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

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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

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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

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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

July 27, 2018

July 27

How do I make it through this? How do I keep going? They are questions I’ve asked, and they are probably questions the women who walk through the door of Options for Women have asked. Circumstances in life DO overwhelm. They ARE too much for us to handle by ourselves. But we do not walk alone. I do not walk alone in child loss, and the women who face an unplanned pregnancy do not walk alone. We all need to be “caught” with compassion, kindness, and support when life crashes over us like a tsunami. My pick for Options for Women today is the Munchkin Fishin’ Bath Toy.

Fishing bath toy Options for Women

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FUN FACT: I never think of my family as a big family until I see pictures of us all together. Then I think, “Wow. That is a lot of people.” 😀 This was a great homeschool field trip to the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium. Matt loved showing his youngest brother the exhibits, especially the sea horses.

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

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 26, 2018

July 26

Three more days. If I can be honest, it’s been a roller coaster of a ride the last week and a half. I wish reality wasn’t what it is. And I’m sure, for some women, getting that positive pregnancy test must feel the same. They wish reality wasn’t what it is. But it is what it is, right? It is what it is. And we can either run from our difficulties and our pain, or we can stand firm, trusting in God’s promises that HE IS WITH US. And because He is with us, we do not need to fear the future. We can make decisions based on what is right and good, remembering God’s character. We can trust Him. He is who He says He is. We do not have to make decisions based out of fear. My pick for Options for Women today is the Summer Infant Contoured Changing Pad. Life will most certainly involve change. The question then becomes, “How will you respond to change?” Will you embrace it? Fear it? Reject it? Or will you allow God to walk with you through it?

Changing Pad Options for Women

MatthewAbbyMegan

FUN FACT: Matt always took the news of a new sibling with joy. He loved babies, and he loved to entertain his siblings.

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

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