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Pain

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Pain

I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for about 2 years now. It started as a gathering of girlfriends in the back row of a yoga studio, grunting and giggling with each other. Then it turned into my personal escape as I waited at the back door every day at 4:05, mat strung over my shoulder and car keys in hand. And then it eventually turned into a daily practice.

Even though I’ve taken breaks several times for different reasons, I always enjoy coming back to that space. I try to ease into it by taking the easy version of the poses and working up to the harder ones as I continue. But not this time. For some reason I decided to go all out and power my way through the tough poses. I planked like a pro. I mastered those leg extension in down dog. I even up dogged…something I thought I would never be able to do. It felt AWESOME!

And then the morning came. As the big kid climbed into my bed I immediately felt muscles in my back that I never knew existed. As I reached for the remote, it took one of those grunts that makes impossible things possible. So much pain. I was for a moment regretful that I pushed myself so hard the night before. But a cup of coffee and two Tylenol and I was back at my normal routine of a busy day. Even through the pain, I felt stronger. There was no longer regret and I was back at that yoga mat as soon as the kids went to sleep.

I’ve experienced a lot of pain in the past few years. The pain of losing possessions and jobs, pain of childbirth, the pain of child death. Sometimes I wonder how in this world I am even able to experience happiness. Is it artificial? Am I deceiving myself and not accepting these circumstances? Nope. That’s not it. I have fully immersed myself in the grief of each of these events and always come back to a place of contentment and that illusive little word…JOY.

Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those
who don’t numb themselves to really living.

Ann Voskamp

After all of life’s circumstances, I’ve come to understand that I am experiencing joy because I have experienced pain. Because of the pain in my life, I have appreciative joy for the things that I have been given. Even though I experienced joy before the pain, I now have a much fuller realization of that word and what it really means.

…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 

Philippians 4:11-13

Paul was on to something here when he was writing to the Philippians, and it wasn’t the thought that “If I pray hard enough and believe, God will deliver me from this pain” Nope. Rather it’s the thought that even if I can’t lift my head for the pain, it’s ok. That even when He says “No” He still says “I love you.” He is still God in our pain and in our joy. He still loves us and cares for us. He desires for us to keep fighting and we only find true joy in knowing Him.

Contentment is not the fulfillment of what we want, but the realization of how much we already have. 

So what are we to make of this kind of joy? This illusive thing that we think we grasp until we don’t? Let it be an encouragement to you when you are going through something painful. Know that there is a purpose in the pain. Some things need to be broken so they can be made into something more beautiful. Look forward to the other side…to the completeness we have in Christ. Lacking in nothing.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

Although I am missing several things that I once held in my hands, I still feel that I lack in nothing. I still feel perfect and complete in Christ. Because no man can take away what He has given me. If I am in Him, and if He has my world in His hands, then I still have everything. And that is where true joy is found.

So I will continue in this practice of life, walking the path to joy through pain. It may have started as something I just did, but it turned into something I had great expectations for and eventually into a regular practice. Daily I will come back to that place where His pain became my joy and my salvation, at the foot of His cross.

Joy

Fearless

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I grew up running around barefoot on my grandpa’s farm during the summer. The bedroom I slept in had a window that faced the cow pasture, which made it impossible to sleep past 6 am because that’s when the cows started bellowing for feed. I would help my grandpa feed them, but I always had to look both ways before crossing that dirt road right off the main highway. Next, we would ride down the hill to the catfish pond with a bucket full of feed for the catfish. My grandpa always reminded me to watch my leg when getting on and off the 4 wheeler so I wouldn’t burn it on the hot engine.

IMAG0549_1The chickens were next. I don’t ever remember feeding them, but I do remember cutting through the rooster’s yard to see them. My grandpa prepared me at a young age by telling me that if the rooster ever came after me that I was to duck on the ground and cover my eyes until he went away. Though I was scared of that crazy rooster, it never stopped me from crossing that yard to check and see if the chickens had laid any eggs for me to gather.

The one thing that I made sure to do every year was to walk through the bull’s pasture. That may seem crazy to someone to think that a child would look forward to wandering through a pasture. My grandpa told me to never make eye contact with the bull and to move slow and steady as to not disturb him. That bull was scary, but it never stopped me from wandering through that pasture year after year. Because what laid just beyond the tree line of that pasture, secluded by a large grove of trees and a steep slate hill was the most beautiful natural waterfall and clear water pond that was excellent for swimming. Though I haven’t been there in many years, I can still see it, hear it and smell the moss.

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I was reminded of all these memories this week as my dear son, the explorer, was wandering through my parent’s yard and heard the rooster crowing down the hill. He knows there are farm animals down there and visits them often with supervision. He has even named them. Well, last week he decided to visit them all on his own. My parents had warned him to not go past the log that separates their yard from the small grove of trees that stands between two neighborhoods. But, as explorers often do, he went anyway. As my parents recounted the story to me, I could only laugh out loud at the situation. I then got my son’s side of the story.

While checking on Hoppy the rabbit, who was happily playing in his cage, he accidentally “bumped into” Roosty the Rooster’s foot. Roosty was not too fond of my son’s absent-mindedness and started chasing him back up that hill to my parents. He ran as fast as he could, but his little legs were no match for Roosty’s who managed to peck him five times on the behind. As often happens when running up hill, my son tripped on something and landed face first in the mud of a three-day rainy spell. The whole situation was a mess. But, my son is perfectly fine. He only bears one small peck mark that he swears doesn’t hurt at all.

Later that day, he went back outside but he wouldn’t leave my parent’s deck because there were hens in the yard. But I guarantee he will go back down there again soon. I know. Because last year he was stung by wasps three times while playing in that same area and after a few days he was right back down there.

I can’t help but marvel in God’s gorgeous creation that is all around us. But I wonder if I would have that appreciation had I been too scared to experience all that I did when I was younger. What if I had been to scared of that bull to cross the pasture? Would I ever experience that awesome waterfall? What if I had never braved the rooster’s yard…would I have appreciated the beauty of a new egg awaiting? Would I ever be able to tell anyone about feeding the cows or catfish?

2 Timothy 1:7

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

There are so many things to be scared of in this world. Beyond wild animals, there is evil everywhere. People, places and things.
Death.
So many things to fear. But what are we missing by living a life of fear? When we hold back for fear, we may be missing out on so many wonders that the Father of Life has in store for us. We may even be missing out on LOVE!
Fear surrounded my life for so long. As a newlywed, I was afraid that my marriage might not survive another natural disaster. As a first time parent, I was scared that my baby was going to die. When he grew up, I was scared that my son was going to injure himself by being so reckless. Some were irrational, others not so much.
But what do they all have in common? They all happened. That natural disaster came. My second baby died. My son breaks bones, and breaks them good!
So what did all that worrying gain me or my family? Nothing.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?

So I challenge you with this thought today. What are you scared of? Why? is it something that you need to lay at the feet of Jesus? Instead of walking in fear, let’s prepare our selves for the world out there. My grandpa never just let me go out without his specific instruction. But once I confirmed that I understood, he let opened the door and let me go.

Luke 12:32-36

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.

As you head into this season of remembrance, let us not be afraid…whether it’s rational or not. Let us prepare ourselves for what’s out there. Let’s be watchful and waiting…ready at a moments notice to hear the call, answer the door and step outside fearlessly.

Design

One

One

Life after loss seems all about taking life “one day at a time.” Well, it really translates into one moment at a time, one minute at a time. Because sometimes a day is just too hard to swallow. But then before you know it you have that one moment, that one minute and that one day behind you. And the days roll up into weeks, months and into years.

As Christmas nears, gloom lays heavier and heavier on our hearts. We know that day is coming, the day we wish we could just wipe off the calendar. The few weeks leading up to and immediately after Christmas are a constant movie reel playing those last moments we would have with our baby Phillip. Little did we know those would be the last days. Those days are hard to swallow. They always will be.

But there is also a new little bright spot in our dark winter. We also get to celebrate the new life that was given to us. His name is Asa Luke and he is pure joy. Yes, even at 4am. I can’t help but wonder about God’s sovereignty in placing this little baby in our lives, our laps and our hearts at what is a difficult and dark time of year. I can’t help but think that he was meant to show us His goodness, faithfulness, and loving kindness. We had no idea how we were going to care for a baby having lived through what we experienced. We had no idea what emotions were in store for us, what challenges lay ahead.

We still live moment to moment, minute to minute. But God has not given us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and love. It is with that spirit that we enter this bittersweet season. A season of joy and sorrow, healing and pain, life and death.

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” 2 Timothy 1:8-10

Happy Birthday sweet Asa Luke. You are life, you are light.

You are loved.

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Aware

It comes around every year, and every year I am oblivious to it. At first I wasn’t sure why I didn’t tune into it like everyone else seems to.

National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Awareness Month comes in October every year. Yet it doesn’t seem to effect me much. What I soon realized is that for parents of child loss, awareness is an everyday thing.

When I hold my children on my lap, there is always room for one more. When I lay awake in bed at night, the flashbacks still come. When the PTSD takes hold, there is still a physical pain. The burning in my chest and forehead, the flu-like ache that lays me out even though I’m not “sick,” they remind me of what we lost. When I see or hear an ambulance and my heart races and the tunnel vision blocks out everything, I am more than aware. When my knees buckle, I am reminded of the time I nearly collapsed after seeing my baby on a stretcher. The looks on the faces of the doctors and nurses, the sounds of weeping coming from the area outside that room, I can hear them and see them like they happened yesterday. Unfortunately, these things don’t go away. I don’t think they ever will.

But what I do know is that I can live with these things. As every day brings a new awareness, every day also brings new hope. Much like Paul was given a thorn in his flesh, this is my thorn. Not that I was conceited or tormented, but God has used this to remind me over and over and over again “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

When I am sad, His grace is sufficient. When I am sick with grief, His grace is sufficient. When I am angry at my circumstances, His grace is sufficient. When I feel guilty for feeling ok, His grace is sufficient. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

While we were in that hospital room waiting for a miracle that never came, I vocalized to God and to my husband that I couldn’t be “that person.” I could not and did not want to be that “strong person” who endures great hardship to go on to be an inspiration. I would rather have my child still with me and live a content life out of the spotlight of grief. I would rather be the one who goes on to tell the story of a great miracle. However, that was not the plan.

I still don’t want to be that strong person, but what I’ve learned is that it’s not the strong person God is looking for. I just have to be weak. After everything we’ve been through…

I can do weak.

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

I am grateful for awareness during the month of October so that others can take some time to reflect and remember our children. During this time, please also remember to pray for the families that are still in the wake of grief. It will still be there on November 1st.

Mosaic

Mosaic

It seems as though I’ve taken a summer break from my blog. I didn’t intend to stop writing, but life was happening all around me and I wanted to be a part of it. If you are reading this, thanks for sticking around long enough to see what would come of this blog.

When I started this blog, it was intended as a way to deal with grief and share with others who are going through the same thing. But what happens when the grief subsides? When the sting becomes dull? As I’ve mentioned before, the death of a child is not something that you ever get over nor is it a feeling that will go away. But that doesn’t mean beauty cannot be found.

As we were walking along the beach early this summer, I was thinking about sea glass and how beautiful it is. Each piece is different, and they were once part of a larger thing that had a purpose. Bottles, glasses, and various items broken down into tiny fragments. Some would say its trash, useless. But if those larger useful items were never broken, we would never enjoy he beauty of a mosaic.

Mosaic has always been one of my favorite forms of art, simply because of it’s repurposing of old fragments into new life. The way an artist can taking tiny fragments of something once useful and visualize them as art…beauty.

At one time, my life was beautiful. Beautiful marriage, beautiful family, beautiful circumstance and beautiful children. Though we had seen “cracks” in this beautiful life, it was absolutely shattered on that day in January. What was once useful was now tiny fragments. At one point, I wondered how those fragment a would ever be a beautiful life again.

As time has passed, I am seeing that what was once a pile of brokenness is being put back together. It will never go back to the way it was. But it can still be something beautiful, something new. So as time marches on and we get further away from the memories of our son, the memories of that day, we continue to see the beauty in our lives as they are being put back together.

Our mosaic is not finished, there is still space to be filled. There is still a life to be lived after the death of a child and we intend to fill every minute of it with purpose.

Psalms 147:3
He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.

Bare

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When we first buried Phillip, his spot was hard to look at. It was bare. For the longest time, there was no stone. Just a simple nameplate. And then there was this mound of dirt. I remember seeing some pieces of sod there when the weather warmed up so I guess I just expected the grass to grow. But as seasons passed, there was and still is just dirt. I’m not really sure why I expected there to be more. It seems so long ago, but it feels like yesterday.

My heart seems the same sometimes. Bare. As another one of Phillip’s birthdays passes, I guess I expected more. Just like his spot in the cemetery, there are things that I’ve sought and things I’ve done to cover that bare spot. But like the sod, it just didn’t stick. So my heart is like that mound of dirt. Sitting. Waiting for something. Anything.

Time goes on and I wonder why my heart feels so bare. It can be discouraging because I feel like it is not “producing” anything. But instead of looking at Phillip’s spot or my heart as empty, I will choose to see the potential. My heart may be fallow right now. But the gardener does not till the ground with the intention of letting it die. He tills it to restore its life, so that one day…though not necessarily right now…it will produce a great harvest. One day, that simple mound of dirt that we visit will be covered in green grass.

Even better than the grass on Phillip’s spot, God’s  word that is seeded in my heart will never pass away. It is the root that remains when the pruning happens.Though the landscape of my heart may sometimes feel bare, I know it’s there, waiting to spring to life in me. One day, my heart will blossom again. Until then, I allow it to be tilled and watered. And I will wait.

Happy Birthday Phillip. We miss you.

Sift

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Now that the weather has warmed up, one of AJ’s favorite activities is to play in the sandbox. He can’t wait to get dressed after breakfast and rush outside and take the cover off. Even with the abundance of sand toys he has, he still insist that I crawl down under his tree house and get in the sand with him, and I usually oblige. From there, we jump into a variety of games we have created, including building castles, playing dump truck, and my favorite – treasure hunt.

Who doesn’t like hunting for treasure? It’s the thrill of the unknown that lies beneath the few feet of sand, intentionally burying a handful of Hot Wheel cars waiting for him to discover one, and the excitement on my son’s face when we actually find something. Mostly we end up digging up some leaves, pine needles and the occasional beetle…that’s when my cleaning streak comes out and I toss those “finds” out in the yard so the sand will stay clean. But when we do find that hidden car, that little 4 year old heart is HAPPY which make this not-so-4-year-old heart HAPPY!

The thing about hunting for treasure is that it is actually more work than play. We have a couple of sifters that we use. You have to get a big scoop of sand in the sifter then start shaking. And keep shaking, shaking, and shaking until all the sand is gone and your find is revealed. And then repeat…

It seems that lots of people are searching these days. It may be that they are seeking prosperity or it may be something more worthwhile like wisdom and knowledge. No matter what treasure you are seeking, you can’t find it by sitting outside the sandbox. You have to get in and get dirty! As we sift through the thing of this world looking for anything of worth, I can guarantee you’re going to find a lot of trash. Take heed to not mistake these things for treasures. Paul warns us of this in 1 Timothy 6. After warning Timothy about false doctrine, those who crave dissension and constant friction, and godliness as a means for gain, he tells us this:

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

1 Timothy 6:11 

When I do find trash in the sandbox, I treat it like trash and throw it out. If I were to simply drop those pine needles back in the sandbox, guess what’s going to happen. I’m eventually going to dig them up again. There is a reason I throw them out. In the same way, if there is something in my life that is causing me to sin, I want it gone. Far away. I do not want it to keep popping up in my life.

Every now and then, AJ strikes out when searching for the good stuff that I’ve hidden. However, he’s a smart kid. You see, he knows that I am the one that buried those cars and he knows that if he asks me, I will point him in the general direction. And before you know it, success. Jesus reminds us of this in Matthew:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:7-11   

Just like I love my son and want him to be happy, our Father loves us even more. He has called each of us to sift through the sands of this life. There are plenty of things to be found. Let’s make sure we make it worthwhile, seeking the treasures and throwing out the trash.

Let me hear from you! What are some things you are treasuring right now? And what about some things you are trashing?