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One Year Anniversary Reflections: He Bore Our Griefs As We Identify With His Sufferings

He Bore Our Griefs

Isaiah 53:4 (NASB)
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.

This scripture, “He bore our griefs…” has been coming to my mind ever since Easter this year. The realization that he literally understands my pain from losing our son is so precious and real. It’s overwhelming to think that Jesus carried all that pain on the cross for all of us.

 I relate to this so much now when I meet a person who has suffered any kind of loss, especially the loss of a child or someone close. I look at their teary eyes and I know it’s the Holy Spirit grieving with me as I cry for them and feel that knife stabbing pain in my heart again, only it’s for their loss this time and yet so real in my own heart as it flows from Christ’s.

I also felt Christ’s grief for me many times in unexplained ways before Taylor died. One of the many moments was in April 2013, two months before his and Michelle’s wedding. Taylor had asked me to find a song to dance to for the “Mother-Son” dance. His favorite song as a little boy was Steven Curtis Chapman’s The Great Adventure, or “Saddle up Your Horses” as four year-old Taylor called it. I wanted to do a swing dance with him to this song since he danced to it every morning with his siblings and me on his stick horse for about three years after our morning Bible time.

Last spring, as I turned on the song for my husband to hear, I tried to choreograph the wedding dance in my mind. Gary and I both simultaneously began to cry with deep unexplained sorrow over this song. We had not felt that kind of pain with our first son’s wedding song, even though our love is just as deep for all our children. I couldn’t understand it then, but now I do. Taylor decided he didn’t want that song for the wedding and we chose another special song, but as soon as he passed away, we knew that song was the story of his life, a “Great Adventure”, and had to be the main song in his life video.

Also around this time, Taylor came home wearing a beautiful full chest tattoo that was on his bucket list to do before his wedding. He had planned another tattoo for a long time; however he suddenly decided to change it to a full-winged owl with a compass pointing true north in its claws. When he explained to me that true north was for following Christ in his marriage and his choice for owls was because they mate for life, I suddenly felt that same stabbing in my heart. I now understand how God, the God of all time, grieved for us in those moments in spring 2013, knowing what was ahead for us on July 20, 2013.

Identifying With the Sufferings of Jesus

Knowing he understands my grief better than anyone else, going to the feet of Jesus is truly the only thing that satisfies me and comforts me. As a result, I pulled away from people quite a bit last year. The only way for me to find true joy is in worshiping my Creator and thanking him for what I do have and that my son is in Heaven. Turning my focus toward Heaven, reading about Heaven, and visualizing all the joy Taylor is experiencing now has given me the big picture perspective of the truth of our brief time here in the whole landscape of eternity. Yet not everyone is in the same place as me and I can’t expect them to be exactly where I am as unique individuals and we are all suffering the loss of Taylor in a different way because we each have a unique relationship with him.

Grieving has been the most humanly lonely experience I have ever had in my whole life. Even though there are 7 people in my own home, each person grieves differently and generally separately. We don’t want to bring the others down, so we cry in private or not at all. Still we want to spend most of our time with family and God, but then I am afraid our friends feel like they’ve lost us too.

There have been instances where friends and extended family think I’m so strong I don’t need them, which I don’t, but I want them and for some reason, they don’t get that. When I get my eyes off of Christ, and in my weakness, I have the tendency to feel abandoned by these people. Then my husband and I don’t find our needs met by each other on this parallel walk we are on towards God, so emotions we have not dealt with before suddenly arise. I’ve never been an angry person, but I find myself angry, not at Taylor for dying or at God, but at those around me for not being happy and not what I want them to be for me. I’ve said it many times, “I didn’t just lose a son, I feel like I’ve lost my family.” I’m sure I sound bi-polar at this point, but it’s the reality of grief.

As I shared this with my friend, Ann, who also has suffered loss, she reminded me of this verse:

1 Peter 4:13 (ESV)
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings,
that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Ann and I discussed that the beauty and gift of going through grief alone and individually is that we are forced to dig in more intimately with our Savior to be able to survive and we therefore learn more about all he suffered on the cross and grow closer to him as we recognize what he truly did for us, thus realizing the truly deep love he has for us individually. We then can rejoice and see his glory revealed in our lives in a way that can only be supernatural!!

At this one year anniversary point, I am beginning to take time for friendships again. I have so many wonderful friends God has given me! Our family is still together because we allow each other to grieve at their own pace, knowing they are holding the hand of Jesus too. I’m not ever going to be the same Carla again. I will hopefully be a more thoughtful Carla who appreciates each moment with those I have here, a more compassionate Carla who understands the grief of others and can hold out an empathizing hand, a more passionate Carla who appreciates the Savior and his ultimate eternal plan for all of us, looking forward to the day I see my Savior’s and my son’s face daily for all eternity.

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Thankful for Surprised Amazement

Thankful 2013-Day 21: After reading my new One Thousand Gifts Devotional today I am thankful for surprised amazement that God gives me in the midst of my grief in the loss of our son, Taylor. In this Ann Voskamp reminds us that “expectations kill relationships – especially with God” and she repented from “entitlement that steals joy.”

I expected all my children to live long lives and outlive me, but as I sit back and keep my eyes open, waiting for faithful kisses from God without expectations or entitlement, He consistently surprises me with moments of joy.

A moment last Friday where a young student gave me a stuffed Snoopy dog as a gift she had been holding onto for me for over two years. She knew Peanuts is a favorite of mine, but she didn’t know they were Taylor’s favorites too. In the last two weeks, I had been praying about having something for us to hold in all our family pictures to remember Taylor.

Snoopy was the answer to my prayer and if this little girl had remembered to bring Snoopy a few years ago, it would not have meant so much to me. God’s reminder to her last week was a kiss of joy for me that I needed this week. Once again, I’m surprised and amazed at His desire to touch me in a special way in His perfect timing.

Eucharisteo always precedes a miracle!” (Voskamp)Image

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The Upright Piano

Matthew 10:30-32 (NIV)

30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

A new Christmas song, Cradle in Bethlehem, sent to me and written by my friend Andrew Greer, started a rush of nostalgia today. Right from the beginning, the soft twangy notes on an upright piano sent a flood of memories of faith pouring over my heart. Reminisce of my little girl heart starting her melodic dreams.

I come from a very musical Seattle family. My dad’s biological mother was an excellent pianist with a Julliard background and Dad played in the Seventh Fleet Naval Band plus sang and led worship in our church with his trumpet. Mom also came from a strong musical background and was a singer. They both had a deep desire for my sister and I to play the piano, but there was no money to buy one in the challenging times of the early 1970’s.

At the end of my second grade, a church family asked us to rent their home while they moved to Texas on temporary assignment. I was thrilled because they left their piano in the house and our church pianist lived just a block away! I took lessons from her and became addicted to practicing, spending hours on that beautiful instrument. Unexpectedly, nine months later, my dad got transferred to the opposite end of Seattle.  No piano. No money either. My sister and I were devastated.

Shortly after our move, Mom sat us girls down and said,

“If God wants us to have a piano, we will get one! I don’t know how, but he can do anything. Let’s pray!” So we prayed for about a week, not much longer.

Mom then got a call from her old high school friend, whom she had not heard from in a while.

“Vivian, my brother owns a nursing home in Portland. They are getting rid of an upright piano and he wondered if I knew of anyone who might want it. For some reason, I thought of you.  All he is asking is $50 for gas money to move it.”

Stunned, Mom caught her breath and, of course, said yes. We all did a little happy dance and praised God! Our parents scraped $50 out of the budget along with the change my sister and I found in my dad’s recliner. To top it off, our pastor’s wife heard about the miracle and offered to give us piano lessons for free. God was so good to us.

My faith grew enormously and God taught me so much through that old piano.

Bach and Beethoven, In the Garden, The Entertainer sounded amazing on that tall black instrument, but my favorites were the Christmas carols. I heard Mary’s Boy-Child, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire), and Carol of the Bells for the first time on those keys. So many special memories are attached to those twangy sounds.

We moved to another home and made more memories as it sat in our kitchen. With another impending move, my dad said it was too heavy to lug to another home. We sold it for $100 to apply on a new piano.

For Christmas, when I was in the seventh grade, they bought us a spinet. I loved the smaller piano but the sound of that old black upright couldn’t be replaced. The seeds planted from those early days provided a lifetime of a musical hobby for my sister and a teaching career for me that has been so fulfilling. Every time I hear an old upright sound, it reminds me of God’s concern over the smallest desires and the biggest dreams in our lives.

Incidentally, my sister’s and my faith grew so much in praying for the piano, we decided to pray for a baby brother. One year later, God gave us one of my greatest gifts in life, my brother Matthew, who is also a music teacher!

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One Thousand Gifts – by Ann Voskamp: My Healing Through Gratitude

I have had losses in my life like anyone my age. Some of this was from pain of losing a loved one, a child going through pain, but the most life altering was from having three surgeries in a year with one that brought damage to my voice.

My passion in life is singing and leading worship. I’m a singer and a teacher, plus I love to talk, A LOT! After my third spinal surgery, I woke to find my right vocal cord nerve was paralyzed bringing my voice to a whisper at best. This completely put my life to a stop of reflection asking God what my new purpose was to be in His journey for me. As a person with deep faith, this was still a challenge as I processed, questioning, waiting…

In June 2012, I had surgery to allow me to talk, but I still could not sing well. In August, God was gracious and allowed me to help with church worship and, in October, go back to teaching and leading worship at my school part time.  Yet, I still grieved that I could not sing the way I wanted to. Although I understood that worship is a way of life and not a song, musical worship had for so long come from my heart through my larynx that I wasn’t sure how to deeply worship anymore.

In November, preparing for Thanksgiving, God challenged me to be thankful in everything. I thought I had been living a grateful life, but was still drifting towards complaining and discontentment in many areas, especially in my verbal life.

As the temptation to grumble approached, the Lord would reveal the parts of my problems to be thankful for:

Wandering Loved Ones: “Thank you, Lord, that they are alive. Thank you that they love me and want your blessing in their lives. Thank you for other loved ones close by and students that are seeking your face. Thank you for the husband who seeks your face and loves our family…”

A Broken Voice: “Thank you, Lord for the opportunities to touch lives for you in the health world because of this and help others in the same situation I’m in. Thank you that I can at least teach part time and help others to sing at school and at church. Lord, what? You don’t need perfection? Okay, I will sing, even if my cord doesn’t make the kind of sound I think it should make. I can still lift up my joyful noise to you for true worship comes from my heart and not my larynx. “

Positive growth, yet, I kept expecting, believing, waiting for a complete spectacular healing.

December 1st: Friends commented, “You are sounding better.”  I could tell there was a difference too.

December 21st: A visit to the voice surgeon, absolutely expecting him to say I was completely healed. He scopes my throat then matter-of-factly states, “No, Carla, your cord is still completely paralyzed. I’ll see you in March, you probably won’t have a voice then, and we will discuss a permanent surgery.”

More surgery??? “No, Lord! I will not have another surgery. I’m going to trust you with this one. I would rather not talk than have a 5th surgery.”

January: A precious loved one makes an attempt to reconnect. Gratitude begins to show its fruit. People stopping, saying, “Carla, your voice is back! You can sing! Wow! You sang great in chapel today! You are healed! When did that happen?”…

My Eyore response: “Thank you, but I’m not healed. In fact, in March I won’t have a voice at all again…” (I read this now and think how stupid I was!)

February 1st: I was sharing my heart with our school nurse regarding all this and she jumped up and said, “You have to read this book, One Thousand Gifts!” The next week she bought the book by Ann Voskamp as a gift for me.

Ann Voskamp is what I describe as an honest and down to real life author with an incredible gift for writing in a lyrical way that is beautiful and rare. This is a book you will want to sit with for a half hour, then meditate and savor in small bites twice a day.  Ann describes losses in her life – minor to major – and how gratitude opened up a whole new world as she saw God’s face in the midst of all stages of life.

What God starts, He always finishes. From November to now, through His Holy Spirit and this book, He plopped me in Gratitude Boot Camp! I had been doing the thanksgiving dance but failed to see the work He was doing, believing what the doctor said instead of seeing my Creator’s unique craftsmanship.

As I jumped deeper into gratitude, I had a bottomless sense of peace and began to think less about my voice and more about God’s purpose for my gifts, letting Him take care of my voice.

During this time, another doctor friend asked if he could refer me to a surgeon in Los Angeles who repairs voices of famous singers. The California doctor called me and said I sounded way too good for him to do surgery on me. He and my doctor friend explained that, although my nerve was still paralyzed, my vocal cord had fallen back to the middle of my larynx and was in the perfect position for vibration. With a singing specialist, they said I could very likely build endurance and range again.

I suddenly realized that God was using my voice in a wonderfully functioning capacity without a nerve to help it! I like the spectacular and had been looking for a lightning bolt to come down and strike me with healing power creating fireworks around me. Instead, he healed me with a gentle surprise patiently waiting for me to stop denying His work and realize that my gratitude broke open the doors to see the healing He had already accomplished in me.

It is now March 7th and, other than range and stamina, my voice feels almost normal again. I’ve cancelled the doctor appointment!

I truly believe that ungratefulness clouds the truth and blessings God wants to reveal to us. I’m so grateful for the difficult times and wouldn’t trade one treasure of wisdom I’ve received from the past two years for anything.

Read One Thousand Gifts and see what miracles God is already doing in your life.

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Time in the Son

August 27, 2012

Although a morning person by nature, it takes me at least one hour to move into partial function mode. It doesn’t happen at all without sitting on the lap of my Lord absorbing His peace and wisdom for the day.

Before beginning my hectic Monday, I knew today required the more than usual time with God. So I moved from my traditional living room comfy chair out to the fairly warm comfort of my patio. Glancing out at the green tree scape under the horizon of the eastern sky, I read my devotional which, incidentally, talked about giving my very busy day to Him and reminded me to stay focused on Him.

Then facing the lightening East and talking to God about each item and person I needed to place in His hands, I looked up into the peaceful sky and noticed a few clouds coming over my house from the west.

As the increasing cloud clusters traveled towards the sun, they were approaching with a dull grey color, but the closer they moved toward the sun, they took on a brilliancy that transformed them from sad to joyful.

So it is with us. It’s hard for me to get up and get to His lap in the morning, but once I get focused on my Son, I can accomplish things with a joy that is found nowhere else.

It reminds me of my son, Taylor, when he was four. After an hour of impatience with my children one day, he pulled on my shirt, and said, “Mommy, I don’t think you got your Jesus time today. Maybe you should go get some.”

John 15:4-8

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

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Learning to Listen

As an extroverted teacher, worship leader, and singer, the word quiet has not been in my vocabulary often over the years, unless it was to ask my students or children to lower their voices. I love to be with people, sharing all God is doing in my life. And no doubt He can definitely use “conversationalists” like me to share His message. Beth Moore says you know you’re a teacher if you can’t stop sharing what you’ve learned (A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place – video). And that is me 24-7.

Until now. Due to my recent neck surgery, my voice is – at best – just above a whisper. But the Lord, in His perfect mercy, has begun to teach me the value of quiet – the increased focus on listening. Listening to Him, listening to my family, and listening, especially, to my husband :). Silence has allowed me to pay attention without interrupting so I can hear the whole of my sweet man’s heart. My children and even my friends have opened up even more, knowing that I’m listening closely.

In listening to God, I’ve looked up scripture on quietness to see what else He has to teach me on this subject… and Psalm 131 spoke directly to my heart.

Psalm 131
New International Version (NIV)


A song of ascents. Of David.

 1 My heart is not proud, LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

 3 Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.

This passage spoke to me in many ways. “I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” Silence has taken me away from lofty dreams and brought me to foundational truths and simple acts of worship in my walk with Jesus. I have spent a lot of time planning great chapels and big musical programs for my students, and these things have all been good. But I see how Jesus wants to bring my focus back to seeing Him and His love for me purely and personally. Big plans can sometimes become a distraction to personal adoration of my King.

Singing is integral to worship for me, but now I can barely warble one note. In the past, it was difficult to listen to music without singing. When directing my students, it took a great deal of self-control not to join in during their performances. And I have caused real embarrassment to my husband when I’m in an audience singing in a situation where we have not been invited to participate.

Learning to listen to others worship in song is redirecting my focus to Jesus, and what the words really say to Him or about Him. I have been freed to just lift my arms to Him, opening up a tunnel directly to His Presence. My voice is not distracting my heart, and this has allowed me to be filled in a way I’ve never experienced before.

Psalm 131 also illustrates David’s deliberate choice to rest in the Lord – “I have calmed and quieted myself.” This involved David’s will. In my case, God has forced me into silence, but I still need to trust and make the choice to rest in my spirit, allowing Him to calm my heart.

“Like a weaned child I am content.” We are to be content in all circumstances. Even when I can’t use my talents, Lord? Yes, even then. I know His purpose is to use me. If that is in silence, so be it. But if this stillness is a time to teach me new truths without my voice distracting my spirit, then praise Him for this “silent learning” opportunity!

“Put your hope in the Lord, both now and forevermore.” Trust always leads to hope. My hope for the “now” is to absorb from Him truths never learned with my voice. Hope is also in the “forevermore.” Should He restore my voice tomorrow to continue my ministry, then Hallelujah! This is what I believe He is doing. However, even if no clear word should ever again go forth from my mortal mouth, I will continue to worship my King in spirit and through other believers singing praises to His Name.

Worshiping in silence has brought my heart to a place of deep focus on Jesus. Learning to do this with a quiet spirit and a calm heart, I am content to learn and meditate as I wait for Him to heal me now or later, with the full hope I will rejoice with all the saints, with shouts of joyful singing in Heaven, forever.

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Rainbow Promises

Hebrews 2:8-9a

In putting everything under Him, God left nothing that is not subject to Him.  Yet at present we do not see everything subject to Him.  But we do see Jesus…

 

This verse was sent to me, yesterday, by a dear friend’s son who was praying for me. He didn’t realize the complete set of reasons Jesus wanted him to send me these words of promise. Like most people, there are always a plethora (I love that word) of reasons for me to trust that everything is under God’s control – reasons to keep me on my knees placing my children, our marriage, our jobs, our health, etc. on the altar of His grace and mercy, trusting in His promises.

It reminded me of a time, about four years ago, when the Lord kept putting rainbows in my life.

About six years ago, my 12 year old daughter and I flew to Seattle. We were praying extra time for the Lord to put his arms around our plane as we were descending through a storm in a double cloud cover, with the Space Needle just waiting to jump out in my imagination.

I closed my eyes to pray, opened them and found myself adjusting my glasses to make sure I wasn’t seeing something weird through my lenses. My daughter, with her glasses, was doing the same thing. She said, “Do you see that?!” “Yes, do you?”

What we saw was a “Glory” – a perfect rainbow in circle with the shadow of our plane in the center of the perfect promise. This wasn’t just one of those summer moon-dog marvels, but a real perfect rainbow in full color. Our Creator allowed it to remain there about 5 minutes for us to marvel.

I looked up this phenomenon and found that it is called a “Glory”. Different sites explained that when the first people found a perfect circle rainbow in higher elevations, they called it a glory because no one had seen it before and no one had seen “God’s Glory”.

As I meditated on this precious vision from my Creator, I realized the rainbows we see in the lowlands, are only half the promise that is revealed in the heights. We don’t realize what He is doing behind the scenes in our lives or lives of our children in the heights and where our eyes cannot see, but we can watch Jesus in His Truth and the Spirit working around us preparing us for His glory of the full promise in Heaven one day.

Other Rainbow Moments

Shortly after our Seattle trip, I had a bad morning before arriving to lead chapel for our school. The front door of the church would not accept my key, so running late and frustrated, I stomped all the way around the building to the back door. When I turned the corner, there was a rainbow over the school; God humbling and calming my spirit J.

The next week, as I arrived at school, I felt prompted to call a dear friend going through marriage problems. We prayed asking God to give her a sign that He cared. After our goodbye, opening the car door, a rainbow graced our sky over our school, in exactly the same place as the week before, except that it was a double rainbow. I called my friend back and sent a phone picture, telling her the Lord had given us a double promise in answer to our prayers to show His Faithfulness and love.

With tears of joy, we wondered why we were fretting.

No matter what we are going through, He has put everything subject to Him and given us His Spirit and Jesus, The Truth to guide us as we trust Him.

We can’t see all the great things He has planned for us, but we can watch with anticipation for His Glory at every turn and that final Glory when we are all with Him forever in the heights.