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.

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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

The days you don’t forget

I buried my son seven years ago today. No one remembers, I think. Why would they? They haven’t buried a piece of themselves, their own child. These are days you don’t forget, burying your son. And this is grief: wild, untamed, charging crazily at unsuspecting moments. August 2, 2011 is mostly a blur in my memory. I only have snapshots of moments, small vignettes, of this day. I try not to think about it, the funeral. I try to forget what it was like, the pain and exhaustion of fresh grief. On July 29, I lost my son, and my children lost the mother they knew. My children lost their brother and their childhood just like that. The grieving mother people saw at the visitation and funeral was just a shadow going through the motions. And Matt’s siblings? They were mostly out of sight, like most bereaved siblings.

Today, however, I received the pictures of the donations for Options for Women. This outpouring of support, this incredible recognition of Matt and his siblings? I can’t even begin to describe what it has meant. It means so much. It means that Matt’s love of babies lives on, that the love he had for his siblings never ends; they are not forgotten, and those who need help are helped.

Options for Women donations final pic (4)

Options for Women donations final pic (2)
Close up (right side)
Options for Women donations final pic (3)
Close up (left side)
Options for Women donations final pic (1)
Final donations (67 items altogether, with stroller pictured above) valued at over $1000

Indeed, these are the days you don’t forget.

Thank you. Thank you for your support, not only for my family, for Matt’s brothers and sisters, but for the women, babies, and families you don’t even know, to whom you gave so generously, so overwhelmingly.

Blessings,

Angie

 

A prayer for today, or when fear overwhelms

I’ve begun another Bible study. I know myself well, which is why I jumped right into another study after finishing the “Finding I Am” study by Lysa TerKeurst. I lack discipline greatly when it comes to being in the Word on my own, so participating in studies keeps me accountable and in the Word. Like the “Finding I Am” study, this one by Beth Moore is short, just six weeks. It’s titled, “The Quest.” Right now, it’s available for free online (aside from the cost of a workbook). You can sign up here:  The Quest

My study this morning concluded with Psalm 139 and an invitation to journal.

Psalm 139: 7-10 “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

I love the intimacy of God, how He speaks to us through His word, how timely and perfect it is! My heart has been heavy lately with the cares of this world, with worry and concern for my loved ones, and burdened for others who are hurting physically and spiritually, many who don’t know Jesus as LORD and Savior.

So to journal, for me, is a relief, a release. It comes as naturally to me as breathing. I pour out my heart through my fingertips upon the keyboard. And I lift these words today to a heavenly Father who loves, cares, and hears these words of mine.

Dear God,

You are everywhere. There is nowhere I go without Your presence. Though I perceive you not, You are here. You are ALMIGHTY. You can do all things; bring back the wayward, breathe life to dead dreams, accomplish Your purpose. LORD, help me to trust You, to hold up the shield of faith that I may extinguish the darts of fear. You will not let go. Father, guide me, lead me. When the cords of discouragement and despair bind, may Your truth set free! I am not alone. Though I do not know which way to take, You, O Lord, do. You hold me. I am held. Your grip is firm and secure. Your hand does not slip. You do not fail. You say, “Do not fear,” knowing that Your children do. But like a good Father, You reassure and quiet us with Your love. You know all things. There is nothing that surprises You. You cannot be taken by surprise. Therefore, I will trust in You, for You are the Creator of the earth and everything in it. I am surrounded by You. Thank You that darkness cannot hide Your presence. Thank You that there is not one second where You are not present. Father, You know all things and have need of nothing, yet You desire a relationship with Your creation, men and women, children whom You have wondrously made. We walk by faith, faith in You. Amen

Blessings,

Angie

July 29, 2018

July 29

The country of Japan was hit by a tsunami in 2011, the same year my family was hit by the loss of our 16 year old son, our firstborn. Child loss is its own tsunami of epic proportions. Japan is still recovering and rebuilding today. And my family and I are still recovering and rebuilding today, exactly 7 years later.

There are many parallels to Japan’s tsunami recovery and the recovery from child loss. An article from USA Today online from 2016 states, “It took more than two years just to haul away the debris and rebuild roads and other basic infrastructure here.” Yes. This. This is an accurate description of the early days of child loss. I remember nothing of the first year after Matt died. I don’t remember the holidays, birthdays, or any special memories during those first 12 months. The devastation of losing my son wreaked destruction on my health and my children’s health, too. Shock, however, is a gift, really, that allows you to survive. But after the shock wears off? That was year two for us. Indescribable pain. Hope that had accompanied the shock in year one faded significantly going into year two. The realization that my son really wasn’t coming back began to solidify in my brain. It was, and is, a horrendous acceptance.

The USA Today article mentioned that five years after the tsunami “about 53 million tons of debris” had been removed. And recovery? It had only just begun. Again, this parallels child loss. Years three to six for us were really just the beginning of recovery, in rebuilding, in figuring out what the landscape of our lives was going to look like. And this past year? It has been, for me, about reinvesting in life, in determining and defining what I want my life to look like. It is far, far from finished, this rebuilding.

So very much has changed in seven years. So many things I wish Matt was here to see, to share in. So many moments with his siblings that will never be realized. So many aborted memories because of his absence. So much recovery to be done yet.

The tsunami of child loss that hit our lives seven years ago left an indelible mark on our lives. There is no going back to the way things were. That life is gone. But what we will be hasn’t yet fully developed. We are, like Japan, still in the process of rebuilding. There is no forgetting the past, for it is a part of us. Though it has been severed, it remains; it is the dust with which God uses to fashion a new us, broken yet beautiful. We are a new vessel because of this loss. The scars we bear, bear us. They have become to me a testimony of God’s grace and mercy. They are my remembrance stone of Christ’s faithfulness to me, His overwhelming presence in the darkest of days. He is my life, my light, my salvation. I yet praise Him.

I live because He lives. Because He lives, Matt lives. I will not waste this grief because Jesus does not waste our grief. He bore our sins and our sorrows, and there is purpose in this pain, a good purpose that remains to be seen. Yet I will trust in Him and His word. This grief is “achieving for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” (1 Cor. 4:17)

Today, on this 7 year anniversary of the death of my son, I still choose Jesus. Death cannot separate me from God’s love. It cannot take what remains: love. With Christ’s love, we have redeemed this day, July 29th. Indeed, you all have been the body of Christ for us this month as you have carried us in your prayers and in your gifts to Options for Women. I shouldn’t be amazed, and yet I am. I am grieving, and yet so grateful. Thank you. Thank you for extending grace and redemption to the hurting. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us…” (1 John 3:1)

My pick for Options for Women today is HUGGIES Snug & Dry Diapers, Size 6, 80 Count.

Huggies size 6 diapers Optoins for Women

our crew1

PHOTO FACT: This was our last family photo together, a year before Matt died. We didn’t know while posing for this picture that we had formed a heart shape. Love lives.

My blog with the information for July’s anniversary plan: https://crucifiedwithchristblog.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/like-a-broken-record/

Amazon baby registry for Options for Women: https://www.amazon.com/baby-reg/optionsforwomen-mankato-december-2018-mankato/QN3SX9PXDROY

(If ordering via Amazon, ship to address should fill in automatically.)

Link to support Options for Women Online: https://supportoptionsmankato.com/

Options for Women wish list: https://crucifiedwithchristblog.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/for-our-baby-store-wish-list.pdf

Blessings,

Angie

July 28, 2018

July 28

The reality, the shock of some circumstances, is hard to comprehend. Our instinct, our first response, is to deny it. Truth is hard to grasp when shell-shocked and blind-sided by hard news. But support from unexpected places is grace, such amazing grace. Grace that washes over, overwhelms, comforts, and breathes hope into hopelessness. Grace is a gift, given most often by those who themselves have received it. It’s not earned or deserved. It’s just simply given. Will you extend grace today? My pick for Options for Women today is the Graco Pack ‘n Play Playard Simple Solutions, Linus.

Pack N Play

boys6

FUN FACT: The rocker was where you most often found these boys! If Matt wasn’t in front of the computer, you could most likely find him in the rocker. It was one of his favorite spots…and he didn’t mind sharing it with his little brothers.

My blog with the information for July’s anniversary plan: https://crucifiedwithchristblog.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/like-a-broken-record/

Amazon baby registry for Options for Women: https://www.amazon.com/baby-reg/optionsforwomen-mankato-december-2018-mankato/QN3SX9PXDROY

(If ordering via Amazon, ship to address should fill in automatically.)

Link to support Options for Women Online: https://supportoptionsmankato.com/

Options for Women wish list: https://crucifiedwithchristblog.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/for-our-baby-store-wish-list.pdf

Blessings,

Angie