I’m familiar with the saying “take it day by day.” A couple of weeks ago was one of those weeks where it was more like “take it moment by moment.” This week comes every year and doesn’t seem to get any easier. My family faces the anniversaries of loss of three family members. Sunday, January 10th my Aunt passed away 14 years ago; Friday, January 15th my dad passed away two years ago; Sunday, January 16th my brother passed away six years ago. Also that week is filled with one of the best days for our family; January 11th 3 years ago I picked up my sweet daughter and became her foster mom. The emotions that this week brings definitely resemble a roller coaster ride, and not one with a big incline then a massive drop and you coast through the rest of the ride. It’s more like one that starts off fast, whips you around, spins you upside down and you finally come to a screeching halt back at the station.
I’m filled with comfort knowing my family members are saved and together in heaven. One day we will all be together. “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” Philippians 3:20. I’m filled with peace and excitement that this year is the first year our daughter is legally ours! I’m filled with sadness because these days remind me of where I was each of the moments when I lost such important people in my life.
I’m filled with an urgency to pray! To pray for my grandma who has to face this month remembering the loss of two of her children and her grandson. To pray for my cousins who have had to endure 14 years without their mama. To pray for my mom who has to face the sad anniversary of the loss of her sister-in-law, her husband, and her son in one week. To pray for all the foster children coming into the foster care system and being removed from the family they know. I pray for foster parents, whose story didn’t end like ours, and they have to say goodbye to babies and kids they loved like their own, and trust God will protect them when the situation they’re going to may look uncertain.
I’m also filled with tears that well up in my eyes and I often hold back until I find those few quiet moments that I can unleash the flood gates. I’m filled with hope because I don’t have to carry this sadness alone, and because this fallen world filled with loss, sadness, hurt, and pain is not the end. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4.
So what do you do with one of the saddest months, weeks, days or moments of your year? I find things to be thankful for. I try to enjoy the normal of our family’s daily life. I cherish the sweet memories and special moments of my lost loved ones. I create special new memories with my loved ones who are still with me. A couple Saturdays ago my mom, mom-in-love, and I took my three kids and two of their cousins to the circus. As I sat with my daughter who was completely amazed and curious, I remembered three years ago bringing her to the circus. The day after my oldest son and I picked her up and brought her home we had tickets to the circus. My husband was coming home from a mission trip in the Bahamas, and he wasn’t able to keep her.
One of the things about being a foster parent is it’s a beautiful interruption. You don’t know when you will get a call, how long the child will stay, or how hard it will be to say goodbye. My daughter is the fifth foster child we have cared for. Each situation is unique and beautifully complex. Another thing a foster parent faces, especially with other children, is life goes on. Sometimes you get a few days to adjust and other times its full speed ahead with a new little member of your family. Off we went to the circus – my mom, my mom-in-love, my cousin, my two boys, this sweet 5 month old foster baby girl, and four of their cousins. The day was more hectic then planned, but all the kids had fun and we made it through!
Here I sat three years later with this same beautiful little girl who has grown up so much. She now not only gives hugs, she squeezes and won’t let go. She not only speaks she looks you in the face and talks a lot! She isn’t afraid to grab your hand or sit on your lap when she gets a little nervous or anxious. We made it through the whole arena with her holding mommy’s hand and not making a run for it. You see our sweet girl has come so far, but has some more obstacles to overcome. She has challenges that we are still learning to help her through. We are truly grateful to be chosen to be her mommy and daddy and have the privilege to learn to be the parents she needs us to be. That night I was humbled, over-joyed, and thankful remembering the journey from foster mom to forever mommy!
Another sweet memory I have from 2014 is sitting in a court room in October 2014 at another court date for our foster baby girl. The judge was setting the date for the next hearing. A hearing we wouldn’t be allowed to attend. This hearing would decide if our case would move toward adoption. The judge announced the date and the tears started flowing. My husband took my hand and knew why I was crying. The date was set for January 15, 2015. That was the one year anniversary of my dad passing away. How fitting it was that especially with us not being able to attend the court date, it was set for that date. My dad and our sweet girl had such a special bond. She is one of the few people who could make him smile as he neared the end of his battle with cancer. My dad is the one who assured me from his hospital bed that this sweet girl wasn’t going anywhere and he knew she was staying in our family. God could’ve chosen any day in 2015 to set that hearing. But He chose January 15th to remind me that He’s involved in all the details of my life. And He’s involved in every detail of your life too. “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23. As you may have guessed, on January 15, 2015 her case moved to an adoption status. This meant we were ready to begin the adoption process. Her case that had been going slowly, with numerous set-backs, was now full steam ahead. Her adoption was finalized on March 30, 2015. The day before my husband’s birthday; another sweet reminder that God’s into special dates and memories just like me.
What else do you do during one of the most difficult months, weeks, days, or moments that youl’l face throughout the year? You face the difficulties that come with daily life and give yourself grace because little things bother you and may seem harder to complete then normal. You say “I’m Sorry!” when you miss your son’s chapel and he tells you he was sad when you didn’t make it. I thought he understood when daddy took him to school instead of mommy that day that I wouldn’t be there. But my sweet six year old just remembered me saying I’d be there. But I wasn’t. I was at my dad and brother’s grave sites having a good cry in the rain that morning before I went to work. I do know where I will be this week with my sweet 6 year old on chapel day. You celebrate life events, even when you don’t feel like celebrating. We went to my husband’s aunt’s birthday dinner. You make waffles! My aunt didn’t want a cake but waffle sundaes. I made waffles, but not just any waffles, the Amazon Pioneer Woman waffles. She happens to be one of my aunt’s favorite people! Once we made it to dinner we had fun and really enjoyed our night. However there have been a few years it was just too hard to go. It’s important to give yourself time to grieve. But please don’t allow yourself to stay there and miss out on life events God has planned for you to enjoy. Also when the rain clears and the kids are blessed with a day off from school you go to the park and ride a bike!
Also I take a lot of pictures! (In case you hadn’t noticed.) I have always taken a lot of pictures, and it doesn’t matter the event. My daughter now also loves taking pictures and I’ll find many on my phone that she took. There are random photos of her toys, our dog, her brothers, and random household objects. Sadly, my mom has to endure that fact that as the years go on there aren’t any new or more pictures of my brother. This is a hard thing for her to deal with – especially on this tragic anniversary. It has been six years since his passing and although every year we are closer to reaching eternity and being together, the reality here on earth is there are less and less moments that include him. I also didn’t realize how difficult that would be to accept this year. These are the moments when trusting God’s timing is much bigger than our reality. Mom and I know one day this will make sense, but it doesn’t right now. “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.” Psalm 126:5. We cried and looked at the old pictures we do have and allowed ourselves to be sad for a moment.
I learned a lot during the past few days and weeks. Whether it is in a painful trial, a loving discipline moment from my Heavenly Father, or through His grace that I don’t deserve! God is always teaching me something.
I learned even more that grief is a lonely road and it is unique to each person. My mom’s deep, deep grief isn’t my grief and I can’t carry it for her. Just like my mom can’t take away mine.
I learned how thankful I am for the encouragement, kindness, and prayers of those around me. I am blessed with compassionate women in my life who took the time to reach out to me on this sad anniversary.
I learned there are also people I didn’t hear from who I thought would have reached out during this difficult time. I am growing in this area and trying not to take it personally.
I learned more so that Jesus has to be first! No matter how lonely I feel He is always there. “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b
I have been on both sides of this equation; times in my life that I was too busy, to nervous, or to worried about me to reach out to a friend during a difficult time. I was reminded I have to forgive myself and others. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23. We all blow it sometimes and are constantly in need of God’s grace.
On the weekend of these sad anniversaries, I prayed about the moments I missed being there for others. I realized and acknowledged that no matter who took the time to reach out to me the grief and hurt is still there. But I also realized that when someone does takes the time to reach out through a text, card, phone call, etc. It helps lift your burden, the burden doesn’t go away but it gets lighter! Maybe you aren’t in a trial right now but you know someone who is. Taking the time to reach out with a few simple words, “I am thinking of you.” I am praying for you.” “I am sorry you’re going through this.” They mean more then you can imagine. God created each of us differently and it might not come easy to reach out in a difficult moment. God is always with us and has given each of us what we need to put other’s first. We are created to love God first and love each other. “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew22:37-39.
My prayer for you –
“God I pray for those reading this who are hurting. They are carrying grief they didn’t know was so deep, Lord be their comfort, strength, and peace. Bless them with godly friends to walk them through their difficult time. I pray for those You are calling to walk someone through a difficult time. Lord give them Your wisdom and peace. Father, may we all go deeper in knowing You, putting ourselves aside and following You whole heartedly. Forgive us for the times we become too busy or distracted to spend time with You. Help us allow You to lead our lives, for Your way is perfect! In Jesus name, Amen!”