Two Year Reflections: Dancing In the Rain

My husband has only been dead for two years. He died August 13, 2014. But really I have been living under emotional stress for about three years. He was diagnosed in late July of 2013. I have had a lot to sort and work through emotionally, spiritually, and mentally with the Lord. Cancer and death has pushed and challenged my faith and confidence in a God who could still be loving and comforting in such traumatic circumstances.

I wanted to share and record my second year of reflections. I hope this helps and encourages other people who are faced with grief or hitting a rough spot in life:

One: Do what works for you! A lot of people suggested I join a grief support group or widows group. To me, the introvert me felt it would have been too much. After his death I only had the energy to process my grief not everyone else’s. I chose to continue counseling, to only meet with safe people who got grieving, and to give myself lots of grace when I needed to take things slower or do things at my pace.

Two years later, I just joined a Young Widows group (widows under 50) on FB and I felt because I have grieved well I can handle reading and processing others grief now. I’m glad I waited because now I feel I can really objectively and wisely contribute and come alongside people who have gone through losing a spouse much better.

Two: The reason why grief, especially when you were married, is hard is because your lives were so entwined and every single aspect of your life and routine revolved around that person.When someone dies it is like this awkward and uncomfortable dance of the mind  being constantly reminded of the past and how things use to be and is now faced with the cold wake up call of the present and having to compare the two all the time.

I have been reading a book called The Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson, (highly recommend it) and it talks about how we respond to present circumstances usually goes back to our past. It also talks about how ultimately the past and the future technically don’t exist. Not to say the past didn’t exist or there is no future, but the only thing we can control is the present. I have been taking this in and connecting that to what happens when a person of grief must  re-learn how to deal with life without a loved one in the present.  For example, when my son got sick my husband and I would work out a game plan and a way to care for him together.  Since most children medicines ware off after 4 hours we would come up with a game plan where my husband would get up during the first 4 hours when the medicine was due so I could sleep. And the next 4 hours after that I would wake up and my husband would sleep. So, when my son got sick for the first time since Ben died I realized that I was the only one getting up every 4 hours to give my son medicine. That is a lot to take in. In those kind of moments I had to realize and acknowledge Ben was really gone and it made me miss sharing the getting well game plan with him. So, when you are faced with current circumstances your loved ones absence is being beat over your head and flooding your emotions because you have to re-learn how to live and a way to solve your problems without them there.

Three: As I look at how other widows are handling grieving I have begun to realize how important it is to grieve and connect to Jesus as we grieve the death of our loved ones. When people think of grieving in a healthy way they talk about feeling all you need to feel and that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Which I totally agree with. However, I still find and read about how widows who have followed this advice to the letter and still feel as if it their husband died yesterday 9 years later. There is something missing. I don’t know how to quite put connecting to Jesus into words because there is nothing more healing then experiencing it for yourself. I will try explain it the best I can.

When I get hit with grief I start to pray to the Lord to connect and have a conversation with me in that moment. Each situation is different but this is the basics of what I do:

1. I ask where He is. He speaks to everyone differently (words, images, verses, actual feeling God’s presence or comfort, ect) but he speaks to me in images for the most part. I usually see him holding my hand or hugging me or stroking my hair or rocking me like a parent would a little child.

2. I then ask, “God what is that I need to get from this moment? Is this a moment to be embraced by You? Is this a moment where I need to hear His truth about my self worth or what he thinks of me? If it’s a moment where someone says something that is not helpful or tearing me down I ask for protection from the Lord and ask what my heart needs instead. If I am with someone when I’m hit with grief, especially if they say something that is not helpful to me in my  grieving journey, I go  through the above process and then go onto these things

3. Where are you with the person I am interacting with. Is this person hurting? Is this person telling me something that is aligned with Your Heart?

4. Is there something the other person needs? To be listened to? To hear Your truth? To feel your comfort?

I have found the more that I invite God into my grieving process and daily life it is so healing because he is the one who knows what my heart and other people’s hearts need.

Four: God made all of us to live in community. A huge part of my healing this second year has been within community. Community is not perfect but we all need it. We need people around us who can call us out when we are  believing lies about ourselves, to keep us staying close to the Lord and seeking Him, to be physically there. There are times when I wish I could be held in the arms of the Lord physically. And I find it so healing and so comforting to be hugged by a friend or family member when I am hurting or having a bad day. I do think that is why the church is suppose to be the body of Christ. The disciples had Jesus in the flesh but today we have one another (like Jesus) in the flesh to minister and to hopefully love like he did. When in a healthy community seeking the Lord and His heart together it can be a beautiful thing. Being in a good community helps remind you that all we go through, good and bad, is experienced together. We are not alone. Knowing we are not alone doesn’t take away the pain or the grief but it does encourage and uplift our hearts and gives us hope that we don’t have to take on the world or experience life by ourselves.

In summary, I cannot change my husband dying (past) so young or the traumatic things we had to go through, but I can decide to walk the present with the Lord.

A quote that is in my living room and my kitchen says, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” When I read that I get this image of dancing with the Lord and with  community around me hand in hand. Dance expresses: anger, sadness, grief, happiness, joy, frustration, and so on. To be totally honest and real before the Lord and community as we live life together is something so powerful and so liberating and so healing and so comforting.  Losing a loved one alters our lives forever but with the Lord and community it is not the ending of ours it is only the start of a new chapter to walk with the Lord and others.

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Dancing at Easter that helped me process and express grief of Ben’s death

 

 

 

Someday But Right Now

Sometimes I feel like when I share my story about Ben’s cancer and death it makes people feel that what they deal with in their own lives is nothing compared to what I went through or continue to live. And then people feel they can’t complain or can’t be sad about what they are going through.

However, the reality is, that whatever struggles you are  going through, big or small, doesn’t make it any less of value or importance to God compared to mine. How we feel and  what we go through ALL matters to God!

God gave us emotions NOT to ignore but to bring to him. When we ignore how we are really feeling we are really ignoring how God wants to help, heal, and come alongside of us. God wants us to overcome whatever we are facing but MOST IMPORTANTLY he wants to be in the midst of our mess with us because we are all so precious to Him. The safest place we can process our feelings is with God. He can handle our curse words, our depression, our anger, our frustrations, and so on. It doesn’t phase him. It doesn’t make him shake his head at us or say to us that we should know better or do better. When he looks at us, it is through a lens of grace and love NOT of disfavor and condemnation.

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Just as my son is hiding in his little hiding spot, God wants us to hide all parts of ourselves and feelings in Him because he longs to heal, mend, and replace our wounds and hurts with His truth and His love

I thought I would express some of these thoughts in a poem about not minimizing or ignoring my emotions as I continue to have ups and downs in my grieving. I have already seen inner healing in myself and received new dreams and new hopes but I wanted to express that it is a constant roller coaster of: grieving and receiving comfort then receiving new dreams, getting hit with new grief and receiving comfort then receiving new dreams, and so on:

There are nights and days when the tears don’t end.

There are and nights and days I miss my best friend.

Beneath the surface, my true emotions lie-

Beneath the skin and muscle

my fragile heart begins to cry:

Like a waterfall of tears

it recalls all the years

the joys and the fears

the happy and the sad

the things that made you mad

the things that made you you

the things you use to do

the things that made you mine

the things that made me yours

the things that were entwined.

Now forever-

torn apart.

And my heart?

Will it start?

To beat-

again?

Or will it forever hold its breath?

Crying and grieving your untimely death.

 

My heart longs for hope and my heart longs to see,

the silver lining that will one day be in front of me.

But in this moment?

It just needs

To be:

Sad.

And needs to be mad.

And needs to be broken.

And needs to feel everything unspoken.

Everything not expressed.

Everything not at its best.

Everything as it is.

Everything not addressed.

Everything that use to be-

his.

 

One day, I know deep down, good will come out of this.

But right now my heart is plunged into this deep dark abyss.

And there in the depths of my soul and the depths of my sorrow,

is the One embracing my heart AND my tomorrow.

He joins me as I re-live the past and present feelings,

until I’m ready for new hopes and future healings-

that will outlast

and surpass

all that I can grasp

in the years to come.

Someday.

But right now?

I am undone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Ok To Be Sad You Don’t Have A Dad

Why I Wrote This Post

I wrote this post because the more I talk with people the more I realize people losing their dads or not having dads present in their lives emotionally is more common than people think these days.

I plan to form this blog post into a children’s book one day. This is another rough draft idea of mine. Let me know what you think and what is helpful. If you haven’t read the other children’s book idea of mine I posted it May 15, 2015 entitled “Every Deserves A Pom Pom” if you want to read that one as well.

I wrote this as an exaggerated discussion with my almost 4-year-old son. We have had many conversations like this one but I combined many ideas into one. Hope you enjoy it:

“Mommy. It makes me sad I don’t have a dad”

“I know it does honey. I’m sad you don’t have a dad too. I miss your dad all the time.”

“Yeah, he was a good dad.”

“He was. And he loved you so much.”

“Yeah I know. ”

“I know none of your friends have lost their dads like you baby but Father’s Day is not easy for everyone.”

“What do you mean?”

“Some people have father’s who love them. Some have father’s who don’t. Some have father’s that look like great dads when they are around other people but when they are at home they are not nice to their families. Some have father’s who left their family to live somewhere else and didn’t tell anyone where they went. Some father’s got divorced and live in separate homes from their kids and only see them certain days. Some have never even got to meet their dad. And some die like yours. And I know nothing I say can bring him back or ever replace your dad but you did have a dad for two years of your life.

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Our first and only time we went to the beach just the three of us. Shortly after this our 14 month cancer journey started.

You had a dad who loved you. You had a dad who cared about your heart and your character. You had a dad who dreamed of playing baseball with you when you got older. You had a dad that even though he had cancer and was in so much pain he chose to love you and me until he died. He chose to hold you when you cried. He chose keep working so we could have food to eat everyday.”

“Yeah, I remember watching TV with him and the nurses in the hospital gave me juice and crackers when we visited daddy. I still feel sad though.”

“I know you do. I cannot take away the sadness that you feel. But I can join you in your sadness. I get sad a lot too about missing your dad. And I can join you when you angry, or feel lonely, or feel like you are the only one without a dad. Because I feel the same things sometimes and it makes me sad you have to feel these things. But do you know what I else I can do?”

“What?”

“I can pray for you. Prayer is not only for talking to God it is also a way to invite him to join you in how you are feeling.  I can pray that you would feel God’s comfort like a warm blanket around you. I can pray for your heart to have peace like a peaceful lake. I can pray that God would sing over your heart kinda like how when mommy sings you to sleep. Some times prayers are like hugs for our hearts. I guess you could call them prayer hugs. Some problems cannot be fixed but everyone deserves to be hugged and have their hearts hugged by God when they are hurting or having a bad day.”

“Yeah but I’m having a sad day.”

“Yeah, we all have sad days. But we have each other and we have God and so many friends and family to be with us when we are having sad days.”

Closing Remarks

I hope that however you are feeling this Father’s Day you would know that you are loved. I know there are some people who don’t have dads like my son or have dads that they have never felt loved them back. But you are loved by so many other people. And even though I cannot physically be with everyone who is hurting this Father’s Day know that I pray that God would hug all of your hearts today with however you are feeling today. He cares about our hearts and our hurts. I can never get enough of this verse of God being protective like a father but also gentle and loving like a mother:

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV) says:

“The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

 

The Need For Community: Don’t Hike Alone

I have always felt like  hiking is a lot like life. There are ups and downs, there are times when there seems to be nothing but an uphill climb, there are times when you need to rest, there are times when you feel you aren’t going to make it; but if it’s a long hike you should always walk it with other people.

Many churches talk about marriage, have marriage conferences, constantly talk about how to have a healthy marriage, and so on. Which is good, and we shouldn’t stop talking about it, but if that takes up most of the sermons and focus it leaves single people, single moms, and single mom widows like myself feeling very left out.

Ben was my “hiking” partner in life  and it was devastating  to grieve and to lose him when he died.

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Another dad carrying my son on a group hike

Hike Reflections That Transfer to Life:

  1. The actual hike I recently went on helped me feel less like a single mom but more like mom with a child and a great community of people who were there to lighten my load when I couldn’t hold my son any longer. Losing Ben made me feel overwhelmed and alone but “hiking” life with community helped me see that my family is more than just me and Zeke, it also includes the family of God. Being in community certainly doesn’t ever replace or feel equal to having a husband but it does lighten my load and it does give me encouragement when I am tired and feel like I can’t keep going.
  2. It helped me realize that raising my son will look different from the rest of my friends who have husbands. But my son is well cared for by other dads and other men who love him too. Maybe not the same as Ben, but these men still love him and that is something all kids need and deserve.
  3. We are all on this  life hike together. God did call us to be “fruitful and multiply” but the over arching thing I think God wants for all of us is to be in community with people of all relationship statuses. Being married isn’t the best relationship status we can strive for, it is just ONE relationship status that we can be in. Whatever relationship status we are in, God wants us to love everyone; to seek after His heart; to care for one another.
  4.  We should strive to not only strengthen our marriages but to be aware and be alert on  how to care and to include people of all walks of life and relationship statuses. I am going to keep this in mind if I ever do get married again. If I get married I want to intentional in how to include all kinds of single people: single moms, widows, divorced, people with no family, and so on.  Being intentional means that I will have to think of things and activities that anyone can enjoy no matter what relationship status or walk of life they are in.

A Few Activities Everyone Can Enjoy Together:

  1. Hiking of course!
  2. After church, or just because, pack a lunch and have picnics outside together
  3. Having game nights
  4. Playing sports after church or during the week together
  5. Craft or sewing sessions together
  6. Building projects for families in need
  7. Raise funds for people in the church or a cause and coordinate garage sales together where people can offer things to contribute to the garage sale and ways to help on the day of
  8. Cooking and/or having meals together

Note: Doing activities together must also take into consideration realistic times things  start and end. Single people without kids have the ability to have events that start at 10pm or go on spontaneous trips. Single moms, single widows, and married people can go to these events but most the time it takes planning ahead of time of  who can take care of the kids, if places are kid friendly, and nap/ feeding times.

And people with kids (myself included) when hanging out with people who don’t have kids make sure the majority of the conversations don’t revolve around just topics on kids. We need to make sure we talk about things everyone can contribute and add to.

Some Topics Everyone Can Talk About

  1. Good movies/TV shows and why we like them
  2. Hobbies
  3. Favorite travel places and stories
  4. How work is going
  5. Dream Job/worst job
  6. How to pray for one another
  7. Where do you feel stuck in life and walk with God?

All Relationship Statuses Matter

I felt very validated at my church when one of our pastors actually said that single people are just as complete as married couples and have a lot to offer the church community.

Ultimately we all need each other. We cannot “hike” life alone. For the all the different kinds of single people, may we be people who recognize that we have a lot to offer  our communities beyond babysitting. We have resources, talents, and gifts that bless married and unmarried people. And for people who are married, be people who not only focus on strengthening your marriages but being good friends to others and loving people who are married and unmarried and include them in activities and events.

May we strive to be people who appreciate and affirm people of all relationship statuses no matter what relationship status we are in. And may we all strive to be intentional in how to include one another in each others lives. We exist to carry one another’s loads, to encourage those in marriage and not in marriage, to care for our children, to care for the world around us, and to reflect Christ in how we love and live our everyday lives. When we are in the family of God  together  we all have a lot to offer one another and are ALL COMPLETE relationships in Christ.

 

Reflections On Being Single Again

Before I dated my husband I had never had a boyfriend all through high school or college. It was mostly not by choice. I had thoughts like maybe something was wrong with me, maybe I am not attractive since no one asks me out, maybe I am just a weird awkward girl that people just don’t want to date.

My late husband did not make the first move or admit he liked me. I had to be the one to admit I liked him first. Although we ended up getting together after I told him I liked him I don’t think I ever really dealt with ALL the feelings of being single and loneliness I felt first.

Fast forward to the present and the same feelings that I felt before Ben and I dated are hitting me as I deal with being single and feeling lonely again. Except new thoughts have emerged. Thoughts of thinking, “It took me so long to find someone when it was JUST me, now I have a son. Does that mean that it is going to take twice as long? ”

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My son and I on our first night back at home as a family of two after Ben died.

Because I am in the same place of being single again I feel it has given me a second opportunity to replace what I didn’t get and work out with God about myself way back then AND now. These are a few things I have begun to learn and process about being single again:

  1. All of these negative views and feelings about myself not being attractive or that something is wrong with me need to be addressed ONE by ONE  with God. And ONE by ONE they need to be replaced with what He THINKS of me and what is the ACTUAL truth. Because if I do not do that than I will never be able to understand the full extent about him and about myself. The feelings and wounds that I have not dealt with in the past or present will never be healed or mended by Him if I just ignore or suppress it. I will only carry it into the next relationship.
  2. One of the number one things I have been observing about the dating world in general is that people want to jump straight into the romance and the dates but rarely do they treasure and work on building a friendship with people FIRST. Yes, I would love to be asked out on a date but I think more than anything, I hope the next person I date would be someone I already have a great relationship with. I think sometimes dating puts this pressure on us to perform, to not really show the real us, to not be fully honest. A friend loves you for YOU with no strings attached. And a strong friendship and foundation with another person in a marriage is ultimately the lasting glue to a great marriage and is what sustained my late husband and I on our darkest and most difficult days.
  3. I do not need to prove or go out of my way to show anyone or any guy that I am a great catch. If they do not see that then that is their problem and not mine.
  4. No one can love me MORE than God loves me. And it is because of this that my identity and the first person I want to strive to turn to when my needs are not getting met is God. Feelings of loss always boils down to a need for God. Another person may seem like they can solve feelings of loss but really they will ALWAYS fall short compared to what God can give me and what He has to offer. The love of a boyfriend or husband should not be the ULTIMATE love that sustains me or gives me value but a love that is ONLY an addition and comes second to God’s love.
  5. I do not want to say I don’t “need a man” or that I do need one in order to feel fulfilled. It may be hard to explain but I think it’s both. I know that I can raise my son on my own and that I have to come to grips that I have to rely on community and my family more than I would want because I am a single mom and a widow. But at the same time I have realized that this NEED for a companion and to get married again is not necessarily a bad thing  either. There is a reason God put that longing in all of us because he knew “it was not good for man to be alone.” For me, it is a balance of abiding in God for my current needs but to also  not stop asking and talking to him about the need and desire to share my life with someone again.

I am sure there is more God wants to teach and show me as I process and deal with being single again but I hope this helps give you a sense of the importance of how it is never too late to go back and let God replace and redeem what has happened in the past. He longs for our  EVERY PART of our hearts and ALL of what we have experienced to be joined with Him and healed. My desires MATTER. And I ask not because I feel getting what I ask for will bring me lasting happiness but because my desires are part of letting God into how I am feeling and into the depths of what is going on in my heart. And the more my heart can be fully honest and fully engaged with God the more He can help me become more like Him. And the only way we can become more like Him is letting Him see ALL of us FIRST. For how can we grow if we don’t let the parts that we hide and the parts that are hurt be healed and joined with Him?

There Is Beauty In the Desert

The song “Smile” by John Turner and Jeffery Parsons is actually not to far, if not completely accurate, of how a lot of people approach grieving and loss:

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just
Smile

This mindset of smiling when “your heart is breaking” and hiding “every trace of sadness” is more damaging then actually going through the grieving process. When you actually grieve  something it may not seem like it, but you are getting through to the other side. If you just stuff your feelings it doesn’t fix anything. It just stuffs it away and that’s ALL it does. So, when you are faced with similar circumstances like a break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the same feelings will come up, the same hurt will fester and ooze, and the same wounds will leak and bleed.

I want to share with you these various images that God revealed to me of what it was like to grieve with Him ALL the way through:

There once was a desert place that my body, mind, and soul lived. The hot winds would tear and claw and push my tiny delicate frame down to its knees like a merciless pack of dogs. The ground that I stood upon was not sand but mountain upon mountains of black valleys of ashes. Those ashes were all dreams, plans, and life I had planned with my late husband. And all around me was complete and utter darkness. It was cold and lonely and dead. Sometimes it hurt to even breathe. Breathing felt like pins and needles were attached to my lungs. Holding my breath was more comfortable because then I wouldn’t have to feel the pain and the sadness and the grief.

 

My heart and my soul ached for my late husband. It cried; it screamed; it yelled; it lamented; it mourned; it threw fits of rage; it threw fits of sadness; it threw fits of  confusion and frustration; but most of all it JUST missed him.

It is in this desert place that I cried sometimes moaned for God to comfort and join me in this desert place. He did not rush me. He did not tell me to get over it. He did not tell me to be happy. He did not tell me to stop crying. He did not tell me that this happened for a reason.

Instead His heart and His soul also ached for my late husband too. When I cried, he cried. When I screamed, he screamed. When I lamented, he lamented. When I was angry, he was angry.

He was like the perfect mirror that mirrored my every emotion and feeling.

But the one difference was that when I looked into the mirror of my heart and His it yielded much different results. My heart was fractured like a mosaic painting and it looked as if all life had been choked and squeezed out of it like lemon. His heart was whole and glowing and radiant like the brightest sun and it wrapped around me like a cozy warm blanket.

Every time I hurt or would grieve something I would ask Him to hold my heart. Without me noticing He slowly began pouring healing oils on my hurts or rubbing and waking up places that were dead, and gluing back parts that had been fractured. The glue took on many forms: comfort, peace, love, understanding, listening, cradling, crying, hurting, singing, protecting, cradling, doting, holding, but most of all BEING and JOINING me in my pain. It was like he was the perfect mother, father, brother, sister, counselor, doctor, friend, husband all rolled into one and infinitely more.

Another thing I did not realize was that each time He comforted me in my hurt a part of the desert land changed. The ashes of lost dreams and dead hopes were slowly, one by one, exchanged with jewels and precious gold of found dreams and living hopes. The hot winds that use to knock me down and tear my skin began to lift my soul and body up off the ground and caress my skin with gentle kisses of life and warmth. The ground that was once barren and dead began to pulse and move and breath with fields of green and wildflowers that glistened like precious jewels in the sun. And there were beautiful waterfalls and rivers and creeks that swirled and spiraled like metal springs around the mountains and valleys and fields of green. And where complete and utter darkness loomed over me, now the glorious sunlight shone down on  the land like a colorful blanket of rainbow like jewels of every color.

All those tears I cried in the desert with my Father is what gave this world life. New life can never begin if we cannot grieve and let go of the things that have died FIRST.

There will always be a corner of my heart that has ashes of loss because there are so many things I will have to grieve about Ben or just about life in general. But I will know it is in those moments to run quickly to God  or when I cannot run for Him to join me. And for Him to hold my heart. I don’t want to hide or stuff my feelings because if I do I will miss out on the exchanges of my ashes for beauty. Instead of hiding what I feel to myself I long to hide how I feel WITH God because He knows how to mend or heal what is causing me so much pain and he is the safest place to hide. He longs to protect me like a father. He longs to comfort and stroke my hair like a mother. He longs to listen like a good friend. He longs to counsel me like a good counselor. He longs to love me like a good husband. And most of all He longs to be Emmanuel, God with me because how my heart and soul feels matters to Him.

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Switching the Why to What:The Battle of Logic and Heart

The reality is that we live in a broken world. Nothing is perfect. Life is this intermingling of pain and joy; disappointment and fulfillment; death and life. We may try our hardest to shield our children and loved ones away from as much grief and pain as we experienced growing up or have seen others experience but we cannot protect them from everything. And when something or someone hurts or shatters our reality of innocence or level of comfort we almost always ask, “Why God?” We might do this unconsciously but when we ask “why” we are actually coming to this conclusion of thinking that it is God himself who wounded us NOT the person or situation. That is one of the downfalls of free will.

People and situations hurt us but it is the person or situation hurting us NOT God. For example,when a parent is not emotionally invested in their child the child begins to think that God the Father is like that too. They believe things like God is busy and he and already knows what I’m thinking so why do I have to tell him what he already knows? So, without even realizing, coming to conclusions like this actually begins to shape our relationship and understanding of God that is actually NOT true at all.

The reality is that God IS emotionally invested in us and cares about how we feel. He is NOT too busy for us EVER. And yes he knows what we are thinking but that is not the point. The point of having a relationship with him and praying is all about CONNECTING. He longs to connect because he knows we need and crave it.

We are wired for connection: to be heard, to be seen, to be understood, to be loved, to be cared for.

And going back to the “Why God?” question. That question is actually an intellectual question and it is expecting and intellectual answer. I think because we live in such a broken world sometimes there are no reasons why things happen. And even if there is a logical reason why something happened what we really need in times of hurt or loss is not a logical answer. What we really need is a HEART answer. More than anything our heart needs: comfort, to be heard, to be valued, to be seen, and so on.

When there is a hurt or loss it will ALWAYS come down to what we need from God and are not getting.
Let me give an example of this. My husband dying of  stage 4 colon cancer at 29 years old is a time most people would ask, “Why God? Why would you take him when he was so young? Why do I have to raise my son without my best friend and love of my life? Why couldn’t you just heal him? I want him back.”

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Let us say God miraculously raised my husband from the dead and healed him of cancer and he was given life again.  In essence, I would be getting the answer I wanted and asked for. But is it what I REALLY need when I am hurting?

But I think what happens sometimes there has been so much hurt or loss in our lives that even if we wanted to we still can’t accept or receive what our hearts REALLY need.

That is where inner healing work and counseling can help unravel the inner struggle of what keeps us from being able to receive from God. In order to receive we need to clear away the walls or ways we try to guard or protect our heart. And there probably is a good reason why it’s protected but instead of hiding it away from others and ourselves it really needs to be hidden away  IN God. He is the safest person to guard our hearts because he not only wants to guard it but the one who knows how to tend, mend, and fix it.

A few months before Ben was diagnosed with cancer I was hitting a wall where I couldn’t receive from God so I began to see a inner healing counselor who began helping me unpack why I couldn’t receive from God and why he felt so far. As the walls or “debris” as she calls it began lifting I began to hear from God and was able to feel, see ,and hear where he was in my life more clearly.

She also taught me how to pour my heart out before the Lord when I began to feel angry or overwhelmed during intense times during Ben’s cancer.

Some of these periods had screaming and cussing and everything ugly you could think of before the Lord. Not at him but WITH him.

I beautiful image a friend got for this “pouring out” was breaking plates with God when she was angry. Not physically, although that would be cool to do one day in a safe place, but in her mind when she needed to work anger out with God. I never realized we have that much freedom with God to be able to do that.

But that is the beauty of a patient and loving God. He is not in a rush or afraid of what I needed to express first. He met me where I was at. And it was in those times  I eventually could begin to unravel what I REALLY needed.

I began  to learn how to switch my question of “why” to “what.” “What is God doing?” and “What kind of people are going to come alongside of me in my time of hurt and loss? “and “What do I need to receive from God in my time of loss or hurt?” and “What does my heart need?”

I think there are times that God does satisfy that intellectual question of “why” but I love how he cares about the “what” as well. As I have said before many times he cares about our WHOLE being.

Are there places that you need to go back to that you missed out on the “what” and having your heart tended or cared for? Are there conclusions you have made about God or yourself that you are beginning to realize are actually not true  but actually more about the person or situation? Are there places where you still need to struggle with the “why?” Let me know your thoughts or if I need to expand on something more.

 

How To Care For People Who are Grieving

This is my second attempt at this post. I didn’t realize there were a lot of gaps I left out until after I posted this the first time. So, thank you to people that have responded to the first post on here and on fb because it challenges me to be more clearer in my writing.

I think the most important place to start when caring for widows or people who are grieving is to pray as you access their particular situation. I am giving suggestions and what I have learned but each situation will be different and it is so important to let God lead in how to deal with caring for someone who is grieving. God knows what we need and what they need.

All of us who grieve, grieve differently and are in different stages of grieving. Grief hits and lights up past wounds, hurts, and insecurities in a myriad of ways. And keep in mind grieving is not linear. It is more like an ocean of waves. One minute you can feel fine the next minute you can feel horrible and as Anne Shirley would say, “in the depths of despair.” Different situations, people, songs can trigger and hit the grief when you least expect it. And even when you do expect it the grief is real and it hurts.

When Someone Feels Completely Overwhelmed and Isolated

There are times of feeling isolated and completely alone. Think of it like this image of complete darkness. This is the initial feeling I felt when Ben died and continue to feel and go back to at different times when different triggers or situations push me to face that Ben is dead. All this person sees is complete and utter darkness and when people say, “You need to get over it” that is probably the least helpful thing you can say. As painful as this stage is it is an actually a healthy thing. It is healthy to acknowledge what you are feeling and how things make you feel. Of course we don’t want to stay in this stage but being able to feel and embrace your current situation needs to happen.

Saying things like,”I’m sorry you feel this way” or ” I’ve been there” and “Thank you for telling me. I am here with you” are more helpful.  Joining them in their darkness is the first step because it is validating how they are and where they are at. And it is in those moments of joining that people begin to see they are not alone.

Look at how Jesus handled people who feel completely overwhelmed. In John 11 it talks about Lazarus dying, Mary and Martha grieving, and this community around them grieving with them. What did Jesus do? He ultimately did heal Lazarus physically and that is what people usually focus on. But if you look back on the text you see this beautiful juxtaposition of ultimate healing of the heart as well. He didn’t rush the grieving or say, “Stop crying I’m going to raise your brother from the dead right now.” Instead he is “deeply moved in his spirit and distressed” (NIV). The New Living translation says, “a deep anger welled up within him and he was greatly troubled.” I love how Jesus joins in their grief and meets people where they are at. He cares so deeply for our hearts and our inner healing and grief. He sits with them and he takes on what they are feeling. Jesus cares about the physical, emotionally, mental, spiritual parts of us and our hearts and is never in a rush.

Please keep in mind that in the overwhelmed state pushing people away or not being able to be around people at times doesn’t mean they don’t want you to be there.

For me, there were just times when I couldn’t be around certain people. Not because they were mean or didn’t get grieving it’s just that I could only handle a small amount of specific people at times. So, do not get your feelings hurt if grieving people seem to push you away it may be that they need space but that doesn’t mean they want you to stay away forever. Sometimes the best you can do is just say,”I understand  you need your space but know that I will be here if you ever need me.” That is helpful in two ways. It lets people know their grieving matters and let’s them know you want to help when they are ready.

A grieving person needs space AND help but on their terms and what they can handle each step of the way.

When Someone Wants To Know How To Face The World Again

There comes a point where a grieving person wants to start anew and is not feeling completely overwhelmed  and realizes that life can still go on. I think what I found most helpful in my situation was to do things that were life giving that I felt would bring joy and happiness and worked for me. I love the arts, being outdoors, and being with people. So, I found ways to do those things and be with people that I knew were not going to rush me to just “get over it.” Realize entering into the world again comes in stages. Picture a huge lake with trails, mountains to hike, birds to see, ect. A grieving person may only be able to handle just opening a door and smelling outside. Then the next stage might be stepping outside the door for 10 minutes. Then they are ready to walk down to the lake and so on. Grief cannot not be rushed but people can help  be guide and gently help the grieving person back to living life in stages. Letting God speak and give discernment in how to lead a grieving person in that process is so important as well.

The trick is this delicate balance of not rushing but also realize that facing life stage by stage is a good thing. The “FIRST” Christmas, birthday, Valentines, Father’s Day- the first EVERYTHING is so hard and so painful but the only way to heal and live life again is to eventually face it.

For example, Ben loved Disneyland. And we loved going there together and it was something we enjoyed together. I wasn’t sure if I could ever go to Disneyland again because there were so many memories we shared there together. The first time I went I was only able to handle just going on one thing. My family and I went on the Disneyland Railroad train. We got on in the front of the park, rode it all the way around, and then we all got off and left. I remember feeling so sad and I think I cried a little. But each time we went back it got easier and it was important to see that even though my husband is dead life could still be enjoyed. It certainly was a lot different but different is ok.

Day to Day Ways To Care For Widows and People Who are Grieving

thought I would break down things that I have found helpful in my day to day. Everyone is different and what is most meaningful to them will probably depend on their love language and particular needs. The FIRST thing you can do is to get to know THEIR love language and just ASK them. Here is my list of the most helpful things for me:

  1. CLEAN: It can be: dishes, vacuum the different rooms in the house, putting away dishes, laundry, help organizing the garage (I still need to finish), sweep the backyard, ect.  I realize I am the worst at saying no to these kinds of things but deep down I think and know this is probably one of the most helpful things. I think the reason I say no is because I like to be independent and I feel a little embarrassed when my house is a mess or dishes are piled up.  I need to take people up on this offer more and I think the more people ask the more likely I will eventually say yes. Having a clean house, car, kitchen helps me feel more relaxed and less stressed.
  2. COOK: Meals are always helpful! I love when the meals are already cooked or prepped to just heat up. There are times when families have invited me over to eat with them and I really enjoyed that.  I also love cooking with other people. Cooking with family has taken the burden off of feeling alone or isolated. One of the hardest things since Ben died is cooking. So many good and bad memories are tied to cooking. It reminds me of something he loved to do when he wasn’t sick and something we learned to enjoy together. It reminds me of how my family and I worked hard at trying to cook something healthy when he got sick. Sharing meals or sharing the burden of cooking is so helpful.
  3. GIFT CARDS TO MY FAVORITE PLACES: It can be restaurants, shopping places, movie tickets, massage places, and so on. I think just being a mom in general you forget to take care of yourself because you are so busy taking care of kids or others around you. But I love when people remember that I am important too! And being widow you have even less attention at times because there isn’t a husband to give you a break, or rub your feet, or give you a big hug at the end of the day. Gift cards are nice because it is one less decision I have to make in the myriad of decisions to be made for my son and I.
  4. HELP AT EVENTS: Going to school, church, or group events are hard with kids. So much planning and co-ordinating goes into being around people. And adding having to go to those events without a husband is even harder. Things that are helpful: offering to get food or drinks for me or my son, playing games at the table or nearby so the I can talk to friends, help with carrying bags or purse. I think I don’t even think I need help or think people want to help until they ask. I may not always say yes but just being asked means the world to me because it helps me realize that someone noticed and someone cared enough to ask me.
  5. INVITATIONS TO COFFEE OR DIFFERENT PLACES I am not much of a coffee person but I love to hangout with people and just talk. It makes me feel a little more normal and it just feels good to get out of the house and to be invited somewhere. I also love to go places and go to fun events (like karaoke) especially if it’s adventurous or something with the outdoors.
  6. OFFER WAYS YOU LIKE TO HELPThere are many times people ask me how they can help and I really can’t think of stuff on the top of my head. I find it helpful when people are specific with how they want to help. Some people have offered: that they would love to babysit Zeke and the general times they can do it, shopping for groceries or things I need, organizing rooms or different places in the house, available if I just need to vent on the phone or process stuff. I can’t tell you how many times just being able to cry or talk about things over the phone with a friend helps me feel so much better. I actually take to heart and remember what different people say and will actually take them up on their word if the situation calls for the help they offered.
  7. PRAYER OR WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT: I will never turn down prayer especially if it’s in person. Prayer when I’m having a good or bad day is always helpful. Also, when people are specific in something they appreciated about me as a mom or something they admired means a lot to me. And this one means the most to me because my number one love language is words of affirmation.
  8. CHECKING IN WITH ME: It means a lot when people just send quick Facebook messages, texts, snail mail. It doesn’t have to be long even notes. People just saying that they are praying for me, if I need help with anything, or asking how my week went means a lot to me.

I hope that is helpful! If you are a widow or single mom leave a comment of what is helpful or meaningful to you. Please keep giving me feedback if this helps or if you want me to elaborate or expand on different areas of grieving. I feel grieving and death is so complicated and so hard to tackle at times and hard to confine to a blog post. I hope that people who are grieving remember they are never alone and there are people like me who get it or who want to learn how to get it.

Below is a picture of my son’s room. There is something about how even having one clean room brightens my day. IMG_0952

Perfection Vs. Connection

I think one of the saddest and most common things I see among believers is that when they do not feel close to God or feel they just can’t hear him anymore there is this sense of, “I just need to motivate myself to read my Bible more,” or “I just need to do more outreach things for my church and community,” I just need to keep pressing on and eventually God will show up,” you fill in the blank. It is this drive to PERFECT something in their walks with God but NOT CONNECT.

That is where I was about a two and a half years ago. I was doing all the good Christian things you should be doing: I read my Bible, I tried to love and reach out to others, I made sure to have quiet times, yet there was still this emptiness I felt. I had a great marriage. I had a wonderful new baby son. But I didn’t hear God. I got overwhelmed by little things. And my heart longed for something more.

When I talk about connection I don’t just mean praying to him because so many times we can pray but we DO NOT FEEL connection or we don’t hear him. The reality is that God is always talking to us but our heart can be so muddled and so wounded it causes us to not be able to hear or connect with him.

Connecting with God is when painful things hit we invite God to join us our pain; when we are overwhelmed at work we invite God to join us in the feeling of being overwhelmed; when we feel betrayed we invite God into that feeling of being betrayed.

The thing that is needed FIRST in hard times is not taking away of the thing that causes us pain  but CONNECTION; being met, comforted, validated, and heard.

I will spare you the long journey of inner healing  (I might put that in my book one day) and cut right to the point. Connection, I feel is a lot like an ok  vs. great marriage. What makes an ok marriage? What makes a great marriage?

Ok marriage: Taking the kids to school, putting the toilet seat down, getting a gift every anniversary, massaging their wife’s feet, being at the kids games or dance recitals, providing for the family. A person can be “doing” all the right things but if they are NOT CONNECTING with their spouse on a daily basis it tends to feel a bit empty.

A great marriage: A couple is connecting AND doing things for and with each other. They are listening to understand and talk through conflict. When talking through conflicts they use statements like : “When you did this it made me feel (fill in the blank).” They fight and work hard to be intentional about making sure their spouse knows they are loved, heard, and understood.

Connection in a great marriage means: Asking how their spouse’s day is, having intentional conversations about how each other are feeling, talking about topics outside of the kids,planning date nights so they can enjoy and connect even more, asking how they can love their spouse better, asking how to improve their marriage, listening to understand not to reply,the list goes on.

Sadly, like I mentioned earlier, most believers treat their relationship with God like the “Ok Marriage.” They get so caught up in the perfection of “doing” all the correct spiritual disciplines but NOT CONNECTING with God on a daily basis. They read the Bible and study it and then make decisions how they think God would without involving him in their life or decision making. People ask God to bless a decision without even talking or praying with God first and including him in the decision making.

Two and half years ago I was in the “Ok Marriage” relationship with God. That is where inner healing came in. It helped me work through and identify what was keeping me from connecting with God. My counselor/ mentor calls it “debris.” Debris can be: listening and believing things like, “I am not lovable,” “I will never be smart,” “I must not be very pretty.” Debris can also be situations that have been hurtful and then we form our own conclusions about people or experiences.  One of the biggest debris things I see is this trend of listening and worrying so much about what others think rather than  what God thinks. Having debris is different for every person but is always something that keeps us from hearing and connecting with God.

When Jesus came to earth he proclaimed:

” The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners…”

Isaiah 61:1

Many people know Jesus died for their sins but he ALSO came to give us freedom. Freedom from any “debris” we have within ourselves and in our lives. We don’t have to keep pressing on and stuff the bad things or hurtful things. God came to bring healing to those places too. “Brokenhearted” doesn’t just mean healing from a break up or for someone who is sad.  Our heart is actually made up of: intellect (thoughts), emotions (hurt or wounds), and will (decision making). He wants to exchange the hurtful or negative things we have believed about ourselves or situations with His healing and His perspective.

So many times people KNOW God is good or know scripture inside and out but they do not FEEL or CONNECT with God. That is why inner healing is so important. The debris, if we even know it is there, must be cleared so we can fully hear God and experience him in our lives.

One more interesting thought I would like to leave you with is this picture and image of God being our bridegroom. Scripture talks about how he is like the BRIDEGROOM and we ARE his BRIDE.

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My late husband on our wedding day: May 13, 2011
God doesn’t want us to live our lives in a just  “Ok marriage” with him, he longs to have that “Great marriage” with us where we are connecting and doing things and making decisions  together. He wants to be included in our everyday lives. He wants us to know that he delights in us because we are unique and precious to Him. He wants to join us in how we are feeling, what our fears our, what makes us happy. Just like my late husband adored and loved me, God loves and adores ALL of us like that. We are ALL HIS FAVORITE and his CHERISHED bride. He is the ULTIMATE bridegroom and husband because where spouses fall short he is INFINITELY more.

Listening to God in The Midst of Grieving and Everyday Life

I feel this post is a little jumbled but try to bear with me as I attempt to process some things that God has been teaching me and putting on my heart lately.

I have heard people say countless times that since my son is so young he doesn’t understand death and won’t remember my husband when he grows up. A book called, “I Give You Authority” by Charles Kraft talks about how even babies in the womb are still shaped by either the love or hatred they felt while in the womb. I think something I have been learning these past few years of  inner healing and a closer connection with Jesus is to go straight to the source and ask the One who KNOWS and SEES all, rather than to listen to people and what they think. I asked Him, “God, does Zeke understand death and will he remember Ben when he is older?” God spoke to me and said:

“Zeke does not understand everything but his heart feels the loss and it feels the empty presence of his dad not being there. Just because he cannot name specific things or events does not mean he doesn’t remember him. Zeke’s heart will remember Ben and it will remember his love and joy he poured into him when he was alive.”

There have been many occasions where I have felt tongue tied when helping Zeke understand death and what it means to have a dad in heaven. He has said things like, “Daddy is in heaven. I want to go to heaven all day. Please!” or “I miss daddy. Can we take a plane to see him.”

A couple of years back I would have just crumbled at those words especially since one of the gifts I have is the gift of mercy (being able to ACTUALLY feel a person’s pain or what GOD IS feeling for a person). In the past, feeling someone else’s pain caused me to get overwhelmed and paralyzed in what to do, so I would usually end up doing nothing or try to stuff or ignore what I felt. However, inner healing counseling and now recent training of becoming a prayer counselor has taught me to begin to sort through difficult situations like this. I know I have so much more to learn but I would like to share the main things I have learned so far:

  1. The first thing I have learned to do when I get tongue tied or start feeling Zeke’s pain or some else’s pain is to take a deep breath and invite God into the situation and ask where He is with the person. God speaks to all of us differently (verses, words, pictures) and he almost always gives me pictures or images. I usually see him holding the person’s hand or Him hugging them or Him inviting them with his arms wide open.
  2. The next thing I ask is what the person needs. Sometimes I receive answers like: “Just hug them and let them cry.” or “Listen to My Voice and I will give you the words.” On one particular occasion Zeke kept crying and me hugging and giving words of comfort was not working. Instead, God guided me to an actual photograph of my husband and I before the cancer journey. When I showed it to my son he instantly stopped crying. I don’t know why that helped but for some reason that is what helped him.
  3. In general, it is important to remember that I cannot fix EVERY SINGLE THING people might be feeling.  But I think something God has been revealing to me is that every single person is HIS PRECIOUS CHILD that He loves and cares about.  My job is not fix people but to join God in helping them connect with Him and hear His voice. Many times people do not really need an answer they just need you to sit with them in their pain.
  4.  I have learned to keep listening to God’s voice as the main guide in my life. Many times people, even Christians, get so caught up in solving problems on their own without running it by God first. I have learned to say, “God this is what I’m thinking. What are you thinking and where are you in this problem? And how can we solve this together?” God is at work EVERYWHERE, our job is to simply ask where he is and how he wants us to join him.
  5. When I start getting down on myself and thinking things like, “No one is going to want to date me because they probably think I will never be ready to date or marry again,” or “People must think I am an emotional wreck because  little things remind me of my late husband and make me cry.” It is important to realize in those moments that I am listening  to the enemy or even my own thoughts and when that happens, I need to invite God into the picture and ask, “God is that what YOU THINK of me?” And I will never forget  one of the times I asked him that question when I was feeling down about myself. I was in Canada sitting on a rock overlooking this beautiful meadow of grass and trees. And you know what he responded with? It absolutely floored me and brought me to tears. He said:

“You worry so much about what OTHERS THINK about you and NOT what I THINK about you. I think you are a lily among thorns. You have sought me out in the midst of the most painful situations. Do not worry about your future. For now, focus on Me and being in My presence and what I want to tell you and your heart. The person I will bring to you, will see what I see and will love and cherish you and your beautiful heart. You are NOT undateable or unlovable. You are PRECIOUS to me and I LOVE YOU so much.”

The scene I experienced in Canada. I wish the colors of the trees could have been captured better in this pic.
The scene I experienced in Canada. I wish the vibrant colors of the trees could have been captured better in this picture.
Hearing those words from God in the midst of my sadness did not change my status of being single but it changed my view of myself and it gave me a more clearer picture of what TRULY IS and what REALLY matters. Getting so caught up in what people think about me to a point that I obsess over it and get down about myself, especially when it’s negative, is not how God called me to live. I think the passage that He constantly has been pointing me back to as a reference and reminder is the passage of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42).

Martha is so concerned about TASKS and DOING THINGS for Jesus but Mary is concerned about BEING WITH Jesus and LISTENING to what he is speaking to her. I long to be like Mary and just sit at Jesus’ feet and ask where he wants me to go and what he is saying to me.

I think that is why one of the names God chose for himself is Emmanuel, God WITH US, because he wants us to realize we are in this together and he wants to be with us EVERY step of the way.