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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

The Ins and Outs of Being A Young Widow

 

I thought I would be more specific in the things that I have experienced and learned in my life as a young widow. I tried to include  the main logistics of things that needed to be done after his death too. If you know of other young widows that this might help please share this blog because our experiences can be different from older widows. These are the main things I could think of. Please comment below if you can think of anything else! Here my list:

  1. Things that need to be changed after death: I had to notify different places of his death and take him off accounts like: our bank, internet, phone, electricity, his old credit cards, auto insurance, cable. Be prepared to send the death certificate off to MANY places. Getting at least 5 or 6 original copies of the death certificate is a MUST!  And always try to keep at least one or two copies with you at home at all times because some businesses are able to settle things on the phone if you have the death info ready. Each business has their own rules. Some don’t require a death certificate so you have to call each one and see what each one requires and what paperwork to fill out. Ben was cremated and I ordered the death certificates through the mortuary and it was sent to our house about a month later.
  2. Important places to contact: I needed to call, meet, and fill out paperwork from Ben’s work It is also important to find out if he had  life insurance through work . Ben had a small amount of life insurance. I also went to Social Security and since I am young and have a child I get some help from them each month. I never knew Social Security took care of young widows!
  3. I planned the memorial service. I got tons of help from so many people but I came up with the songs, who would share, what the program would look like, and the structure of the service. It is important to do what you are able to do and not to push yourself though. Once I had the structure of the service my parents helped me delegate jobs and tasks for different people.
  4. It disgusts me to even fathom that people will take advantage of widows in their grieving but sadly it exists and people have NO MERCY and they do not care if they lie to you. A few months after Ben died I got threatening letters from a  debt  collection agency, which I didn’t know to be fraudulent at the time, that said I had to pay off Ben’s school loans, which was a substantial amount. I met with a family friend earlier, who is a financial  planner, and he already confirmed that since Ben acquired the loans before we were married I was NOT responsible for paying his loans back. The debt collector lied and would state half truths and pressured me to pay off at least $8,000 within the next few days. I was so confused at why I owed money if I was told earlier from our family friend I didn’t owe anything. But the debt collector made it sound true and they are trained to sound convincing. I  ended up giving her my routing number and bank info. (NEVER DO THAT!) I called my dad right after and he said that I shouldn’t have done that. I had to close my bank account that same day and open a new one so they wouldn’t take the funds out. Lesson learned: Usually when people pressure you to pay something on the spot it is NOT to be trusted. I should not have given the debt collector any info and should have  said that I would like to talk to another person first. Always get a second opinion and meet with financial planners who know the rules and ins and outs of things concerning death and debts that are owed. I later called Ben’s loans and they also confirmed I didn’t owe anything.
  5. People project their own fears onto you when it comes to your financial stability. Many people came up to me, who weren’t widows, and said I needed to do X Y and Z when it comes to money. They do not know that being a widow is totally different than being a divorced or single mom. Lesson learned: Don’t believe the fears that people project onto you and just let all the negative comments just slide off of you like water off a ducks back. What is most important is to find out what is true about YOUR PARTICULAR situation and get help from experts who actually deal in the specific areas you that deal with death and widows.
  6. People project their own experiences as a widow onto you. Some widows were helpful and some not so much. People automatically assume that since they are widows they understand you and what you will feel. It is true that we (widows) grieve and feel the same things but how we deal with it and what we do with our grief can be totally different.   Lesson learned: I do think I will always be in love with Ben but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn to love another. I would like to quote what my counselor/mentor said again, “God can always redeem what was lost.” Yes, I lost Ben. Yes, it hurts and it is heart breaking. BUT as I mentioned in previous blogs, if we let God into our healing he can slowly comfort and give us new dreams (beauty for ashes).
  7. As a couple we had certain traditions or things we did together.  I learned that putting myself in situations that could make me cry or be emotional can be a good thing. For example, Disneyland was Ben’s favorite place but it was something we both enjoyed together. I think it was important to go to Disneyland to learn how to love it without him. The first time I  would go to a place or to something we use to do together was ALWAYS hard but it was needed to grieve the whole person I lost. Each situation is different so it’s important to wade through if you can handle doing it or to just rest and not do it. It’s important to go with what you are able to handle each particular time.
  8. When it came to parties, weddings, and showers oh my! (especially baby showers) those all triggered so many emotions. I experienced feelings of loss, anger, sadness of seeing husbands and wives together, comparison of my loss and how I don’t have a husband to help me at different social functions. I know for me I didn’t want to completely isolate myself the first year either. Because ultimately people do want me there and my presence DOES matter. I was not able to go to all the events I would have wanted to go to but that is OK and ACCEPTABLE! So, I went to what I could handle at the time and what worked for me.
  9.   I had people that I had to  put boundaries on seeing for a year. These are the people who didn’t get grieving, would tear me down and demand unrealistic things from me, people who were friends of Ben’s but not respectful to me, and so on. I didn’t have to surround myself with negative people or put myself in unsafe situations while I was grieving. If there was a situation that I would have to be around these kind of people it  was important to have a game plan of not being left alone with these people or give them boundaries ahead of time.
  10. It’s important to realize many friends and loved ones deal with your loss and even their own grieving differently. Some friends don’t know what to say, some say things that are not helpful, some keep their distance because they don’t know what to say or afraid they will say something dumb, some can’t be around you because it is painful to see you in so much pain, the list goes on. The best thing I found helpful to do was to realize that  I am NOT RESPONSIBLE to help people in their grief journey. It doesn’t mean I don’t pray for them or stop being their friend it just means I realized I can’t fix anyone or how they deal with their grief. I am responsible for ME and my son and helping him cope with the loss of not having a dad.
  11. When “special days” like our wedding anniversary, his birthday, Father’s Day, ect were coming up I found having a game plan of what I was going to do helped. I would do what I knew would be life giving like: going to a park, eating at a fun restaurant, going to my parents house for the day. I never knew how I would do the day of. Some special days I would cry all morning and some I would be fine and break down at the end of the night. So, it’s also good to be flexible and be easy on yourself too because sometimes I would plan something and then realize I just needed to rest or change the game plan. So, it’s important to explain to people that you would like to do something but the day of it might change and catch you off guard. And that is ok because emotions and grief can be unpredictable!
  12. It’s sad to think about or do but since my son only has one parent it was suggested I think about life insurance in case something happened to me. I actually did it through my AAA and made my son the beneficiary. AAA monthly payments are not too bad and the paperwork for it is one page and way easier than most paperwork I have had to fill out for Ben’s death.
  13. Ben and I were semi-good about knowing each other’s passwords for things. Thank goodness I told him to keep all his passwords saved somewhere that I knew about. However, there were some that I had to figure out. So make sure you and your spouse tell each other ALL the passwords to things like: utility accounts, health insurance accounte-mail, Amazon, iTunes, even pass codes for their phone,ect. Oh my goodness especially Gmail! They are so strict about not even giving out the passwords to spouses and loved ones!
  14. When it comes to healing do what works for you! Some people think you should join a widows group, or join a grief group, or connect with other widows, or read specific books, ect. I definitely thought about being in a grief or widows group but I am more introverted and being around other people and their grief, especially if they are not handling it well, seemed like it would cause me more stress. I know what I did will not be what works for someone else but this is what worked for me: I surrounded myself with positive and uplifting people that understood grief, met with people one on one or connected with the widows I felt comfortable with, I continued to go to my inner healing counselor/mentor, I journaled and did listening prayers, I did read some books on grieving, I stayed in my church community and vulnerable with how I was feeling and when I needed help, I had and still have a private prayer group that is constantly praying for my family and I keep those close friends up to date in how I need prayer and encouragement. The number one thing I sought was what I felt God was leading me to. His voice is the one that matters and if I stayed connected and seeking him in my healing He was able to reveal what I needed and what truths to listen to and what he was speaking to my broken heart.

Overall, the first year especially, can include many raw emotions that seem intense and all over the place. I don’t think widows should EVER feel guilty for how they feel or what they can’t handle. If you think about it LOSING a spouse is a BIG THING to lose. Our lives are so intricately interwoven and intertwined in a way that is not like other relationships on earth.

I had hopes and  dreams with my husband, we fought and we resolved conflict, we had mutual friends, we raised our son together, we encouraged each other, we prayed together, we came up with game plans of how to handle different events with a child, we planned our daily schedules and year together, and so on.

I think that is what made it so hard to start life again without him and why almost everything reminded me of him because our lives intersected and crossed in all areas of life. 

I think watching the movie Inside Out was such an amazing thing to see recently. It was like a visual picture of what I felt when Ben died and what it looks like when there is a huge loss. It’s like your whole world crumbles and all your emotions go haywire because your “normal” is gone. However in the movie, like Jesus, we can have new dreams and life can go on. It will NEVER be the same and it shouldn’t. But it can be different and that can be a good thing. 

Living without my best friend and the love of my life is one of THE HARDEST things I have ever experienced  but thank goodness for a God who is Emmanuel (God with us), who promises to comfort and be with us in our grief and never rushes us in our healing process.  It astounds me to have a God who cares about my WHOLE BEING: spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical and how he can show us how he can heal ALL OF THOSE if we let him. And then he doesn’t stop there, he turns our mourning into dancing and our ashes of old dreams into sparkling new ones. He gives new dreams to us when we are ready and that is a BEAUTIFUL  and HOPEFUL thing that just astounds me everyday.

Reflections on the End of the First Year: Choosing Healing

When it comes to alcohol it has different forms that can either heal or numb. Alcohol, in it’s medicinal form, can help heal wounds and cuts. We all know it stings and there will be pain but in the long run it eventually heals the wound or cut. On the other hand, alcohol’s other form is to numb. We go to a bar, a wedding, or a social event, or our house and use it to numb what we are feeling or what we don’t want to feel. And in the long run, it doesn’t heal the “emotional wounds” because we don’t ever deal with it and we will keep running into it in our lives if we not don’t address it. Everyone, even myself, have our own way of numbing the pain at times with our own choice of “alcohol”. It can be: food, staying busy, watching tons of Netflix, climbing the academic ladder, writing a famous book, landing a better job; only wanting to talk about ministry and not what’s going on in our own heart; you fill in the blank.

I recently went to my first wedding since Ben died and I was faced with choosing healing or choosing to numb. I was honored and blessed to share in my dear friend’s wedding and got to see her marry her best friend, but at the same time, I grieved and began to think of my own wedding about 4 years ago and how I longed and missed my best friend and husband.

My husband and I during our first dance: May 13, 2011
My husband and I during our first dance: May 13, 2011

But I have learned that letting yourself feel the pain and intense emotions that tend to light up in different settings is so freeing. So, at the wedding,  I was not depressed when the tears came as my friend had her first dance with her husband. I let God be with me in that pain. And yes it stung and yes was painful but, like medicinal alcohol, God poured his love and comfort over  me and he was able to bring healing and  I was able to have joy in the midst of my sadness.There is joy because my needs and feelings were being met. And like I mentioned in the previous blog, God the Father wants to be there for us and care for us in our pain. I was fortunate enough to have a great girlfriend who physically hugged and comforted me when I began to cry during my friend’s first dance with her husband. That was also very comforting to have a friend that didn’t have to say anything but to just physically be there with me in that moment as I was hurting and missing Ben. I later asked God where he was when I began to cry at the wedding reception and he gave me this image of him stroking my hair and kissing my head as he held me tight in his arms. He also gave me an image of where he was with my friend and her new husband. He was dancing with them and enjoying their love and happiness. I think that really struck me that God was able to comfort me in my sadness AND be with my friend and her new husband at the same time. BOTH of us mattered to him and he wanted to join us both in what we were feeling.

I know choosing to heal is easier said than done because healing is a choice and healing is painful and a lot of work. The amazing thing about God is that he does not  rush us if we are not ready. He is patient.  He is still with us when we just want to numb out or “not go there.” The passage of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 has really been sticking out to me and I guess I didn’t really understand it deeply until now. It says:

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”

God is not in a hurry. And whether we are choosing to let God heal or to numb out, he is with us. He is there and wants to be with us in whatever we are feeling. He is with you when you are feeling down about being single; He is with you when you make your kids cry because you are yelling at them; He is with you when you are failing a test you studied and knew like the back of your hand; He is with you when people are treating you unjustly; He is with you when you are feeling like you don’t have any friends; He is with you when are finding out you are having a miscarriage; He is with you when you are questioning if he really cares; He is with you in EVERY situation!

As I end the first year of grieving I am embracing and looking forward to the second year. The first year has been emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually  exhausting but allowing God into my pain is bringing healing. It is very uncomfortable at times and in the midst of it, I felt I would never get over it or stop feeling so much pain. But I truly feel all the hard work of letting God be with me and speak to me along the way has slowly begun to heal my “wounds.” That is where the exchange of “beauty for ashes” comes in. There is always an exchange if we let God into our healing. And that is the beauty and hope we have in a God. I love what my counselor/mentor said in our session earlier this week, “God can always redeem what was lost.” Life sucks and there is darkness and evil but God can REDEEM and God not only comforts us in our sorrow but he also gives us beauty for ashes. I would like to end with this verse in Isaiah 61:3 of God wanting to give us:

“… a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”

August 9, 2015: Reflections and Next Steps After Letting God Comfort You

I am coming up really close to the one year mark of Ben being dead for a year. I wish I could have journaled more because I feel I have learned and grieved so much. Also, a lot has happened since my last entry in July. So, I thought I would just type bullet point paragraphs of what I have learned and experienced this first year:

  1.  I am not sure what the second year of grieving will hold but I do know that this first year of grieving has included many raw emotions. There have been many weddings, bridal showers, and parties I have wanted to go to, and I was able to go to some,  but most the time my emotional grief has been too much at times. Not, that I am trying to ignore or run from seeing people but my heart can only handle so much at times. Going back into social circles is very painful. It is painful to see all my friends with their healthy husbands, or friends that I had planned to have my second kid around the same time with, or seeing my friends being loved on by their husbands or significant others. I am happy for them but my heart grieves and misses being loved and being with my best friend.
  2. One of the first parts of my grieving was to just let whatever I was feeling OUT! Whether that was sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, ect. But the most important part to that process was letting God be WITH me (Emmanuel) in that process. Like I mentioned in my previous post, it doesn’t exactly “fix” the hurt or replace the person we are grieving, it is letting our needs be met and cared for. The reason I needed to let God into my grief is because number one, my emotions matter and being cared for and comforted is something God wants and longs to do. Number two, when I grieve with Jesus I give him an open door to speaking to me and to see the situation more clearly. He is able to see the whole picture, I can only see part of it.
  3. The second big half of my healing is learning how to praise him after I have worked through my emotions.  I think so many times I have read and seen first hand that when people’s loved ones die they try to bypass all the pain or sadness and go straight to praising God or seeing the positive. While it is good to praise God or see the positive it is ESSENTIAL to give ourselves the freedom to feel the negative FIRST. I think David, from the Bible, was a man after God’s own heart not because he had everything together or was happy all the time, he was a man after God’s own heart because he was not afraid to be HONEST and REAL with God with how he was feeling. In Psalms 13, 22, 35, 42 and many other Psalms, David is BRUTALLY  honest with God. He does not try to hide his anger, depression, or mixed emotions instead he pours EVERYTHING out to Him and works it out with God. David’s outcome of working through his emotions is PRAISE. We cannot go and should not go straight to praise and bypass our negative emotions or stuff them because if we do that our praise is not sincere and seems forced. Why would God give us “negative” emotions if we cannot express them? I think God wants us to be thankful people but as I Peter 5:7 says he ALSO wants us to “Cast our burdens” onto Him “because he CARES for you.”
  4. Once we begin to praise God we can then see where he working. A beautiful thing about death is what can come out of it if we let God into our healing. God can take the ugly and broken and mourning, and turn it into something beautiful and whole and joyful. I feel like God has taken so much away. He has taken away my husband, the father to my child, my best friend, and all my hopes and dreams I had with him. But very slowly I have bravely asked, “Ok, Lord I have grieved and I have poured my heart out to you and I have let you comfort and speak to me in my sorrow. Now, where are you? Where are you working? What are you speaking to me now?”He has responded. He has given me new dreams.

When my husband was alive I enjoyed doing art projects and anything artsy with him for the church and for people around us. We dreamed of one day doing it as a couple for a job and a ministry. Once he died I was sad I didn’t have anyone to dream or share that with anymore. But this year God has, in a way, taken me back to before I was even married and I had dreams of using drama for a ministry. Long story short I went to an Urbana missions conference when I was a high school senior back in 2003 where I was inspired to use drama for a ministry and to one day even be on the Urbana drama team as well. I started off as a Theatre ministry major at Hope International University but ended up graduating with a bachelors in Liberal Arts and concentration in Children’s Ministry instead. From there took online classes at community colleges to become a preschool teacher and have enjoyed teaching but my first love was always drama. Once Ben died I was given the opportunity to be a part of the Urbana 2015 performing arts team. It has been like going back in time to where I was about 10 years ago and faced with the same choice of either going after finding a career/ job in drama or choosing something that is more stable. This season, because I have the freedom to do either I am wanting to go after drama this time. It’s like getting a second chance and I feel I don’t want to let that chance pass me up again. Not that I regret teaching because I think God can use everything we experience to build on the future or the different seasons in our lives, but  I am sure of the tugging in my heart to pursue my first love again. I don’t know what God will do with my drama passion being re-ignited but I have already talked and gotten counsel from many people and have gotten many ideas that I believe are directing me to something. And I also hope to one day find someone ( a husband) to share in my dream of arts ministry too. But that is another dream that will have to wait for now I guess. Right now, I am so excited for this new chapter of my life of God exchanging “beauty for ashes.”

July 6, 2015: Journal Reflections Of Letting God Comfort You

Now that Ben is gone I truly feel I can raise Zeke by myself with all the help of my great community of friends and family. Family is not lost, it is re-defined. Family is not broken it is mended and healed slowly in time. Zeke has my dad who is becoming like a father to him and so many other great men in his life.

Although in the midst of all the love I feel, I feel so alone. Family can be re-defined and mended and healed but the love between a husband and wife cannot be duplicated. I miss going on dates. I miss all the sweet things he would say when I was having a bad day. I miss going to the park with Ben and Zeke on the weekends. The last year of his life we could not be intimate for many reasons but I remember I still loved even the smell and presence of Ben being with me.

It’s so easy to just plow through cancer or hard times and just ignore the bad feelings or suppress the pain you feel so you don’t have to think about it or have to deal with the grief you feel as you watch someone you love slowly deteriorate. Ben and I, and my parents were fortunate enough to have such a great inner healing counselor/mentor that helped us through the most difficult times of our lives. However, choosing to go deep and choosing to wrestle through it ALL has taken a toll on my body mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Healing from a loved one’s death is not something that can be achieved quickly it happens over time. Everyone “grieves differently” but not everyone finds healing.

It has been very difficult to sift and wade through all the different waves of emotions I feel. The simplest things can trigger memories of good and bad of Ben. Sometimes it can be a song on the radio or someone randomly singing on the street that reminds me of him. Sometimes it can be seeing a couple laughing or hugging or kissing. Sometimes it can be having to overhear my friends talking about their weddings or dates or anniversaries. In those moments I have learned to not suppress what I’m feeling but to just let the tears come. I believe one of the most missed parts to healing is letting God just sit with you in your sadness or whatever you may be feeling. Feelings are a good thing because it indicates where our hearts are or where they are breaking. And it is those weak and vulnerable moments God wants to grieve with us and comfort us. When we let him into those moments we not only give room to comfort but we give room to healing. It is not a healing that fixes or replaces a loved one but healing of having our needs attended to and cared for. And having our needs be attended to and cared for is one of the first steps to the long journey of healing.