Refusing to accept reality

I keep trying to process this loss, but my mind just refuses to believe the truth. Countless times a day, I catch myself picking up the phone to call my mom. A thousand times, I pull up my Gmail to start an email to her. I begin to text my mom, only to have reality crash down on me that I can’t. Because she’s gone. She’s really gone. My mind keeps repeating it, but my heart doesn’t believe. I remember her voice, her laugh, her wit. I want to tell her everything I always told her; the activities and appointments going on with the kids, prayer requests, and all the stuff of our daily life. I want to hear her complain about the cold and how she hates Minnesota winters.

My heart grieves a thousand things she won’t be here for with us. I think of her birthday this month on the 28th, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my daughter’s college graduation in the spring, the youngest two boys’ birthdays, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, my birthday. The list is endless. I grieve the loss of the traditions my mom was so good at keeping and acknowledging. I am sad that my youngest daughter will never receive a “15” traditional Hallmark Birthday Doll figurine from Grandma. I ache that we will never again get to stop in to visit her when my son’s VEX Robotics tournament is going on.

My mom was my cheerleader, my biggest prayer warrior, and my confidant. I miss that my girls and I will never play 10% Percent with her again. (Aka the Whining Game!) I will miss playing cards with her: 10% Percent, Skip-Bo, Rummy, and Gin. I grieve for the cribbage games I’ll no longer hear about with her and Dean, her husband. I grieve for Dean who only got 16 months with her.

I wonder how long this disbelief will last. I fear the day when reality sets in and the shock wears off. I fear grieving loss all over again. I resent how complicated the death of my mother is. I’m angry that, once again, I didn’t get to say good-bye. I hate having to do the hard work of grief. I don’t want to do to the arduous work of grief and it scares me, this lack of want. I’m afraid because my faith feels dead, hollow. I remember how I leaned into the grief seven years ago, but I somehow can’t seem to find my footing this time around, that God has disappeared. Of course, I KNOW intellectually that He is present and closer than ever, but words of hope ring hollow. They echo and bounce without penetrating my heart, and I am afraid I will not find my way back. People keep telling me I am loved, but it’s like I am wearing headphones that muffle the message.

I want to hope again. I want to sleep again. I want the nightmares to end. I am afraid I am not coping well. I just want to escape. Hours and hours of YouTube and retreating to my bed are my “drug” of choice to numb this pain. I don’t care about healthy eating or taking my vitamins. I’ve eaten more junk food in the past four weeks than I’ve eaten in two years. I don’t want to spiral downward, but I’m too exhausted to fight this battle. I’m too tired to climb my way out of this pit.

Oh, that I would believe the truth! That I would cling to God and His word! I sense this spiritual battle in the heavenlies for my faith, but don’t have the strength to fight. Yet I rest in this: God knows. God knows and He is for me. I remember Job and acknowledge that God is sovereign. I am comforted in knowing that the Holy Spirit is interceding for me, and the prayers of God’s people on our behalf are rising as incense before Him. (Rev. 8:4) I rest in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, that this life is not all there is, that there is forgiveness for my sins. I rejoice that some day there will be the death of death.

I remember the “God Nods” He has shown us these past four weeks, the miracle He performed for my sister Amy and I in the restoration of our relationship. I recall His provision and care in the details of our return travel from MI to MN. I think of the multitude of cards and memorials we’ve received and am comforted by the expression of love and care by family, friends, and strangers alike. I recollect that the grieving process has no timeline, and that each loss is unique, that gentleness and grace are as necessary to healing as time. I remember that praise is a sacrifice, and that the more I praise, the sweeter the victory in Jesus. I bear in mind that giving thanks is the way to bear grief, that sorrow settles when the attitude of gratitude prevails. I gulp grace by the mouthful, remembering that God’s very breath sustains me and that the enemy breathes nothing but lies.

I lament to the Savior because He saved me, saved my mother. Christ was her all in all, and He remains my all in all, despite my doubts, my fears, and my failures. This grief overwhelms, but Jesus is over all. He is my redeemer, my reality. My mom knew there were things in this life that one simply could not change. But she also knew that acceptance was possible (and necessary).  Jesus, too, accepted what was necessary. For life, both earthly and eternal, to be possible, acceptance has to be a reality. I’m thankful Jesus accepted the cross. I’m thankful my mom knew that acceptance of these things we cannot change was possible. Because of the Truth, I know, in time, I will accept what I can not change.

 

Serenity prayer

 

With serenity,

Angie

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Crying Over Spilled Pork Chops

I just threw $8 worth of pork chops in the garbage because I just couldn’t muster the energy to open the package, throw them into a pan, turn on the oven and bake them. They’ve been sitting in the refrigerator for three days. Four Wednesdays ago, my mother was alive. Four Wednesdays ago I received the most horrible news, again, that there had been a car accident. Four Wednesdays ago, my life had hope and promise. Like spoiled pork chops thrown in the garbage, my life stinks. It’s rotten, this grief. Terribly rotten.

I wonder how many tears I have cried in the last seven years. Oh, my God. I try to convince my sisters and brothers that it’s going to be okay. It will be okay. I don’t know how, and somehow I don’t believe it myself, but I repeat it anyway, hoping that somehow the truth will sink in. People tell me they love me, but the words bounce like an echo on a racquetball court. I fear I am not okay. I tell my sister that she’s not going crazy, that this is normal for grief. I’ve been here before. I know the drill. But I can’t find my footing. I’m still drowning in the tsunami washing over me. I play back the Marco Polo video my mom sent me a week before they left on their trip. Though I hear her voice say my name, I can’t comprehend this new reality. I just can’t. But I have to accept it. I have to. We all have to.

This is grief. The guilt, the regrets, the “if onlys” and the “could’a, should’a, would’a’s” sweep over us, my siblings and me. My mother’s death has forced us into a new reality. It’s a reality we’re all struggling to accept and process. Four weeks? How can anyone process this kind of loss in just four weeks? I keep asking for prayer. I keep going through the motions of life, hoping that somehow my brain and body will “fake it ‘til you make it,” that somehow they will catch up, accept this new reality. Am I trying hard enough? I don’t know. I just know I’m exhausted. Sleepless. I ate yogurt again for dinner. I fed my kids McDonalds. Again. So many fast food meals. So much guilt.

I know there are things to be thankful for. I know, for I am thankful for so many things. I am thankful that I can rest, not in my strength, but in God’s. I am thankful I am secure in Him. I am thankful for the love and support of so many. I am thankful for His word that lifts me, comforts me, and instructs me. I am thankful for the prayers of strangers and friends and for the intercession of the Holy Spirit on our behalf. I am thankful for my sisters and brothers, both blood-related and Christ-related. I am thankful. And I am grieving. This is grief.

In grief and gratitude,

Angie

Thoughts on Job and grief

How long did Job sit in the dust, I wonder? How long did he wrestle with his thoughts? His friends were only silent for a week before striving to assert they knew the reason for his suffering. How long was God silent before He answered Job?

As I often heard a Precept Bible study leader say, “Don’t know, Can’t tell, Doesn’t say.” All we know is that when God answered Job, He had His own questions for him. I counted about 44 before I lost track. Summed up into one question, they ask, “Are you ME?” “Are you GOD?”

After confronted with a multitude of questions like, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” and “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place…?” and “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail…?” Job replies and basically says, “I’m sorry. I’ll shut up now. Who am I? I have nothing more to say.”

Accepting God’s sovereignty is difficult, especially in times of loss and great suffering. But when we remember WHO He is, we are able to say as Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

How we want to put God in a box and tie it neatly with a bow! But God is God. We will not understand Him or His ways, particularly when catastrophes hit our lives like Job. And our response is human: to question as Job. It’s okay to question. It’s okay to lament. But be careful not to assume. Be careful not to cross the line of lamentation to complaint. It’s one thing to lament TO God of your loss and pain. It’s another to complain ABOUT God.

As I grieve the loss of my amazing, quick-witted, persevering, thoughtful, card-playing, butterfly-loving mom, I am thankful for the book of Job. I am thankful for the example of Job. I am thankful for the reminder that God is sovereign, that He is good, that all He does is good. Death is not His doing. Grief is great because love is great. God reminded Job of His character, of HIMSELF, of His purposes which are only and ever good, true, and right. Because that’s all God can be is good, true, and right.

When we hurt, when we’re angry or feel cheated, we can read Job’s story and remember God’s character. My mom loved Jesus. She followed Him and obeyed Him to the end. The end, in our opinion, was far, far too soon. But we know that God has said to each one of us that our days are numbered. Indeed, before we even came to be, He numbered them. (Psalm 139:16) We grieve these short days, but will we accept it? Will we bow the knee to His sovereign rule? Even over the death of our loved ones gone too soon?

My mom had a letter for her children upon her death. Her first words of the letter read, “Always remember to follow God. He will guide and direct you. Accept what you can not change. Remember, you can accept it, but you don’t have to like it.”

Oh, Death, we do not like you, that is certain. But God’s story, our story, my mom’s story? It does not end in death. It ends in life for those in Christ Jesus. My mom lives. My son lives. I don’t like it, but I accept it, unbelievable as it is. God’s story is life, death, life. Life eternal.

MY HOPE IS BUILT ON NOTHING LESS
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
In Him, my righteousness, alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Blessings,

Angie

 

Carried by the body of Christ

I try to write. I try to put into words what this grief is like, but there are no words. There is no strength. There is no hope. There are no prayers. There is nothing but weakness, disbelief, and deep, abiding sorrow. There is anger. Confusion. Feelings of betrayal, distrust. This does not feel like love. There is no comfort. I want to sleep, to somehow escape this nightmare, yet sleep does not come easily or quickly. When it does, it is fraught with nightmares of losing my mother, only to wake and remember that my nightmare is, indeed, my reality.

And the crushing weight of grief rolls over me upon the rise of consciousness. Daily, the tsunami of grief rushes in. And I? I fear I will not survive this. I fear I do not have the strength to rebuild again. I am afraid I am not up to the task. Indeed, if I am honest, I don’t desire to fight my way back to life and joy again. I just want to curl up, shut the world out, and lie in bed, to sleep and not wake up again this side of heaven.

See, I’ve been down this road before. I know what it’s like. I know the truth now, that this grief will never end, that I will live the rest of my life here assimilating this loss with the temporary, fleeting joys of this earth. I know the energy and diligence it takes to find my way back. And I simply don’t want to.

When my son died, I wholly believed that healing would happen. I naively believed that healing meant the hurt would eventually go away. But now I know better. I now know that grief never ends. To be sure, it gets better, yes. It softens, fades. The wound does heal. But it leaves a terrible scar, a scar that will always bear witness of great loss.

I want to believe. I want to be encouraging and offer hope to those watching. But I have nothing. No strength. No energy. No desire or will. I used everything I had to fight my way back after my son died. I can’t do this again. I preached to myself the first time around, but I don’t have the breath to utter words of truth this time. It seemed so easy last time to say as Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” But this time? Why isn’t it coming so easily this time? Why? Why? Why?

I need all the prayer I can get, my friends. I know there is a spiritual battle going on, and I fear I am going to lose the fight. This afternoon, however, I had a sweet friend pray for me, cry with me, sit beside me. She reminded me of TRUTH that I could not remind myself of. My soul lies in the dust of this loss, and all I can do is listen. I wait for truth to wash over me. I lie like the paralytic beside the pool of Bethesda. (John 5) I cannot crawl to the place of healing. I needed the water of the word (Eph. 5:26) to wash over me, and I was encouraged and comforted by my friend’s prayers.

What a gift, a blessing, and a comfort it is to know that my family and I are being prayed for. We are, indeed, being carried by the body of Christ. I’ve witnessed it since the first day of my mother’s loss. God’s mercy, His goodness, has been shown in many ways these past 14 days. I see the tenderness and care He has provided through so many people. I am incredibly thankful for each and every one of you. Soon, I will tell you of the many “God Nods” I’ve experienced and share of the multiple ways in which my heavenly Father has expressed His compassion to me and my family. But for now, I ask that you continue to pray for me, for us, for my extended family…especially my step-dad, my uncle (my mother’s only sibling), and my five siblings.

Your prayers mean more than you’ll ever know.

Held by Him,

Angie

Once again with grief

For seven years, I have grieved with hope. When our 16 year old son died July 29th, 2011, I clung to God, to His Word, to hope and faith. Then, on Wednesday, Oct. 10th, 2018, I once again received that earth-shattering phone call. Only this time, it was my mother. My precious, tenacious, quick-witted, butterfly-obsessed mother was hit and killed while crossing a street with her husband.

And my faith? It is shaken. While I have the assurance that she, like my son, is alive in heaven, I am doubting, not God’s goodness, but His plan. Nothing makes sense. Nothing could have prepared us for this, and I feel cheated because this amazing woman who thought she’d never find true love or happiness, finally found her “Knight in Shining Armor” and married the love of her life at age 72, just 16 months ago.

 

I don’t know how to reconcile the fact that I prayed for 30 years for my mother to find a Godly man, someone who would love her as much as I do and care for her with such tenderness as she deserved, and then rip her violently away from him and us after just 16 short months of marriage. I’d never seen my mother more happier in her life than in the last 16 months.

And so how do I grieve with hope? How do I, we, go on? My mother loved Jesus. She put her trust, faith, and hope in Him. And so I, too, will do the same. I will continue to believe, though I do not see. I will continue to walk by faith and not by sight. I will cling to the Savior’s Word that “…hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:24-25)

My siblings and I and my mom’s husband and family are devastated. Will you pray for us, please? Will you pray that we would hope in God? May we grieve with hope in the God of hope.

http://www.methvenfuneralhome.com/obituary/mary-hennessey…

Once again grieving with hope,
Angie, Matt’s mom and Mary’s daughter.

Breathing deep

I didn’t realize how little I was breathing. I mean, sure, I’m breathing. Obviously. But when you live as a parent with a child who struggles with debilitating anxiety and grief daily, you find yourself unintentionally, unconsciously holding your breath. Each day becomes a game of mind tag, emotions and worrisome thoughts chasing each other like cats and dogs. Will she be okay today? If she actually wakes up not crying, is it going to last the whole day? Or if she’s crying already before breakfast is it going to get any better? Or worse? And all that anxiety tends to rub off on you because watching your child suffer every day? It’s hard. As I’ve witnessed my daughter’s pain I’ve imagined broken-hearted mamas and dads whose children don’t struggle with anxiety, but with cancer or some other horrid disease. It wears on you. It wears on your faith. It begins to erode your outlook. It blocks your view of Jesus.

Your faith, once strong, is weak, off-kilter. You feel like crumbling and wonder if you, too, will crumple like her. Satan begins to whisper convincingly in your ear the lies that he’s so good at telling. Ever so subtly you begin to doubt God and start living in fear. Walking in a dark trial obscures your way and before you know it you’ve fallen into the trap of despair. I know because I was there a number of weeks ago. I feared for the future, for my girl’s future. I doubted God’s healing and goodness. I groped about, searching for peace, but not finding it.

But God? God did what He always does. He remained faithful and true. He is an incredibly tender Father, a Father who never gives up on His children, never stops loving them through the storms, the doubts, the anger, the fear. He loves. He loves. And so it was that I went to bed with tears, pouring out these fears of mine to Him, and He spoke words I desperately needed to hear. I picked up my copy of Streams in the Desert and flipped it open. My eyes fell upon the June 14 entry where the words from Luke 22:32 were written:

I have prayed that your own faith may not fail.

I.

I, Jesus.

I, Jesus, have prayed that your own faith may not fail.

Your faith.

Angie’s faith.

I, Jesus, have prayed that your faith, Angie, may not fail.

Oh, what comfort! What freedom! What hope! I remembered what I had forgotten: that the peace I was seeking wasn’t found in the absence of the storm. No, it was found in Him who is in the midst of the storm. We are never in the storm alone. Though it may appear Jesus is sleeping in the midst of our hurricane,  (Mark 4:38-40) we need to remember that He is fully God, fully able, fully in control. He who made the heavens, the earth, and the seas is able to keep your faith.

Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves, but also had words for His disciples. “Do you still have no faith?” (verse 40) Ouch. They had Jesus mere feet away from them, yet they feared for their lives. How often do I do the same? How often do we forget that He who created and commands the universe is trustworthy? How often do we bail our faith over the side of the boat for fear of our circumstances? When we let our eyesight dictate truth, we lose sight of the Truth; Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)

What peace I have had knowing that Jesus is praying for me, for my daughter. He knows our faith is weak. He knows we are fearful. He knows the storm is real. Yet He doesn’t walk away. He doesn’t jump ship. He remains. He remains “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

When peace comes, breath comes. Deep breaths, breaths of calm, not shallow breaths of panic or fear, for He gives peace, His peace. (John 14:27) I can breathe deep because I know He does not fail. He is praying for me, for us.

With His peace,

Angie

Living broken

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front the past several weeks. Absorbing and processing the 7 year anniversary of my son’s death left me feeling weak and vulnerable. How I wanted to be strong, yet felt anything but. Truly, Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13 evidenced themselves throughout the oh, so painful, month of July.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I had hoped August would lend reprieve to this grief, but this brokenness appears to run much deeper, and doubt has begun to seep over those words of the apostle Paul and grow like moss on my mind. August did not linger, and September has swept in, and still there is no relief.

I remember when my older kids were little and they watched the television show, “Between the Lions.” One of the characters was Cliff Hanger. (So clever, right?!) He would hang from a cliff by one hand and declare with great enunciation, “Can’t. Hold. On. Much. Longer!” These last several months, I have felt much like Cliff. Since May, our second daughter has seen renewed, vicious bouts with her anxiety. As a parent, watching my child suffer throws me to cliff’s edge, has me barely hanging on with her.

I can’t “fix” her. I can’t do her grieving for her. I can’t take away her anxiety. I can’t change her thinking for her. There are things only she can do. But, oh, what lessons I have learned these last several months and years about anxiety and grief in having a child who suffers from them.

For far too long, I have worried too much about what others think. I have feared judgement from those on the outside. I’m mistaken as a “helicopter” parent, and my child is mistaken as a rude, unsocial, phone-addicted young adult. I despised this struggle. So I did what many do: I kept it to myself. I hid the hard. I sought help, but not from those within our circle of friends and family. I didn’t feel safe, fearing hearing statements of condemnation, ignorance, and lack of understanding. So much fear.

Sheila Walsh

I equated God’s silence in the storm as evidence of His indifference, that somehow we had lost His grace, fallen out of reach of His love. It has been a dark, dark place, this wrestling of parenting a child with mental health and grief issues.

Sleep eludes my daughter, has for months, years, really. How long can one go without adequate, life-restoring, sanity-giving sleep? Going through her day without energy, tears a never-ending presence, I fear God will, indeed, break her. I witness the torture of sleeplessness upon her, and I recall my own battle with it in the beginning of this child loss journey. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” was quoted ad nauseam. I would scream silently in response, “NO! NO, there is no rest!”

Will this pain for her never end, I wonder? Is God listening? Why isn’t He answering? Doesn’t He see her suffering? Why can’t she get relief? We’ve tried it all, as they say. So many suggestions, so many well-meaning friends and family giving advice.

But advice isn’t really what we’re looking for.

I just want prayer. I want God to answer quickly. I want Him to move on her behalf, to grant this rest that His word says it gives! He says He loves her, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Oh, God, where is our help? When will You show up?

I cling to this cliff of fear and doubt, exhaling truth through gritted teeth. My God has not forsaken me, has not forsaken my girl. He is faithful. He is perfect. The LORD is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His deeds. (Psalm 145:17) He will give rest…rest for my soul, her soul. He is gentle, and we do not walk through this valley alone. Our Shepherd is with us.

Matthew 11:29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.”

There is no mistake or coincidence that I recently read A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller. God’s tender reminder of who He is was timely, indeed. He knows the way that we take, and He does not guide us where He himself is not present. We must stay close to Him, closer all the more as the storms of anxiety and grief whip around us. We are so easily frightened, but our Shepherd laid down His life for us. The only place we need to run is to Him. Oh, what comfort when we stay near Jesus! What rest for our souls when we trust the Savior. He will make a way. When we cannot take another step, we can trust that He will carry us.

This anxiety and grief? Aside from God miraculously removing it, I don’t foresee a quick fix. We may be in this for many more days, months, or even years. Should that be the case, I pray that we would not reject His love or comfort. I pray that my daughter would be “rooted and grounded in love…able to comprehend…what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…” (Eph. 3:17b-19a) I am thankful that we rest in His unchanging grace.

“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”
by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

1. My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

2. When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

3. His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

4. When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Blessings,

Angie