Posts Tagged ‘Scripture’

Out-of-the-Pit2

As God has now allowed my life story to continue three and a half years longer than my husband’s, I marvel at His faithfulness to me. While I am certainly not living the life I could have imagined even 5 short years ago, I am convinced that I am exactly where God wants me. When I was cruising along with a healthy husband and living the busy life of a mom of two teenagers, I had some basic expectations of what the next stage would be like. As the kids approached college and many changes were right around the corner, I thought I’d be walking through the empty nest phase with my husband by my side. But I was wrong.

Since the diagnosis of ALS threw our lives into a tailspin, nothing has been the same. In fact, the only consistent thing has been the steady stream of changes. I guess we could all say that nothing ever stays the same. Each of us experiences different stages of life and we are usually at the beginning or end of some transition.

There are many contrasts to my former life and my current life. The more substantial two are that instead of working part-time at a nearby school, I now work a full-time corporate job in the city; and instead of living in a house with a husband and two children, I now live in a condo alone. Of course, those trickle down to a thousand other ways life has changed. My main roles used to be “wife” and “mom.” The former of which no longer exists and the latter requires minimal time; both kids basically grown, gone more than home.

It’s pretty drastic; death is like that. It interrupts everything. As does all suffering…It doesn’t have to be death. Most of us are thrown a curve ball at some point and the unexpected becomes the new norm. We need time to process that this shocking event has become a reality. When someone is sharing with me a burden and starts to say, “I know it’s not as bad as yours, but….,” I immediately stop them. It doesn’t have to be like mine to hurt. No need to compare. I haven’t walked in your shoes and you haven’t walked in mine, but we can still bear one another’s burdens. I consider it a privilege to share what God has taught me with another who is suffering. God’s word is completely transferrable to all our different struggles.

Living life alone was not what I ever expected. It’s certainly not what I wanted. It flies in the face of my personality. I’m a people person, a communicator that loved sharing life with my best friend and pouring into my children and ministry.

I loved my life.

Now I don’t.

That’s complete honesty. That doesn’t mean I’m unthankful; far from it, even in the littlest things, I see God’s goodness and overflow with gratefulness. It doesn’t mean I’m miserable; each day, I try to be positive and show God’s love to everyone I meet with a kind greeting and smile. It doesn’t mean I don’t have peace; on the contrary, I lay my head on my pillow each night completely at peace with God in my mind and spirit.

It just means I don’t love my life like I used to. It’s still hard and I’m still adjusting. Some days feel like drudgery, others are acutely painful. Some I manage just fine, while others I simply endure. Life is like that. I don’t think I’m that much different from anyone else.

I know I’m right where God wants me; and that makes it ok for me to not love my life now. Because if He’s ok with where I’m at, then I humbly accept it. “Better is one day in His courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10).

This season of life is part of God’s plan and His plan is good. He prepared me in advance for this time and He is preparing me now for the next stage, whatever it may be (Ephesians 2:10). Absolutely nothing is wasted in God’s economy. What a relief. There is always a purpose and a reason for our pain.

I don’t buy into “your best life now” philosophy; instead I choose to believe that my “momentary light affliction is producing for me an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinithians 4:17). God didn’t promise me a trouble free life here; In fact He said the opposite (John 16:33), but He has overcome the world and He has promised to never leave me (Hebrews 13:5).

And just soak in the promises of Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

I knew those promises before, but now I’ve truly lived them. Many hours on my face before God weeping buckets of tears, begging God to carry me and I can honestly say He has carried me. It’s only by His grace that I’ve made it this far.

Recently, as I was trying to encourage a close friend who was having her own struggles, I found myself telling her that as awful as this grief journey has been, I’ve asked the Lord to never let me forget how needy I am. I never want to lose the closeness that I’ve had with God during this time. Absolutely lost, desperate and broken. Completely at the end of myself, knowing I can’t survive without Him.

As painful as it has been, it has also been precious. I don’t yet have words to explain it. Maybe I never will. At rock bottom, Jesus Christ has met me, held me and carried me; and I won’t forget. Ever.

As a result, I have absolutely no doubts that God has my future figured out. He is with me in his journey. In fact, better than that, He planned it and it’s for His kingdom purposes, which I will not fully understand until I’m Heaven-side. Won’t it be so cool to be able to see all God was doing from beginning to end? Each of our own personal stories is just a tiny fragment of the whole. His purposes unfolded will blow us away. I can’t wait!

Whether I can ever say “I love my life” again is irrelevant. It’s not the goal. The goal is to continue to walk closely with my Lord and Savior, faithfully obeying and trusting. The struggles of our daily lives on planet earth bring to the surface the areas where we need to submit and where God wants to mature us; and all the while, the hands of a loving Father help us through the process.

A few months ago I was introduced to this song and I can’t get enough of it. Many mornings on my drive into Detroit, alone with Jesus, I have my praise and worship time. As I sing and pray this song, I force myself to keep one hand on the wheel when I want to raise them both heavenward and I fight back the tears so my mascara won’t run before my day has even begun. This has become my theme song and I encourage you to get alone with God and turn it up loud and listen….

There wasn’t a day that You weren’t by my side

There wasn’t a day that You let me fall…

In all of my life, Your love has been true,

With all of my life, I will worship You.

I will sing of all God’s done and I’ll remember how far He’s carried me

From beginning to the end, He is faithful until the end….

I will remember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anticipation

Posted: February 26, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.)

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.

 

 

 

 

those-who-plant-in-tears-thumb

I have never considered myself a crier. In fact, in early adulthood, I was proud of the fact that I seldom cried. After having children, I would occasionally get teary eyed at stories of families with kids growing up or at the thought of losing a child.

That has all changed….drastically. My tear ducts have been flowing non-stop for the past 16 months. And prior to Patrick’s death, for the 12 months that I took care of him and watched him wither away, I was already crying buckets any chance I had to hide in a corner and let them flow. Seriously….it’s a lot of tears.

The Bible actually talks about tears. After all, God created them. I find comfort in Psalm 56:8, in the promise that God knows how much I’ve cried and has my tears in a bucket. That’s up there as amazing as knowing the number of hairs on my head! (Matthew 10:30)

David says in Psalm 6:6 that he is “weary with moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears and I drench my couch with my weeping.” I can relate completely.  Tears are supposed to be cleansing.  Some people can hold them in.  Not me.  Not anymore.  They are always just below the surface and spring forth at random times.

But the verse that has surprised me the most is Psalm126:5 “Those who sow in tears shall reap with songs of joy.” In all my years of studying the Word, hearing messages and reading through the Bible, I never remembered hearing this one. So when my pastor and his wife first brought it to my attention several weeks ago as I sat weeping in their living room, I was riveted. I went home and looked it up and read it in every version and poured through commentaries. This gem of a verse released me from my self-imposed feelings of failure that I should be “doing better” than I am. Gone was the guilt that “I must be doing something wrong” because I am still struggling so much. It is comforting to know that each step I take, even with the tears flowing, is the right thing to do. It’s ok to cry; It’s just not ok to quit. I don’t know when the “reaping with joy” part will come.   That’s not even the motivation for me right now. I just want to be faithful and I only seek to honor the Lord, even in my pain…No matter how long this valley is. I needed to hear that it’s ok to be sad while I’m obeying.

Losing a spouse is unexplainable unless/until you experience it. My earthly best friend is gone and he will never be replaced. And the ache of loneliness is constant. There is no one person to share every detail of life with. The good, the bad, the silly, the pointless, the ups, the downs, the in-betweens. Yes, friends help, but they aren’t the one you are used to going to sleep with every night and waking up next to every morning. There is no one companion who shares your struggles, knows your dreams, encourages you and stabilizes you. No other set of ears and eyes to help you in your perspective. No one person to help you think through things from the minute to the major. And after almost 25 years of having that one person, the adjustment is rough.

I learned early on in my grief that constant isolation is not a good choice, although it’s the natural default when in pain. But it only leads to despair. So I have pressed on….working full-time, involved in an adult small group, serving as a youth leader, attending counseling class on Wednesday nights and going through training sessions to start Grief Share at our church this fall. Friday nights are the worst for me if I don’t have something planned, so I force myself to do something with someone else. All of these things are good and they are helpful….but I still know I am without my life’s partner. It’s still lonely; I still return each night to the deafening silence of my large empty house.

Slowly, I think I am learning to accept the silence. The alone feeling is more normal now. I don’t like it, but it has caused me to be so aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life. More than ever before, I whisper prayers to my Heavenly Father. Prayers of confession, for in my grief, I am still a sinner; prayers of desperation for his grace to endure; prayers focusing on his promises and truth; prayers of intercession for others also struggling. His Word soothes my pain. The examples of faithful believers through the ages encourage my heart. Knowing that He will wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4) and there will be no more weeping, gives me true hope.

Easter weekend was a real blessing, as it was the first time since Christmas that the kids and I were together. Family from out of town joined us for a few days and church families for dinner on Sunday all made for a special weekend. Both kids are doing well. Paige is finishing her second year at Cornerstone University and will be taking an overseas class to Kosovo for a few weeks in May. Then she will finish her summer doing an internship with Life Builders in Detroit. Parker had an amazing freshmen year at Cedarville University and has chosen to be a camp counselor at Lake Ann Camp in northern Michigan this summer. They are experiencing life the way Patrick and I dreamed for both of them. I am truly grateful.

And as I worshipped with my church family during the Good Friday and Easter morning service, I felt freer than I had in a long time. Freer to cry openly thinking of the suffering Christ endured on my behalf. Freer because I know I have experienced a little of the “fellowship of his sufferings” that Paul talks about in Philippians 3:10. Freer to worship openly because Christ is all that matters. Freer because my suffering really is bringing me closer in every way to my Lord and Savior. The most freedom comes from knowing that it’s because of Christ’s resurrection that I have hope and a reason to live.

Today is 16 months since Patrick entered Heaven. He is living it up with Jesus and many others who have gone on before. I know He is fully engaged enjoying each moment just as he always was here. I can picture him talking, laughing and eating….all the things that he couldn’t do as the awful disease took over and destroyed his body. And since it’s spring, I can imagine that he’s playing golf on some beautiful course, inviting everyone he knows to join him for a “quick 9 holes.”

This morning I am running for the second time, a half marathon. The first one was last October when Paige, Heather and I ran in Detroit in memory of Patrick. During that one I ran with thoughts of how Patrick and I had planned to train and run one together, before his diagnosis of ALS changed everything.

For this one I have trained alone. Me and God, along with my phone playing messages from various preachers and lots of Christian music. (Yes, I run listening to sermons. They are often times easier on my emotions than music.) Many miles clocked on the treadmill and outdoors. Lots of time to think; Lots of time to meditate on truth.

Today I will still run with thoughts of Patrick in my heart, as he is a part of me that will never go away.

However, I am also choosing to run thinking of my Savior. I will be thinking of….

how He suffered for me…

how He loves me…

how He never leaves me…

how He is my ultimate companion…

how amazingly He provides for me…

how He continually protects me…

And how He has a plan for me….

He knows my tears,

And He cares.

 

Philippians 3:14

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

For more on tears and Psalm 126:5, read this powerful devotional by John Piper