Grief we meet again…

I mentioned in my previous post about the staged rooms set up for viewing different life events at the UNSHAKEN Conference. (For more on this conference, please see my previous post) The room pictured at the top of this page is the “room” labeled GRIEF. This is a “room” I know all too well, (I honestly wish I was more uncomfortable with grief). Yet in the bitter sweet moments of grief where you can see God bringing something good out of the pain, it’s a blessing you would not experience without the suffering. Being able to appreciate the blessing doesn’t make the grief any easier, but it shifts my focus heavenward.

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I often say grief ministry is one of those ministries you don’t ask to be a part of. However grief is a part of life; there is no getting around it. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT) tells us – To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. Whether you experience the loss of a loved one, a marriage ending, loss of a job, a season change or location change, grief will come. Sometimes it’s grief that smacks you in the face, takes your breath away, and stops you motionless in your tracks. Other times it’s a slow process you are walking in or waiting for, but can’t fully understand until you and grief meet head on. Why???- is one word with a great deal behind it….And although you might find some reasons this side of heaven,  what I’ve learned is that most of my questions won’t be answered until I get to heaven. This is when I fully understood “cry out to the Lord,” it’s coming from a place deep with-in that is filled with much more than words leaving my lips. Crying out to God in grief and painful moments are usually accompanied by tears, emptiness and even shaking. Have you experienced this? If so, then you have felt the type of comfort only Jesus can give when you truly reach for Him. Psalm 18:6 reminds us; But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry to Him reached his ears.

Recently the Lord placed on my heart to read Levi Lusko’s new book, Through the Eyes of a Lion, an amazing book! I saw someone post about it on social media and wanted to check it out. That night the Lord knocked on my heart and said, “read it now.”  I said “OK Lord. I will get it this week and begin.”  Again,” READ IT NOW!”; I thought wow I have to download this book. I began reading it on my iPad as soon as it downloaded. I heard Pastor Levi speak at a southeastern pastor’s conference over a year ago and was somewhat familiar with his story. As I read I recognized Levi’s transparency, honesty and most of all his desire for pointing people to Jesus. After the great loss his family suffered I could see this was their mission. It kept me reading, then fear set in, Lord “WHY, am I reading this?” Please don’t be preparing me for the unthinkable as a parent. I watch my mom walk through this life carrying this unimaginable grief and it is difficult to bear. I began praying for my kids, especially my 5 year old, the same age as their beautiful daughter who went to heaven. I could sense the fear rising and yet couldn’t stop reading. I realized this fear was not from the Lord and began praying against the attacks. Finally a few chapters in and after prayer time I finally fell asleep.

In the days following I continued devouring “Through the Eyes of a Lion.” I am a slow reader and must admit I do not finish all the books I start. I COULD NOT put this down! I prayed for this family, had lots of “WHY?” conversations with God, and prayed through my own fears while reading this book. I also began planning “my moment” to post my #EyesofaLion picture. Many who know me understand I LOVE pictures, hashtags, and anything creative. In this book the challenge came to post your picture reading this book and mark it #EyesofaLion. I began following this on Instagram and people are reading this book during chemo treatments, in hospitals, enjoying beautiful places, on mountains, and many, many more amazing places / moments.  I thought – OH when I get the book and the Lord reveals to me “my” spot I cannot wait to add my mark to this group of warriors who are posting their moments. Those who want to see this life more heavenly-minded then earthly-focused, while carrying the battle scars of life.

But that’s not where my moment came; it came in Starbucks, before work, and reading on my Ipad. In Chapter 9, Homesickness, An Ache You Can’t Shake, there it hit me. Grief came bubbling up like a volcano and my eyes began to fill with hot tears. This chapter began with a military man on his way home from a deployment. (I will not give away the story, because I do encourage you to read this book.) I will share that for me anything military is a trigger of the grief I carry deep with-in. My younger brother was in the Air Force and completed 3 tours in Afghanistan / Iraq. I remember praying him off and celebrating his homecomings. He was set to get out of the military and return to Florida and begin his civilian life. About a month before he was supposed to return home for good he was killed by a drunk driver in a hit-and-run accident. All those nights wondering if he was ok while overseas were supposed to be over, but God had different plans. David was called to his eternal home, at the age of 25, much sooner then I would’ve liked.

Sitting in Starbucks that morning unprepared for the emotion this chapter dug up, the words – “His sister looked so proud of her brother in uniform,” jumped off the page and punched me in the stomach! In that moment I knew God saw me and my pain. He was there for me to catch every tear that fell. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. “ Psalm 56:8  This pastor writing about his families deepest pain and he adds a couple of pages about a military man and his homecoming. “Lord, that was for me. But WHY? I have been carrying this grief for over 5 years.”

I finally composed myself as best I could, and finished the chapter. I prayed that I could function at work after after my stop-you-in-your-track grieving moment with God. You see this moment didn’t bring up fear or even anxiety, it brought up buried pain that I carry daily. As hard as it was, I knew it was a “good” cry and the Lord was reminding me for a reason. This was not how I planned or where I pictured my #throughtheeyesofalion moment occurring, but that’s just when God reminds us He is in control and has a plan. (Jeremiah 29:11) Yes I snapped my picture and it is at the bottom of the page.

This is not where the Lord left me either, sitting at Starbucks paralyzed by my grief, but He used it in the coming days and weeks. I will share more about this next time. God doesn’t want to leave you where you are either, with buried pain you didn’t realize was still there or maybe pain you’ve never dealt with. He wants to mend your broken places and use you to reach others for His glory. Will you allow Him in a little deeper?

“This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you,” 2 Kings 20:5

Sometimes your moment comes when you least expect it. #EyesofaLion
Sometimes your moment comes when you least expect it.
#EyesofaLion

 

Back Into the Swing of Things

The school year is in full swing at our house already. With our kids in pre-k 3, kindergarten, and 5th grade it’s a big year for each of them in different ways. Also in this season my husband has started a new role at church and I have begun this journey of blogging. On this adventure to write I have also been learning about blogging, widgets, and much more technological lingo that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I am not sure why I am surprised that my children have had trouble adjusting to change and the new school year, it took me months and a brief Jonah season before I basically threw my hands up and promised my Heavenly Father I will actually stop talking about blogging and just do it! We have all had our stretching moments in the first month of school. I have shed more tears than I would like to admit. Thankfully, that is ok! My creator loves me and knows every tear before it falls. Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest. Psalm 126:4-6 NLT

Our youngest child is our brave, beautiful, and strong willed princess. She is learning patience, listening skills and self-control. These are neither fun tasks, nor are they easy tasks, even for me as an adult. Thankfully, she is also learning to make friends, bible verses, imaginary play, and coloring; lots of coloring. She loves to help her teacher and help at home even if it is isn’t needed. The word “NO” is a difficult word for her to hear, it usually results in an immediate crying fit and pouting. She is usually pouting loudly and can’t even hear if that “NO,” means “not right now.” This can be challenging when you are in a classroom with other children and results in her having to visit the director more times then I’d like to admit. We have already been in for a conference this year; I believe it was the 2nd week of school. Lots of prayers for our sweet girl and what this year holds for her and us as her parents. The growth I have seen in her is amazing and fills me with hope, a hope that only my Heavenly Father can provide!

Our youngest son is smart, stubborn, sensitive, and a super-duper 5 year old who entered kindergarten this year. He embraces the term middle child like no one I have ever met. I did not even realize middle child syndrome existed until he was about 3 years old. I grew up with only one brother and I was eight years older so my poor brother grew up with 2 moms or at least more of a really cool aunt than just a big sister. Needless to say, middle child syndrome does exist and the struggle is real! My kindergartener is an over achiever. As a matter of fact, when someone in class learned the bible verse of the week before him, he refused to go to sleep that night until he could recite his verse without any mistakes. Like most kindergartners, he is learning to share and that can be difficult especially when he is constantly sharing his time with an older brother with lots of homework and a younger sister who only wants her way, (what girl doesn’t right)? In the midst of our crazy life, his sweetness is a blessing and he is such an excellent peace maker.

Our oldest son is our awesome 10 year old who can be shy and strong-willed. He always finds it necessary to add his 2 cents, whether good or bad. He is learning to manage his locker, organization, responsibility, and to be himself. He is trying desperately to figure out who he is while trying to fit in. His best friend from last year started at a new school and this has been tough on him. He has had a difficult time adjusting to studying and bringing papers home; then getting them turned in. He loves all sports and would rather be outside playing and/or competing in something, then doing homework. We are half way through the first quarter and he is really starting to grasp his independence and improve his study skills. I am delighted at the hard work he has been putting in to be diligent in school. I am not sure what grades he will have on his report card, but I already know this will be the one I am most proud of thus far.

This school year has started off more challenging then I would like. My amazing kiddos have had me on my knees and filling my prayer journal, nevertheless most importantly thanking God no matter how tough it is I get to be their mama. I would love to be able to say I haven’t lost my temper and that I’ve handled the many challenges with grace; but I haven’t. Thankfully my Heavenly Father has grace for me each day. Jesus tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9…“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” We will have our weak moments whether it’s this season dealing with a crazy school year, changes at work, finding a job,or family stresses, the list goes on and on; just fill in the blank __________. We must allow the grace that only comes from Jesus to fill our weak areas and bring peace.

I was blessed to recently attend the UNSHAKEN Women’s Conference at Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale. What an amazing day! I cannot wait to share more about the conference at another time. They had staged rooms set up for viewing different life events. I definitely connected with more than one, as I looked in the window of a room that mirrored different stages of my life. It made for a powerful emotional and spiritual connection. The one that came to mind while writing this, (love how God does that), was the room labeled “BROKEN.” When you peered in that room, everything looked perfect. The implication of the room is the dweller may seem to have the “perfect” life on the outside. However she is broken on the inside and “keeping it all together”. I can definitely relate to that. Although my house is far from perfect; because there’s always a cup in the sink, even if I just did the dishes, and laundry waiting to be folded. But, boy do I try to “keep it all together!” Don’t we as women tend to put ourselves together and plaster a smile on our faces, all the while feeling completely broken inside? I know I do this, even with God. I can “look” like I have it all figured out, but God sees everything! It’s not our job to “look” like we have it all figured out, and it’s also not healthy to throw a pity party and lay on the floor and cry like my 3 year old. Although at times we all probably feel like doing both. Thankfully we have a Savior who takes our brokenness and brings it to the surface so He can ever so lovingly repair us. The start of this school year has been tough, and at times I’ve felt like a failure as a mom, wife, friend and daughter. Each time I sat a little longer at my Savior’s feet, my load was a little lighter and the cracked pieces could be mended. Even if I had just had a tantrum, thank you Jesus for loving me anyway. He loves each of you too, and wants to meet you right where you are!

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” – Hebrews 12:2-3

Here is the picture of the BROKEN room from the UNSHAKEN Conference.

This quote was hanging on the wall above the bed in the room-

“EVERY BEAUTIFUL FAÇADE CONCEALS ROT AND RUIN THAT IS ALMOST SEEN.”

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BROKEN