. You did your best and he’s now healthy and with Jesus.” It was just like something Patrick would have said to me and it was exactly what I needed to hear. I never said it again.

Losing her dad forever changed Paige’s life. But she knows what a special daddy she had and how blessed she is.  Since his death, Paige has bravely continued on with her college education. She has made wise, practical decisions and continues to seek to honor the Lord with her life. Patrick would be thrilled.

Paige – Today on your 21st birthday, be assured of the following…

  • You are loved deeply by both your parents.
  • Your daddy was so proud of you. He loved every second with you and the two of you definitely had a special bond.
  • He was a man of God and many girls in this world don’t have dads like yours.
  • Dad held your hand and guided you as faithfully as he could until God released him from that job.
  • He is now in Heaven worshiping the Heavenly Father whom he pointed you toward.
  • If God allows him to have snapshots into your life now, I know he is proud of the woman you are becoming.
  • You know many of the things Dad would keep telling you if he were here, but foremost among them would be to “Keep running hard after Christ.” And the next would probably be “Happy Birthday, Pump.”

 Psalms 103:13 “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

first dating photo 1987

My mother tells me I was a shy toddler. In fact, they couldn’t force me to go to preschool because I was so terrified. I have vague memories of a giant room with a tiny group of kids in the middle and I was supposed to walk all alone to join them. I wasn’t having it! Then I was held back from Kindergarten because I was still not ready to go.  The next year I had no choice and since my younger brother was also going, it seemed better.  All that ended up making me the oldest one in my grade the rest of the way through, which gave me some sense of confidence.

Somewhere along the line, the timidity disappeared…Because the rest of my school experience was all about talking with my friends, social events, and did I mention talking. In fact, I’m sure my middle school teachers and the librarian, in particular, would have never believed that I had ever been shy. I was banned from the library and sent into the hall more times than I care to admit. At one point, a close girlfriend of mine was told by her parents she couldn’t hang out with me because I was getting into too much trouble for…you guessed it – talking!

When faced with the  decision of what to do after graduation,  I remember my dad telling me that since I had so much fun in high school, I should go to college and continue all those types of activities. That sold me and off I went. He was right. My high school and college memories are so amazing; Thinking back to that time in my life brings a smile to my face.

And of course at college, I met the man of my dreams. At the end of my sophomore year, I made a prophetic statement that I probably had already met the man I would marry, but that neither of us knew it yet. That fall, before classes even began, Patrick asked me on our first date and then continued to ask me out every day after, always calling me (on the floor pay phone) immediately after he had just dropped me off! Three weeks into our dating, he told me he loved me (which I proudly did not say back) and he started telling people he was going to marry me. I took a little longer to decide. After all, I had my list (yes, a real list) of what were “absolutes” and what were “preferences.” I distinctly remember sitting in Pizza Hut and asking him the questions I thought were the toughest. If he could put up with my over-analyzing personality and not make me feel like an idiot, well then he was the guy for me. That was just the beginning of our friendship and his understanding of me. 7 months later we were engaged and the following year, 5 weeks after I graduated, we were married.  The photo above was taken early in our dating.  Long before the days of digital and iPhone cameras, you can imagine how precious this picture is.

Over the 25 years of knowing Patrick, he continued to be the best friend I could ever imagine. As with all marriages, our understanding of each other grew over time; He could predict what I was thinking. I knew how he would react. We could finish each other’s sentences. Many of our thoughts and opinions meshed and were as one. In fact, on all the major topics, we did agree. The more minor areas weren’t important and we just let each other be how we were and it was ok. I loved the fact that he completely understood me. He allowed me to thoroughly explain how I felt about something, truly listening and then would help me clarify what, if anything needed to be done.

Now that he’s gone, I am still always thinking of what he would say or feel or how he would react. I’m working hard to keep certain standards the way he did. Like the grass – he was meticulous about it, probably a little over the top. When both kids were home, the 3 of us could keep up with it pretty well. Now that they’re gone, it’s a lot of work.  It’s a big lawn and to use all the machinery and do it right takes almost 3 hours.  In fact, I just recently had a meltdown over the lawn because I just can’t keep it up as perfectly as he did.  And I desperately want to.

Some of the things that were important to Patrick, I have not followed…like the golf channel. It’s never on now. As for Notre Dame and the Tigers, I might look up the score the next day, but it’s not nearly with the same level of interest as when he was here. I used to try to find out some tidbit of news about one of his teams and tell him before he heard it himself. Boy, did he love it when I did that! I would be so proud of myself and he was excited that I was showing enthusiasm for something he loved.

That’s what I miss the most…his friendship and our companionship. The bond, the love, the sharing of life together. With the major things and the simple things. He is gone and a million times a week I want to share something with him. But I can’t.

It’s lonely. It’s quiet. Too quiet. It’s been 21 months. I am used to the silence, but I am not used to the loneliness. I had such a full life, such a vibrant marriage. A best friend and lover all in one. Words can’t come close to describing what we had and I will never find the right words to convey how I feel now. It’s like the neon light “vacancy” flashing in my mind over and over and over and I can’t get rid of it.

I want to say that I’m ready to close the cover on the volume of my life with Patrick; that I’m ok with it being in the past and now I’m ready for volume 2. But I’m not there yet. I’m in the transition and I still grieve deeply. I am functioning… I work full-time; I help facilitate GriefShare; I log my miles running; My church attendance is regular; I hang out with friends. But I do all that with a sadness in my heart that just can’t be set aside, a heaviness that weighs my soul down.

In my continual laments to the Lord, I have wrestled with the fact that in my head I know the Lord should be enough. That I shouldn’t need anything else. While that is true, God did make us relational creatures. He created marriage a unique relationship. Jesus himself grieved and there is much scripture about sorrow, suffering and loneliness.

When I am tempted to despair and think no one really understands, I have to force myself to focus on the truth of God’s Word; on His promises for me now and for my future; On what I already have in Christ and what I have to look forward to in eternity. This week a passage that I’ve had memorized for years came back to me in a new way.

Isaiah 40:28-31 “Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Other translations say “there is no limit to his understanding.” I cling to that. God created me and He understands me. More than Patrick ever did and more than anyone ever will. In fact, he knows me better than I know myself. I find comfort in that truth.

I’m to a place where about 60% of the time, I can replace my tendency to think negatively with God’s truths in a fairly quick manner and keep on going. The next 30% of the time, it’s more of a struggle. I have to really force myself to apply the Word that I know in my head to my heart. The final 10% of the time is when I’m knocked to my knees both emotionally and physically, feeling completely unable to resist the battle. It’s like quicksand to despair and I’m so tired of fighting, I want to give in and just sink below the surface.

It’s those times that I know I need help. My pride tells me that no one wants to hear from me. That it’s the same ole’ story and if I am sick of it myself, it must be so much worse for my friends. But I have a core group who prays for me and really want to know when the grief fog is thick. So I reach out through a text sharing my desperation and then just let the waves of sobbing come, begging God to help me. Sometimes it’s a few hours and sometimes a few days, but graciously the darkness is lifted and I can start taking a few wobbly steps again.

It’s in these times, that I’m glad God made me a relational person. I couldn’t walk this journey alone. God is the foundation and the reason for my faith. But he also blessed me with many friends who are walking next to me.  Some live nearby and many are miles away.  But it doesn’t matter.  I need them all. They listen, they speak truth to me, they sing, they text, they pray, they email and message me. We eat together, we run together, we worship together, we cry and laugh together. Sometimes we talk about Patrick and sometimes we don’t.

My life with Patrick was a treasure;  My heavenly treasure will be to be with Christ forever.  As long as God still leaves me on this planet, I will seek to follow Him and serve Him with my life.  He can be trusted and I will choose to trust Him regardless of how my feelings vacillate.  He understands and He is worthy of my praise.

Isaiah 43:2 “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord God.