Prayer for the mom without a mom

I wrote this last year, but it seemed to resonate with a lot of people, so I wanted to share it again. Love to all of you who can relate, and praying that you can find the joy again. xo Dear Lord, Mother’s Day is hard. It’s difficult to celebrate this role when the one ...

Read More

I wrote this last year, but it seemed to resonate with a lot of people, so I wanted to share it again. Love to all of you who can relate, and praying that you can find the joy again. xo


Dear Lord,

Mother’s Day is hard. It’s difficult to celebrate this role when the one who taught me the most, the one whose opinion mattered so much, isn’t here any longer.

It’s hard to think about how to be what my children need when I face this gaping hole, an absence where it still feels like my mom should be. When, even after several years, I feel lost… adrift… permanently damaged, even as I go about my days. I’m not depressed. But I miss her. I feel perpetually lonely without her.

On a day like today, all I can think about is what my mom did for me. How she—even through her criticisms—was my unconditional place. My biggest supporter and strongest cheerleader. How she saw what was bad, misguided, or just plain wrong in my actions—and didn’t hesitate to say so—because she believed I was capable of so much more. Because she thought I was so much better than that.

I wonder now—when I rebelled, did it hurt her the way my own kids hurt me?

Did she stand firm in her opinions anyway, simply because there was no other choice? Because she had to be the mom she knew I needed, rather than the one I thought I wanted?

Did she lie awake at night, wondering if she was doing right by her kids?

Did she fume all day when I yelled at her unjustly?

And even so, did she defend me, instinctively, against any and all criticisms?

Did she mourn over her inability to protect me from people who would hurt me, injure my opinion of myself, break my heart?

I’m certain she did. As a teen, I was oblivious to that. As a parent myself, I now understand her better. Lord, You gave me wonderful mom, and I’m so grateful. And You’ve blessed me with remarkable, amazing children. So why do I feel more like crying than rejoicing?

Because I fully recognize all that I lost. All that she was to me. All that a mom should be to her child. And I’m afraid I can’t live up. I’m afraid I’ve already failed irreparably. I’m afraid my kids will never understand the depths of my love for them. My desperation to shield them from all that could harm them. My unlimited hopes and aspirations for them. They may never understand how deeply I feel the things that hurt them. Or how much I believe in them.

Maybe they’ll get it when they have children of their own.

Maybe someday they’ll cling to You when they realize they don’t have control over their own kids’ lives. Maybe they’ll live in awe of a God who loves us with a Father’s love. Maybe they’ll understand that we are forever connected, whether we’re both on this earth or not. Maybe they’ll grasp the reality that parenting well involves huge risk. It involves making unpopular decisions and hard choices and knowing that we can’t fix everything. It requires being hands-off sometimes when our instincts tell us to cling tight. It consists of a love so great that it isn’t changed by circumstances, actions, achievements—or by disappointments or failures. Our hearts are forever tethered to each other.

Lord, as I write this, I feel my heart loosening. My gratitude welling up. My sadness is still there but not bringing me down… instead, it’s lifting up my head, directing my sight towards You. Because I do have reasons to celebrate. Reasons so much greater than flowers and gifts or the perfect card.

I have You. And I had her (and will always have her, even if she’s not here). And I have my kids.

And I do have joy… in spite of the sadness. But on this day, with Your help, I will let joy prevail. Thank You, Lord.

Amen.

#HonorAllMoms—and May prayer prompt calendar

Today’s post is written by Sarah Philpott, an online friend of mine who posted here once before. When I held a prayer prompt calendar contest, Sarah approached me about designing a calendar for the month of May to recognize all the women for whom Mother’s Day brings sadness rather than the expected joy. I was completely ...

Read More

Today’s post is written by Sarah Philpott, an online friend of mine who posted here once before. When I held a prayer prompt calendar contest, Sarah approached me about designing a calendar for the month of May to recognize all the women for whom Mother’s Day brings sadness rather than the expected joy. I was completely on board, because after I lost my own mom, I’d had a similar experience. I’d rather cry and go off on my own than “celebrate” on that day—even though I have three kids who I love with all my heart. Sometimes the pain overshadows the joy. And sometimes, people aren’t in a position to feel joy because the reminder of their loss is too great.

I’ll stop talking now so you can hear from Sarah, but don’t forget to download the prayer prompt calendar here or on her website.


Mother’s Day was celebrated in a big way where I grew up. As a child, I’d sit alongside my family in the slick wooden pew and gaze at the fetching flower arrangements crowding the floor of our sanctuary.  Roses, peonies, and spring blooms sat ready to be awarded to the ladies of my small Southern Baptist church.

Ms. Nita, smartly dressed in a pastel dress and a Sunday-go-to-church hat, always seemed to be in charge of the program. After we sang from the hymnal, the kids were beckoned to retrieve a bundle of roses from a basket and encouraged to hand the blooms to beaming mothers, grandmothers, and aunts. After the hugs ended, Ms. Nita took to the center stage and said, “Would all Mothers please stand?”

My mother and grandmother would rise and stand amongst the females of my community. It was like a battalion of matriarchs. Then, the ceremony of awards began. We’d quickly find out who was the oldest mom, who was the youngest mom, and who was the mom with the most children. This tradition of honoring mothers is still one of my fondest memories of my childhood.

But it wasn’t until I was an adult, sitting in church on Mother’s Day fresh from the heartache of my first miscarriage, that I realized how many women actually had hurting hearts on Mother’s Day.

I sat recollecting my childhood and recalled how at my old church the mother with the most living children was awarded one of the biggest and most beautiful bouquets.  The congregation always erupted in applause for this dear soul who had her hands full.

But now, with a babe in Heaven and one in the church nursery, it struck me as an odd banner of honor. I realized that beneath smiles many women silently mourn on Mother’s Day. I instantly thought of my mother-in-law. She has five children. But only three are living. Jesse died at the age of two and Lauren at the age of twenty. Then I thought of my mother. She has three children. But only two of us are living. A gravestone in the church cemetery only marks one tiny soul, who was stillborn. Then the face of a friend, who wanted nothing more to be a mother, came to mind.  Infertility had robbed her of the chance of becoming a mother and finances had prevented her from adopting. She too hurt on this special day. It made me realize that these sweet women—and those just like them who had endured the death of their own children or a dream that never came true, were women who also deserved an extra special bouquet.

My grief opened my eyes to the invisible grief that many women bear on Mother’s Day. We often forget these brave women, don’t we?

But we shouldn’t.

Mother’s Day is still one of my favorite days of the year, and it should be celebrated with unbridled jubilation, breakfast in bed, and homemade cards.

And I love how, at Ms. Nita’s gentle encouragement, my childhood church always collectively gave a big applause to mothers.  Mothers should receive a standing ovation.

But we should expand our celebration of Mother’s Day by showering love and support to all mothers—including those who view Mother’s Day as a stark reminder of what doesn’t exist. Each year, in the United States alone, 1 in 160 deliveries end in stillbirth, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, 3,500 babies under the age of 1 die, and 1 in 8 couples experience infertility. Let’s stand in solidarity as individuals and as the church to #HonorAllMoms this Mother’s Day.

Let’s also set aside the month of May to pray and encourage all sorts of women—those who have a baby to hold in their arms, those who do not; those who wanted to be a mom but never got to be, and those who were placed into that role by circumstance; children who have lost their moms and moms who have lost their children.

I think Ms. Nita would want all these special women to have a beautiful bloom.

“After women, flowers are the most lovely thing God has given the world.” Christian Dior


SARAH PHILPOTT, PhD lives in Tennessee on a sprawling cattle farm where she raises her two mischievous children (and one little baby!) and is farmwife to her high-school sweetheart. An award-winning writer, Sarah has contributed to academic books, scholarly journals, and outlets such as the Huffington Post. Her book, Loved Baby: 31 Devotions for Helping you Grieve and Cherish Your Child After Pregnancy Loss, will be published in October 2017 by Broadstreet Publishing. Sarah is a lover of coffee (black), rocking chairs, the outdoors, and Hemingway. Visit allamericanmom.net where she writes about life on the farm and cherishing life in joy and sorrow.

 

A Prayer for When Christmas Has Lost Its Sparkle

Happy to be able to share this post at Crosswalk.com… Expectations abound at Christmastime. In every crowded store, colorfully-lit neighborhood, and Hallmark movie, sparkle and glitter and joy prevail. Marriages are miraculously saved, teenagers’ surly attitudes are softened, perfect gifts appear like magic under trees, generous strangers rescue people from financial worries, everyone sings happy ...

Read More

Happy to be able to share this post at Crosswalk.com

Expectations abound at Christmastime. In every crowded store, colorfully-lit neighborhood, and Hallmark movie, sparkle and glitter and joy prevail. Marriages are miraculously saved, teenagers’ surly attitudes are softened, perfect gifts appear like magic under trees, generous strangers rescue people from financial worries, everyone sings happy songs, and goodwill is restored.

In reality, though, some of us struggle this time of year. Since I lost my mom five years ago, I tend to feel sadness and loneliness more than I feel joy. Some of you may have lost spouses to death or divorce. You may have children who don’t spend time with you or demand too much of you, or parents who aren’t themselves (or are no longer there). Maybe your job requires you to work rather than worship, or you have so many past-due notices you could wrap presents with them—if you could afford to buy presents. Perhaps you’re jaded, knowing that, as a believer, Christmas should be spiritually significant, but your emotions are crowded out by material excess and a to-do list a mile long.

So when Silent Night seems like a quaint, far-off dream… when Deck the Halls provides pressure to be Pinterest-perfect… when O Holy Night feels, instead, commercial and crazy… won’t you pray along with me?

Read the rest of the post here.

Prayer for the mom without a mom

Dear Lord, Mother’s Day is hard. It’s difficult to celebrate this role when the one who taught me the most, the one whose opinion mattered so much, isn’t here any longer. It’s hard to think about how to be what my children need when I face this gaping hole, an absence where it still feels ...

Read More

Dear Lord,

Mother’s Day is hard. It’s difficult to celebrate this role when the one who taught me the most, the one whose opinion mattered so much, isn’t here any longer.

It’s hard to think about how to be what my children need when I face this gaping hole, an absence where it still feels like my mom should be. When, even after several years, I feel lost… adrift… permanently damaged, even as I go about my days. I’m not depressed. But I miss her. I feel perpetually lonely without her.

On a day like today, all I can think about is what my mom did for me. How she—even through her criticisms—was my unconditional place. My biggest supporter and strongest cheerleader. How she saw what was bad, misguided, or just plain wrong in my actions—and didn’t hesitate to say so—because she believed I was capable of so much more. Because she thought I was so much better than that.

I wonder now—when I rebelled, did it hurt her the way my own kids hurt me?

Did she stand firm in her opinions anyway, simply because there was no other choice? Because she had to be the mom she knew I needed, rather than the one I thought I wanted?

Did she lie awake at night, wondering if she was doing right by her kids?

Did she fume all day when I yelled at her unjustly?

And even so, did she defend me, instinctively, against any and all criticisms?

Did she mourn over her inability to protect me from people who would hurt me, injure my opinion of myself, break my heart?

I’m certain she did. As a teen, I was oblivious to that. As a parent myself, I now understand her better. Lord, You gave me wonderful mom, and I’m so grateful. And You’ve blessed me with remarkable, amazing children. So why do I feel more like crying than rejoicing?

Because I fully recognize all that I lost. All that she was to me. All that a mom should be to her child. And I’m afraid I can’t live up. I’m afraid I’ve already failed irreparably. I’m afraid my kids will never understand the depths of my love for them. My desperation to shield them from all that could harm them. My unlimited hopes and aspirations for them. They may never understand how deeply I feel the things that hurt them. Or how much I believe in them.

Maybe they’ll get it when they have children of their own.

Maybe someday they’ll cling to You when they realize they don’t have control over their own kids’ lives. Maybe they’ll live in awe of a God who loves us with a Father’s love. Maybe they’ll understand that we are forever connected, whether we’re both on this earth or not. Maybe they’ll grasp the reality that parenting well involves huge risk. It involves making unpopular decisions and hard choices and knowing that we can’t fix everything. It requires being hands-off sometimes when our instincts tell us to cling tight. It consists of a love so great that it isn’t changed by circumstances, actions, achievements—or by disappointments or failures. Our hearts are forever tethered to each other.

Lord, as I write this, I feel my heart loosening. My gratitude welling up. My sadness is still there but not bringing me down… instead, it’s lifting up my head, directing my sight towards You. Because I do have reasons to celebrate. Reasons so much greater than flowers and gifts or the perfect card.

I have You. And I had her (and will always have her, even if she’s not here). And I have my kids.

And I do have joy… in spite of the sadness. But on this day, with Your help, I will let joy prevail. Thank You, Lord.

Amen.

A Grief Observed—review & reading challenge

For this month’s Branch Out Reading Challenge, the category was a classic Christian voice. I didn’t hesitate to pick C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed. It was already sitting on my shelf because a good friend bought it for me, but when I started it back then (a year or two ago), I only made it a couple ...

Read More

For this month’s Branch Out Reading Challenge, the category was a classic Christian voice. I didn’t hesitate to pick C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed. It was already sitting on my shelf because a good friend bought it for me, but when I started it back then (a year or two ago), I only made it a couple pages in. Too painful. And it’s been on my shelf ever since.

The power in this book is how raw and real it is. C.S. Lewis was in the middle of his grief over his wife, and he is hurting. The pain is palpable. But I’ll be honest—it was almost too much. Because the beautiful thing it showed me is that, at this moment in time, I’m not feeling that depth of pain. I miss my mom tremendously, and those feelings have been especially strong recently, but this July it will be five years since we lost her. No, time doesn’t erase the sadness. But it does temper it somewhat. I still have moments where it jumps up and overwhelms me. But I also have some where I can laugh about something annoying she did. And it doesn’t feel as though I’m dishonoring her.

There were lots of parts in the book that I marked, but one section in particular pretty much stopped me in my tracks. It was only four pages into the whole book (which, admittedly, is rather short.) Lewis put into words the ultimate fear I felt after Mom died.

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?…

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.’

And that truly encapsulates the thoughts I dared not voice. I always believed God was there, that God was God. I did not waver, even in my most alone time, even as I felt like I was drowning in my grief. But I was terrified that He was not who I wanted Him to be, not who I thought He should be. I was afraid that His idea of what was good and true and right was drastically different than mine. That I had put my trust in someone I didn’t like or couldn’t rely on. That He just wasn’t good.

That was the root of my devastation. Because I need God. I need Him to be my strength, my compass, my motivation and inspiration and truth.

Just as I’ve slowly made my way out of that quagmire, so does C.S. Lewis. He says, later in the book, “You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears.” And:

“I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own need that slammed it in my face? The tie when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”

He goes on to say a little later, “He can’t be used as a road. If you’re approaching Him not as the goal but as a road, not as the end but as a means, you’re not really approaching Him at all.” Also, “Can I meet H. [his wife] again only if I learn to love you so much that I don’t care whether I meet her or not? Which is another way of saying what I wrote in my book, when I finally went to God, not in anger, not begrudgingly, but honestly telling Him how much I missed my mom. I felt an immediate response: “She’s as close as I am.”

Like Lewis discovered, the only salve for this gaping wound of grief is God. But I had to be willing to seek God for who He is, not for what He might do for me. He had to be the end of what I sought, not the means of getting there.

What about you—in your life, have you seen or discovered something similar? Do you agree or disagree? (I welcome diverging viewpoints, you know, and I love to hear your stories.)


MARCH: A book written by someone of a different faith

Hmm. I may want to re-read Dani Shapiro’s memoir, Devotion. But I really don’t know. I know there are a lot of different beliefs, and I’d like to branch out to something new. I’ve enlisted Google to help me find some options. They don’t have to be memoirs, but I tend to love those, so I always lean a little bit in that direction.

Do you have any recommendations? Can you help me?

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi
The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd by Mary Rose O’Reilly
Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience by Sharon Salzberg
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman

Looking for gratitude

I drove down an Indiana highway recently, marveling at the crimsons and scarlets, the oranges and pinks and golds and yellows, the nearly-purple reds and the rich camel browns of the landscape. I almost couldn’t enjoy the magnificence because I knew it would end all too soon. With the ...

Read More

[As posted today on Internet Café.]

I drove down an Indiana highway recently, marveling at the crimsons and scarlets, the oranges and pinks and golds and yellows, the nearly-purple reds and the rich camel browns of the landscape. I almost couldn’t enjoy the magnificence because I knew it would end all too soon. With the next rain, the leaves would fall, withering and crumbling on the hard earth in preparation for winter.

As the colors awakened a joy inside me, they also stirred up something I couldn’t ignore.

Because the truth is I do not always feel grateful.

What do you want to show me, Lord?

Gratitude and beauty are tangled up together. As an artist, I am proud of my ability to observe my surroundings, to recognize God in the midst. I actively look for the Who behind the what, and because I see Him, my prayer life begins with gratitude. As I give thanks, I feel God lean nearer. I see Him more clearly.

But what about those moments when gratitude isn’t so simple? When we’re facing loss, bottling up anger, frantically performing for the world, knowing that underneath the façade we’re a mess? What do we do then? Show me, Lord.

I filled page after page of a gratitude journal with exquisite details the week I sat beside my mom’s deathbed. Desperate for the redeeming beauty. Desperate to find something to praise God for. But did I find it in the dust motes floating through the sunlight, the curves of shadows on a hardwood floor?

No. I couldn’t see it anywhere, in fact. Not for a long time afterwards.

Because gratitude isn’t shallow, and I was looking at the surface. All the while, the pain churned down deep, unable to be touched by fleeting moments of superficial beauty.

And as I prayed, “Where are you, Lord? Show me,” for a long time all I saw were the barren branches, devoid of color, clacking together in the wintry breeze.

Later, as I slowly processed those days, my eyes roaming the surface again and again, I began to see more deeply. I turned my feelings upside down, burrowing into the center of each kernel of memory—and witnessed God embedded in each moment, unable to be separated from suffering. Pain and joy are two sides of the same coin. I’m sad because of how much I loved her. I miss her because of the closeness of our relationship. I’m lost because she was such a strong force in my life.

Our God isn’t shallow; most often, we find Him in the depths. Reclaiming my gratitude was about inviting Him into that place I didn’t want to be—about Him entering into the pain with me. It was about recognizing the gifts of my mom’s life, the unconditional love of my family, and finally seeing that our prayers were answered in the years she lived after her cancer diagnosis and in the shortness of her final suffering.

In these glimpses, I saw something beautiful: God’s presence embodied in each detail. My gratitude bubbled to the surface—almost against my will. Oh, Lord, thank You for what You’re showing me.

It’s easy to give thanks when the kids are staying out of trouble, you’re feeling loving towards your spouse, finances are comfortable, temptation has stopped hounding you, your family and friends are healthy, and God feels near. But whatever you’re facing, it’s worth fighting to find Him in the middle of it—because gratitude is the key to entering God’s presence. And if we look long enough at the bare branches, the piles of dried up leaves billowing in the chilly breezes, we see that winter isn’t about death at all, but about rebirth. About turning within to become more fully rooted. About getting ready to grow, about preparing for a burst of phenomenal beauty. About overflowing with gratitude for what we don’t yet see.

He loves to show us. We just have to keep looking. Yes, Lord, I want to see.

A faith journey: the real beginning (guest post by Bekah Pogue)

Bekah Pogue got my attention when she wrote such a wonderful review of Praying Upside Down (always a good way to get me to notice you!). I started reading her blog Upcycled Jane: Embracing Beauty in the Everyday, and found this post. When I stopped crying, I asked for permission to share this one here. ...

Read More
IMG_6238-e1405574557462Bekah Pogue got my attention when she wrote such a wonderful review of Praying Upside Down (always a good way to get me to notice you!). I started reading her blog Upcycled Jane: Embracing Beauty in the Everyday, and found this post. When I stopped crying, I asked for permission to share this one here. It’s the sixth and final essay in a series about the final week of her dad’s life. She said, “Loss served as the the catalyst to my faith, and it is through this story, I see God’s invitation to experience Him as the greatest story.” Enjoy!

I’m finding grief to be not like the stereotypical dark, hovering cloud, but more like a portion of my heart has been removed, not to grow back or forget its original whole, forever changing my  journey with a new heartbeat, a changed rhythm.

My heart beats heavy as I write. Conjuring up dad’s last day on earth is an unexplainable tug of sorrow and peace. It’s one I have to share, can’t help but process; it’s the day that will impact today, tomorrow, and every day after.

The afternoon of April 2nd, behind-the-scene momentum built after receiving the doctor’s shocking words that Dad would have to be discharged from the hospital. A shared skilled nursing facility room, or going home on hospice were our options. We made calls. We checked facility availability. It’s not unlike calling for hotel reservations, but with the realization that once you check in, you don’t check out. My years as a hospice intake coordinator came flooding back; talking with grieving families, helping them understand end-of-life-care. And here I was, on the other side, shaking my head at the horrible irony. We didn’t want Dad sharing a room with two other people, left to die in a foreign place. But we couldn’t bear the thought of watching him take his final breaths, lying in a hospital bed in the living room, near the piano. It was a lose-lose situation, and in the end, hospice at home was decided for the next day.

Before leaving, I found dad’s ear: Dad, please, go be with Jesus tonight. I don’t want mom to have to remember you passing away at home. I don’t want her to walk down the stairs every morning and re-live finding you there. Please, go be with Jesus. As much as I want you here, God would you please call him home tonight?

Leaving room 575, my dad’s breathing was regular, his deep coma almost a joke, as if he’d been taking a 5-day nap. We exchanged hugs with Michele, a dear family friend and former ER nurse, as she was planning to sit with Dad for a bit.

Ten minutes after arriving back at mom’s we received the call. God had called Dad home. He’d heard our cry. Dad was in glory. God’s timing perfect.

There are moments I’ll always remember: looking at my husband when the pastor pronounced us “husband and wife,” the elation at seeing our first positive pregnancy test, the joy at seeing it again two years later. And now this news; the reality that my dad was gone. It was a thousand emotions in the same heartbeat: relief, sadness, confusion, numbness, but blanketing them all was peace. An uncanny, undeniable peace. It was finished. Dad was no longer trapped in a cancer-infested body. He was now in eternity.

During the next few hours, time sat still. Every action became deliberate, every sense heightened. We bathed the boys, the water feeling neither hot nor cold, but wet. Food tasted like sandpaper, and moving took every ounce of energy. To bed- first Ty, then Tanner. Snuggled under dinosaur sheets in the bed he slept in when staying at Mimi and Papa’s, I cupped his face. Papa went to be with Jesus tonight, T. He got a new body, and they are having a huge celebration for him in heaven right now. My words came but tears lacked. We laid there, Tanner holding his Mario stuffed animal, his body wrapped in my arms. He was quiet for some time, and then spoke.

What about his glasses? Does he need them in heaven?

I smiled, touched by his child-wonder, a concrete question.

No buddy, he doesn’t. In heaven, he can see without glasses. He gets a new body; one that’s healthy and free of sickness. Simple faith, pure questions, that may be my new prayer. God, help me have child-like faith.

We met back at the hospital, our final visit to room 575, a building that had become our temporary home for the past week. I shut the door behind and approached my father. How different he looked in the hours since he’d passed. I’d seen death before- when working for hospice, and with my grandpa the day before he died. I’ve heard people talk about this peace but somehow thought it was a played up, spiritual emotion to make people feel better. Bending near, holding his cold hand, I can attest to the peace. A peace that surpasses all understanding. Staring at dad’s face, I couldn’t help but smile in the pain, feel joy in my greatest sorrow. I was looking at someone who was standing in the presence of God. Such a surreal and shadowy experience- like peering from behind the stage at a soloist’s dress rehearsal, seeing the lights, but not feeling their warmth as they do on their face. That’s the image I had of dad in that moment: warm light on his face, seeing His Savior, experiencing complete healing, then looking behind his Heavenly Father and seeing a familiar figure- his earthly father! Oh the hugs, and pats on the backs, and cheeseburgers that were enjoyed in heaven that evening.

And herein lies the clencher: this is not the end. Oh no! This, my friends, is the real beginning. The beginning of dad’s journey in Eternity, his journey enjoying Forever with his Maker, and this marks the beginning for each of us affected- his family and friends.

GRAPHIC my story doesn't end hereAs his daughter, this is the beginning of the story God is writing in my life. My story does not end here. I refuse to say that at 64, my dad passed away, and my world fell apart. Sure, it will for a while, really forever. But I refuse to hang my hat on that date. I refuse to say my life ended the dad my dad died. I choose instead to let this experience, this horrible, grace-threaded, full-of-heart-ache journey change me forever. Like Donna said, I will never be the same, and chances are if you’ve walked this with me, or someone dear to your heart, you too will not be the same. Good. Let this crazy grief process begin. Let the sobs and anger and questions and quietness come. But let us not forget that God is doing something beautiful in His time. And His time is every.single.day.

As I reflect on that week in the hospital, in the music God brought to mind, the prayers, the texts, the visitors, the clinging of Dad’s arm and the clutching of one another, in the questions and in the answers, one thing stared me head-on. Not once in that week did I think about my schedule. Amazing how I worry about the calendar and to-do lists and the entertaining of dreams and concerns of what if or if only…How quickly in an emergency, do the extras dissipate and priorities come into focus. Friends have asked how losing a parent affects my day-to-day and I say this: the small stuff doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. We are given today, and that in itself is a gift.

Busyness or distraction is my tendency and I don’t want to miss a thing. I want to sit in every feeling, taste every tear, be present in every second of this process. God is calling me, as He has for some time now, He is drawing me to the edge and asking me to jump. He is asking if I trust Him to be my everything or if I simply sing about it. It’s the scariest act I’ll ever do. But this is where His peace is made perfect, and I jump into waiting arms- the same arms that hold my dad, that hold all who know Him and have passed from this life to Glory.

If I live to be 64 like my dad, that means I have the next half of my life to experience this peace, God’s perfect love, this freedom in letting Jesus reveal His story day-by-day. And each day I’ll whisper, God, don’t let me miss you. Give me ears and eyes, hands, and a heart to see you everywhere. I’m here.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

 

Do it scared (guest post by Laurie Coombs)

Laurie Coombs is another one of those lovely souls that I’ve had the honor of “meeting” through shared connections in this business. I am so excited about this book. I think God is in it, through it, around it, behind it, before it—just all over it. His forgiveness is amazing, but sometimes we forget just what ...

Read More

header_1Laurie Coombs is another one of those lovely souls that I’ve had the honor of “meeting” through shared connections in this business. I am so excited about this book. I think God is in it, through it, around it, behind it, before it—just all over it. His forgiveness is amazing, but sometimes we forget just what a divine gift it is. This story reminds us how profound and magnificent God’s forgiveness can be.

Let me set the stage a little with some info from her bio: In 2010, Laurie Coombs was called to love and forgive the man who murdered her father, which led to an exchange of letters between she and Anthony, her father’s murderer. During their correspondence, Laurie was healed from her past wounds, was given grace to forgive Anthony, and witnessed a powerful transformation in Anthony as Jesus brought him to repentance. And now, here’s an excerpt from her new book, Letters from My Father’s Murdered: A Journey of Forgiveness, published by Kregel Publications.

GRAPHIC Christian life passivity

One of my favorite phrases in the Bible is “but God.” I have it posted beside my bed, and every so often my girls ask me why I have those two little words there. I tell them, “All through the Bible bad things happen—people sin or something goes wrong—but over and over two words make it all okay: ‘but God.’”

You see, no matter what happens in life, no matter how bad things seem to be, God is still the constant. He is still working all things for good. The psalmist wrote, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26, emphasis mine). Joseph echoed this sentiment when he said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20, emphasis mine). Yet in my mind, the ultimate “but God” statement in the Bible is, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, emphasis mine).

Jesus truly is our Redeemer. Seeing Him as such allows us the freedom to trust and surrender ourselves to Him. We need to know our God. We need to know who He is and what He has done. It is only then that we are able to understand that He is for us, not against us, which frees us to obey, knowing He will work all things for our good and His glory.

Coming to understand God’s heart toward me—that He loves me, that He is for me, and that He is my comforter and my guide— suddenly empowered me to live life differently. Sure, I was a newbie at this whole Christian thing, but I knew I served a faithful, loving God.

81u-FkusLHLI knew I could trust Jesus, for He had proven Himself trustworthy. That didn’t mean God’s call to love and forgive Anthony was easy to embrace. I was scared. I didn’t know where this was going. And I certainly didn’t know how it would end. But I also knew I had allowed fear to motivate me far too long.

Fear is a God-given emotion. Its purpose is to protect us from harm. This kind of fear is good. But so much of the fear we experience is irrational fear—fear that holds us back from living the full life Jesus died for us to have, fear that holds us hostage, never allowing us to see true growth of character. This kind of fear never brings good. And if we choose to live in irrational fear, we will never see the promises of God fulfilled to the extent they’re given. We will never follow Christ into our hard places and come out greater on the other side.

Here’s the truth. Sometimes, we simply need to do it scared. Over and over at this time, well-meaning Christians told me to “follow peace.” I wasn’t to move forward if I didn’t feel peace about taking a step. But the whole “follow peace” thing can be a ploy—shrouded in holy words—used by Satan to bind us and keep us from following God. Jesus calls us out of our comfort zones into places of discomfort. And in these areas, we’re not going to feel peaceful all the time. Yes, there is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding and is available to believers at all times, but often our propensity to rely on ourselves and do things our own way hinders us from experiencing that peace, which means sometimes following Jesus feels a bit crazy. A bit unsettling. Oftentimes we will feel scared to do that which God calls us to do. But make no mistake—fear does not negate the call. Fear is simply a by-product of our desire to control. When following Jesus into our unknown, scary places, God doesn’t usually clue us in on the big plan. And this can feel anything but peaceful at times. But still, we must move.

Following-Jesus-Can-Feel-CrazyIn my prayer journal at the time, I wrote, “I am seeing more and more that the Christian life is not a life of passivity, but a life of choices empowered by the Holy Spirit. I pray, Lord God, for You to help me to walk in Your Spirit.”

I heard it once said we can choose to live each day motivated by fear or by faith. It’s a choice we must all make. Christian reformer Martin Luther wrote in the preface to his translation of the epistle to the Romans, “Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God’s grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it.”* I needed this kind of faith. I needed great faith to move beyond my fear and follow Jesus where He was leading. I needed the kind of faith that allows us to step out of the boat and walk on water toward Jesus when He beckons, knowing that we can do all things through Him. The kind of faith that confidently says to Jesus, “Only say a word, and I shall be healed,” knowing full well that all things are possible with God. The kind of faith to follow Jesus into the unknown—into my scary places— regardless of the cost, knowing He will work all things for good.

 

 

When prayer loses its meaning, what then?

Heather Caliri is another woman I’ve met through our shared writing but haven’t had the pleasure of sitting down with, face to face. There’s a vulnerability and a sense of acceptance to be found in her words. Her site is titled “Seeking the Easy Yoke,” and through reading her words I’ve learned that the burden ...

Read More

Bio-pic_ap-2015_300Heather Caliri is another woman I’ve met through our shared writing but haven’t had the pleasure of sitting down with, face to face. There’s a vulnerability and a sense of acceptance to be found in her words. Her site is titled “Seeking the Easy Yoke,” and through reading her words I’ve learned that the burden hasn’t always been light. But I love the creative ways she tries to reclaim the faith she wants. Head over to her site when you have time to stay and read for a while. It’s worth your time, I promise you. In the meantime, today she’s giving me the opportunity to post on her blog. Here’s a letter I wrote to the 12-year-old girl I once was…

KELLY imageBruno Flicker Creative commons

Dear, sweet girl. You lie there in the angle of light bent around the door, in that sheltered, private spot where the light illuminates your papers, but your parents, in the living room downstairs, can’t see you from where they are reclining. The white painted posts from the stairs in the hallway outside your door cast striped, curvy shadows across the carpet, and you hear the faint noise of a laugh track from the television below. You can’t see her, but you know your mom is wrapped in a soft blanket, quietly turning the pages of a book until she yields to her yawns and goes to bed.

In that sheltered place, you make charts, three-hole-punched sheets of graph paper, painstakingly transferring your prayer list to a new sheet when the check boxes are all filled. Maybe your prayers… << read more >>

Still missing

I had another one of those brief, flitting moments again… the thought, “I ought to call Mom” sparking in the synapses of my brain. And then, the heavy thunk of disappointment. Because I can’t. However quick that response comes, it’s never fast enough to keep me from thinking about her in the first place. Because ...

Read More

I had another one of those brief, flitting moments again… the thought, “I ought to call Mom” sparking in the synapses of my brain.

And then, the heavy thunk of disappointment. Because I can’t.

However quick that response comes, it’s never fast enough to keep me from thinking about her in the first place. Because every time I have a moment of longing, I then have to feel that same burst of sadness.

Yes, I’m sad. Still, over three years later. But today I realized it’s not just sadness—I think it’s actually loneliness.

Every relationship is a carefully orchestrated dynamic, a balance or blend of two different personalities. I like to think I’m the same person all the time, and I try—but the me I am with my husband, Tim, is a different person than the me I am with my book club or my friend Lisa or my group of writer friends. I’m a mom to three kids, but in each relationship, the dynamic is a little different—because I’m influenced by each of my children, who in turn are all different from each other.

I will only ever be the person I was with Mom—when I’m with Mom. Only she could satisfy that particular loneliness. I can come close when I talk to my sister or my dad, but it’s not the same. I will never have that particular relationship—its good aspects and its negative ones—again.

As she grappled with the fact that her time was growing short, Mom worried she would be forgotten. Even then, I knew the answer.

But now I’m looking at it from farther down that road. And I can tell you this. I don’t cry every day anymore. Once in a while I can talk about her without tears. But not always. And I can now recall again the ways in which she drove me crazy (as any good mother will do). She wasn’t perfect.

But those moments of disappointment keep coming, when I have to remember, again and again and again and again and again, that she isn’t here. That I can’t call her. That I can’t ask her questions or talk to her, and that she’s not waiting somewhere to hear from me.

But is she forgotten? Will she ever be? Emotions change. Grief lifts, ever so slightly, and changes over time. But the answer to that question? It’s simple—and yet profoundly, abundantly true.

No, Mom. You will not ever be forgotten. I will not stop missing you. I didn’t always love the person I was with/for you. I was moody and temperamental. I had a short fuse and thought you were too nosy, too bossy. But I also know you brought out things in me no one else does. That you appreciated parts of me some other people don’t even know exist.

So of course I miss you, Mom. But you know what else? I realized something new today: That I miss me—the me I was with you—too.

This website and its content are copyright of Kelly O'Dell Stanley  | © Kelly O'Dell Stanley 2017. All rights reserved.

Site design by 801red

Error: Please enter a valid email address

Error: Invalid email

Error: Please enter your first name

Error: Please enter your last name

Error: Please enter a username

Error: Please enter a password

Error: Please confirm your password

Error: Password and password confirmation do not match