Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

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In just a couple weeks I will be running my sixth half-marathon, and it will be the fourth time that I do the Detroit International Half. For the past three years, race day has been unseasonably cold, with it actually snowing last year. Long before dawn, the excitement is palpable as 20,000 runners make our way through the dark to find our corral and correct pace group. There we wait for what seems like hours, jumping up and down to stay warm. We smile and chat, as the common bond is instant. The countdown on the loudspeaker begins and we hear the siren as the first group starts. Slowly, we inch our way closer, listening as every two minutes the next group starts. Soon we can see the start line and many snap a few last minute photos before tucking away their phones. By now, we are jogging. As we cross that mat, we click our watches and we’re officially off.

The first mile or two I try not to think about what I’m doing. I can’t believe the day has finally arrived. I focus on not starting too fast or too slow. I tell myself this is just a normal run. Deep breaths in and out. Months of training have brought me to this point. For the past 48 hours, I’ve been carb loading and drinking water by the gallon. I am as prepared as I can be.

By mile three, we are running across the Ambassador Bridge as the sun rises. It’s a gorgeous site and the excitement continues. I remind myself to look up and enjoy the scenery. People are jostling just to have a few steps of pavement in front of them without tripping over one another. I try not to get annoyed at a runner who is already walking. If they knew they couldn’t run, they should have started further back, I think. Maybe they had no idea, my nicer self decides to give them a break.

At the end of the bridge, it’s strange to run across the Canadian border where on any other day, you would be in your car and have to stop at the booth. The border patrol stand seriously looking at us to make sure they can see our bibs, otherwise we risk getting pulled out. Next to them, a local band and lots of friendly Canadians greet us with posters and cheers. Miles five through seven are smooth, fun and flat as we run next to the river on the Windsor side overlooking Detroit’s skyline.

Somewhere around mile seven, we enter the tunnel. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A tunnel, except this one is underwater. Two lanes normally full of bumper to bumper traffic. But for these few hours it’s body to body as the herd of runners all head the same direction. It’s also the only mile of the run that we have absolutely no spectators. Some runners shout and scream to hear their echo. Some stop for a quick photo at the midway point next to the two countries’ flags. It is a cool photo op, but the competitor in me won’t allow me to stop. The first time I ran through the tunnel, I was amazed at how long it was and kept wondering when it was going to end. There is a gradual incline near the end of the tunnel. At that point, my quads are burning and I dig in deep to push through because I know the biggest crowd is waiting just outside the tunnel.

Sure enough as we come out of the dark and even before our eyes are re-adjusted to daylight, we can hear people screaming and cheering. Both sides are full and I began to scan the crowd for one or two familiar faces. When I see them, I run close to the side to get a high five. The smile and wave from someone who knows my name gives me a little more wind in my sail.

About a half mile later, that’s when the real struggle begins. Around mile nine my mind starts playing head games, telling me things like…

  • Wow, you have a long ways to go.
  • You won’t be able to keep up this pace.
  • You are already behind last year, so just slow down.
  • No one else cares about your time.
  • Did I do enough squats, lunges, hills?
  • Why do you even care about your time?
  • Why are you doing this to yourself?
  • What’s that pain (leg, knee, hip, ankle)?
  • Most people never even do one of these races.

And on and on and on. So I talk back to myself…

  • You are MORE than half way done.
  • You can trust your training.
  • This is a new race with a new time.
  • You will be so mad at yourself if you slow down/give up.
  • God cares what you are doing and He knows the details.
  • You have breath and strength and ability.
  • That pain isn’t real.
  • Many people wish they could run.

Can you imagine the tape playing in my head over and over? Between the internal arguments, I pray and quote Scripture.

There is a hill somewhere between ten and eleven. It’s tough. That’s where I gave into the negative self-talk last year. I was nauseous and that gave me an excuse. I slowed way down and I as much as I hate to admit it, but I actually walked for like 30 seconds. Okay, maybe it was 60 seconds. Once I did that, I knew it was over.

Mile twelve is a great place for us half marathoners. It’s where the full marathoners keep going straight and we turn the corner and head for the finish line. It’s a great feeling to know you’re almost done. You forget the pain and pick up the pace. Every other time, I’ve been ecstatic when I finish. Last year I was already mad at myself.

It was the first year that my time didn’t improve. Later when I looked at my splits, I realized I hadn’t been doing as poorly as I thought. I had listened to the wrong voice in my head and I was my own worst enemy.

Five years ago, I had never run anything but a few family-fun 5k’s. I never envisioned myself as a serious runner. I remember how excited I was the first time I ran four miles without stopping. Now a four mile run is either a warm-up or a speed workout. Either way, it feels like an easy run day. Clearly, my perspective has changed. Training for a half marathon is work. Hard work. The only way that four miles got easier was by continually running.

Several times in the Bible, our lives on earth are compared to running a race. For me, the correlation is helpful. I understand that this life is not a sprint, but a marathon. I have to put the training in to reap the benefits. Spending time in His Word is paramount. Sharing my struggles honestly with godly friends is my lifeline. Regularly crying out to Jesus is the air I breathe.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t keep going. Like that hill on mile ten, I want to quit. But I need to play the tape of God’s truth to override the lies of my flesh. Letting go of my dreams and embracing God’s plan is still a work in progress. When I’m discouraged, I can choose where I let my thoughts rest. Do I focus on the pain and loss or do I remind myself of God’s goodness? When the daily loneliness threatens to devour me, do I give into self-pity or do I review how far I’ve come with God by my side?

My race is not over until God says it is. Someday I will cross earth’s finish line and when I do, I don’t want to have any regrets.

Hebrews 12: 1 & 2; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:7; Philippians 3:14

 

 

 

 

 

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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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It’s been 2 and a half years since I had my husband by my side. With Patrick, I had a life partner who shared the responsibilities, burdens, and daily grind of life. Likewise, we also shared smiles, laughter and joy. As each year of our marriage progressed, our history become more combined as a couple which made our single lives before marriage less and less significant. Essentially, as our oneness grew, we couldn’t really remember life without the other. I was 23 when we married. Yes I had a life and a personality before Patrick, along with some very good memories, but the majority of my life has been with him by my side. I am who I am in large part due to our years spent together. Although to some it may seem it’s been a long time since Patrick died, it’s really quite short compared to the length of time we were married.

Without Patrick, life has lost a lot of its color; I so miss his laughter, perspective, leadership and even having disagreements. What I wouldn’t do to have him here to try to convince I’m right about something. Funny, now looking back, it never bothered him if we didn’t see eye to eye on a topic, but it drove me crazy! I was the one trying to persuade him to agree with me 100%. He would laugh and say it’s fine we don’t agree on this, but I never gave up trying. Even in that, I see that once again, he was right. I think when I see him in Heaven, one of the first things I’m going to tell him is that he was right about everything!

Recently in another low time in my grief, I found myself turning to one of my favorite passages in Lamentations 3. As I was reading and praying through the chapter, my eyes kept going back to verse 24. “The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.”

I like to pray verses out loud, so the process went something like this:

Reading the verse backwards, I said: “I will hope in the Lord because He is my portion.”

I wondered: “What exactly does “portion” mean? If I’m putting my hope in it, I really should know.”

So I googled the word and found several Old Testament references where it’s used. I looked them up, wrote them out and read some online commentaries. What I discovered was fascinating.

Originally, the word was used when the Lord was telling Aaron how the tribe of Levites was going to be treated differently than the rest of the Israeli tribes. While the other 11 tribes were given specific pieces of property wherein to raise their families and support themselves, the Levites were not given any land. They were in full time service to the Lord, which meant they worked in the tabernacle. They were not given an inheritance with land, but instead were to trust the Lord to provide for them regularly. God would use other means to have their needs met.

Essentially, God was telling Aaron that the Levites’ inheritance was Himself and He would be their portion and they would have Him (God) provide their needs in every way.

Several times throughout the book of Psalms, the word portion is also used. The various authors in Psalms often cry out in anguish to God about their problems, but then they come back and state something true about God’s character. It’s like our mind telling ourselves to see the positive in an otherwise negative situation. Except this isn’t just the power of positive thinking. It’s so much more when it’s based on God and His Word.

For example, in Psalm 16:5, the author states, “the Lord is my chosen portion and my cup.” Again, in reference to an inheritance, he knows that he is choosing his inheritance to be God and not what the world offers. It is enough to have the Lord’s favor and comfort, regardless of the difficulties this life brings. This earth is neither my final home nor where I was created to be forever.

Probably one of the most famous uses of this word is found in Psalm 73:26, which reads, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” In the early parts of this chapter, the author is bemoaning about how much better everyone else has it than he does. He feels like following God has not benefited him at all. However, he changes his tune in verse 16 when he begins to remember that here on earth the whole story won’t be told. The end of those who don’t follow God is not the same as those who do. Verse 26 may be the climax of the text when the author basically sighs and admits that regardless of how weak his flesh is, God is his strength and portion.

As I contemplated this, I realize it’s the same for me today as it was in the OT days. God gives me just what I need when I need it. It’s not about tangible blessings or a carefree life. It’s about looking to Him to fill the void that is innate to all of us. He is the only inheritance that we need.

In the past few months, I’ve made some bigger decisions that have solidified my singlehood. I am no longer part of a couple and I can’t function like I am. Life is different. I am moving forward, even though it’s far from easy. Even in the joys, there is a constant ache. I will always be wishing Patrick were here to share life with, especially when it comes to our children and watching them continue to grow into adulthood. It’s strange how I miss my husband every day, but special occasions heighten the awareness. The entire week of our wedding anniversary, I was acutely aware of my loneliness. Longing for what I had lost and wondering how I will ever survive on my own.

Once again, I found myself starving for more of the Lord. Once again, I was on my knees sobbing and pouring out my heart to Him. Once again, the Word was the only thing that would satisfy.

And once again, He came through…with just the right portion…of Himself!

I can’t put my hope in my circumstances changing. Being impatient with the grief process doesn’t help at all. There’s no way to go back to my previous life and I shouldn’t worry about my future. All I need to focus on is right now, this moment, and how God is taking care of me. I have everything I need in Him and I trust Him implicitly with my life.

Psalm 119:57 “You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words.”

By the way, next month at this time I will be on my mission trip to Hungary. I am so thankful that all my funds came in! I am now working hard at preparing lesson plans for adult advanced ESL learners. If you think about it, please pray for me July 22 – August 4th. Pray I will adjust well to the time difference and be open to whatever opportunities God has for me.

 

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.

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