Art Therapy, Bright Side, Gratitude, Grief, Growth in Trials, Healing, Kintsugi Art, Trials, Trust

HEALING THE CRACKS IN OUR LIVES – A KINTSUGI PROJECT

KINTSUGI FILTERED POWER POINT

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

For nine months,  I’ve been walking through a renewing of the mind process through Dr. Caroline Leaf’s program, 21 Days to Detox Your Brain using her Switch phone app and other resources. I began this as, like all of us, there are many areas in my life that need work, some that I decided were long overdue for a transformation. From insecurities and bad habits to grief, loss and transitions in life, I have had great victories in my life through this program. https://drleaf.com/

“Frame your world with your words.” ~ Caroline Leaf, Who Switched Off My Brain?

You’ve probably heard one of these phrases “re-frame your life,” “re-image your pain,” or the ever popular “make lemonade out of lemons.” In her writing and work, Dr. Leaf refers to this as re-conceptualizing your past, toxic thoughts, stress, conflict or pain. For one example she uses the image of a beautiful art form, Kintsugi Art. Japanese Kintsugi Art is the art of repairing pottery with lacquer that has been mixed with gold, silver or platinum powder. The word, Kintsugi, literally means “to mend with gold”.

In the Switch app Dr. Leaf encourages us to see our stories, good and bad, with a welcoming heart and honor respecting all aspects of who we are. Because of some past regrets, scars and pain in my life still dragging me down, I quickly latched on to this new idea.  I find great healing in writing and even deeper healing in art therapy, so I decided to step into this process through my own Kintsugi vase repair project on paper.

Dr. Leaf’s comparison of Kintsugi art to our humanity prepared my mind for this project. She explained each vase or bowl has a history that needs to be honored rather than thrown away. Creative repair treats the cracks as part of the life of the vase rather than a wound to disguise.  So, all our personal stories, good and bad, have shaped us and need to be respected as well. Emphasizing that our story is worthy of honor we thus welcome the process of being human. She goes on to add an idea that really hit it for me: We experience lasting healing when we acknowledge our full story because it keeps us from staying in bondage to the negativity of our past. Anxious to see the gold healing in my past, I gathered my thoughts and art supplies on hand to set out on my new adventure.

Below are the practical steps I took in my Kintsugi art therapy project. Not a potter, I used my modest drawing and painting skills. Each step took me a month or so as I needed time to meditate on the whole process. Now four months later, I am still processing but feel ready to share 😊.

In our rush to fix our problems,
we neglect to allow space and time for our wounds to teach us.
~ Richard Rohr

STEP 1: WRITE/SKETCH

I knew I needed to first sketch the details of my life and toxic thoughts I’d been working on in the last few months. I drew a vase, made cracks with the abbreviated pain or toxic thought underneath the line with the re-framed picture of that pain on top of the line.

kintsugi sketch image

 HOPE, GRACE-FILLED CHURCH,REDEEMED FAMILY/DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY 
COMFORT, HOPE OF HEAVEN/LOSS, GRIEF 
GOD IS WRITING THEIR STORY LIKE HE DID MINE/ WORRY ABOUT ADULT CHILDREN & HUSBAND
GOD’S APPROVAL/REJECTION, PEOPLE PLEASER
FORGIVENESS/SHAME GUILT
GRATITUDE/DISCONTENTMENT
COMMUNICATION/FEAR OF CONFLICT
TRUST GOD, STEWARDSHIP/FINANCES & HEALTH

Step 2: Draw Another Vase and Paint it Using Acrylics on a Paint-Friendly Board or Canvas

I then drew out three vases on watercolor board. Three, because I’m a perfectionist and wanted to make sure I had three chances in case I messed up. (Watercolor board because that’s what was handy). Using acrylic paint, I painted my vases then chose the one I liked best to work with further.

1st kintsugi vase no cracks_20190828_175343(1)This original vase represents what I was intended for when God created me. As I painted, I meditated on the gifts God gave me, my strengths, my passions and I thanked him for all the blessings He has poured into my life. I added shadows knowing from the moment He created me, He was aware of the pain I would experience in my life. This took about three days to add layers of light and shadow.

 

 

Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

cropped 2nd kintsugi vase with cracks no gold20190828_181845Step 3: Draw Cracks with Fine Sharpie

After the paint was fully dried, I added cracks, meditating on the pain and imperfections, surrendering those that still needed to be relinquished. As I added each crack, I dealt with the pain again, making sure I was honest about each toxic thought or loss. As Dr. Leaf encourages, each time we speak out a toxic thought, it begins to die.

You cannot heal what you cannot acknowledge. ~ Richard Rohr

 

Step 4: Cover the Cracks with Gold Paint Sharpies

I was extremely nervous for this next step. I found it interesting that my insecurities were coming up even in my painting. Finally, I just had to take the dive and do it. It was freeing after the first line and, soon, I began to truly enjoy the whole process as I meditated and expounded on the re-framed visions of my toxic thoughts and beliefs.

  • I thanked God He had redeemed my dysfunctional original family. I thanked Him for each of those family members and the blessing they are to me.
  • I thanked God that He had provided such a great support to me in my grief through His Word, worship, others and His Spirit in the loss of our son plus preparing me my whole life to trust Him in that pain.
  • Daily, I need to trust our Creator and not worry about my husband and children, in the fallout of losing a child/sibling, because God is writing their stories just like He is writing mine. He loves them more than I do.
  • The ultimate approval I need is God’s. I need not worry about what others think if I am loving God with my whole heart and loving others as myself.
  • Through the cross I am fully forgiven and need not carry shame for anything. Though others may not think highly of me, my God delights in me and died for me on the cross even when I was a sinner.
  • I am grateful for so much I don’t need to be discontented.
  • I need not fear conflict or stress because communication brings growth in myself and in my relationships and stress strengthens us when we see it as a gift.
  • I need not fear pain, illness or financial instability when I’m accountable and am a good steward of my body and finances because God delights in me and will provide all I need to live an abundant life.

original_prepared_photo

Seeing the beautiful gold highlights in my once, plain and cracked vase, revealed at a deeper level how beautiful the healing is in my life. It reminded my heart, He is bigger than all the cracks and attacks in my life. Without them, His golden glory would not be so evident in my life.

Step 4: Looking Through Other Filters

This summer, my husband, Gary, introduced me to a camera phone app filter, Prisma, which is so much fun. This took me to another level of contentment and creativity in this project. The filter adds different colors, highlights and twists in the graphics. After taking photos of my paintings, experimenting with the filters started me thinking about all the seasons of life. Each moment in life has different reflections of light, people, weather, pain, spiritual growth, geography and, the list goes on. Once again, our all-sovereign all-powerful Creator makes a new moment with a unique vision of our lives and how many ways He shines that love on our lives.

KINTSUGI FILTERED 6 BLOCK

Final Encouragement to You: 

I encourage you to at least sketch out the cracks in your life and begin to re-frame those cracks. Maybe some of you really adventurous artists may want to take a broken pot or throw one to fire for this project for your life. Whether you sketch, paint or draw, I pray healing will come and God will be glorified in your honored story.

John 16:33 (NIV)

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 

Grief, Healing, Hope, joy, Uncategorized

A Time to Be Human: Sorrow and Joy Can Dance Together Part 2

Ecclesiastes 3:4 (ESV)

 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

In Sorrow and Joy Can Dance Together,

I was heavy on joy, light on sorrow.

This week is heavy on sorrow, light on joy.

Feeling very human…so many emotions…

February 7th – Our very close friends’ daughter, Jesse, died – a time to weep…

February 8th – My wonderful dad’s 87th Birthday – a time to smile…

February 8th – The highlight of Josie’s year –a time for the Daddy Daughter Dance…

February 9th – Celebrate the life of friends’ son, Mike – a time to mourn…

February 10th – Celebrate the birth of our beautiful daughter Bethany – a time to smile…

February 10th – Anniversary of the passing of precious friend Andy – a time to mourn…

Life goes on for some, drags for others, redeemed for many, renewed in Heaven for others.

Time will bring more healing…heavy on the joy again…

Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

 

Faith, Grief, Healing, Hope, joy, Romans 12:5

Sorrow and Joy Can Dance Together

Many people ask me how it feels to have Taylor’s wife, Michelle, and friends moving on in life, marrying and having children. The answer to that is very complicated to understand and explain but I’ll try with this oxymoronic truth: In Jesus, sorrow and joy can dance together.

Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Somewhere back as a little girl at church, I learned this and believe God knew one day I would need this verse impressed deeply in my heart. As I went through life, I tended to deeply feel the sorrow of others and like most, found it easy to enter into joy with others.

When Michelle, started dating one of Taylor’s best friends, Paul, this verse was again immediately impressed upon my heart. When they were engaged, we came together and all agreed to honor Michelle’s first marriage to Taylor and second marriage to Paul. In all of Taylor’s friends’ celebrations in the last five years, I have allowed myself to cry for the loss that Taylor isn’t here to celebrate with us and didn’t get to experience life events his friends can. In each instance those tears of loss were always mixed with tears of joy as I saw new life and love blooming, perfect gifts from God. More than that, I was honored and blessed to be invited into their joy and celebrations.

Recently, God took me to a new level of understanding in this truth. Paul and Michelle were blessed with a baby girl, Emma. This little angel has stolen my heart and the hearts her parents, grandma’s, and many others. She is a charmer and a flirt one minute and is not afraid to tell you what she wants the next; cute and spunky define her well. I’m also unbiased and convinced she is highly intelligent and God has great plans for her life. Watching her grow and learn is amazing. (I always say if every home had a baby in it, we wouldn’t need any other form of entertainment).

Emma Carla 20171009_094912

Last month, Paul and Michelle invited our family to join their family at Emma’s baby dedication. At this special ceremony, they did something very simple but so meaningful with a moment of silent prayer as the pastor asked us all to lift up all the couples and newborns to the Lord, asking Him to show his deep love to these children that they would, one day, receive His incredible love and gift of eternal life. As we each prayed this privately in our own words, the silence took my breath away as I felt the loving power of those prayers bringing hope and joy to our spirits.

After prayer and the parents returned to their seats, the worship team led us in a beautiful song I hadn’t heard, Reckless Love by Cory Asbury. The first line caught my heart, “Before I spoke a word, you were singing over me.” Maybe this was not the intent of the song writer, but in that moment, those two phrases showed me God preparing Emma’s life long ago. Before time began, He planned for beautiful Emma specifically to be born to Paul and Michelle with their DNA and her darling personality.  He also knew our son would be a part of their story and we would be a unique family abundantly blessed by her little life.

As I began listening to more of the song, the Lord pushed my imagination to see a bit of Heaven. While I’m not sure what our loved ones see from the other side, (Hebrews 12), I could almost see Taylor dancing around the throne of God in worship, reveling in the immense reckless love of his Creator and Savior. I could see our son smiling and looking down on us with his clear-eyed vision of truth and eternity – a bit cloudy to us on earth. He now fully understands God’s sovereign plan for all of us – Paul, Michelle, their families, Gary, me, our other kids and now, Emma. Without complicated earthly emotions, our Heaven-dwelling son gets it: God planned Emma’s life before time began and is rejoicing along with us in God’s sovereign plan. Taylor knows this new sweet life is an amazing gift that will be a joy to watch as it blooms in God’s love and blesses us along the way.

This summer, I’m looking forward to another joyous occasion as we are honored to be hosting with Gary officiating the wedding of Taylor’s closest friend, Jamison, who is marrying one of our daughter’s closest friends, Emily, in our backyard, where they all grew up with our children. I’m praying God might give Taylor a glimpse of that happy day, which he prayed for six years ago. I will shed some tears missing his presence at this new celebration but will shed even more happy tears for the new journey and new life of another couple in our story.

Gospel Chains, Gratitude, Grief, Growth in Trials, Hope, Philippians 1:12-14, Seeds, Sharing hope, Trials, Uncategorized

Grateful for Chains?

Philippians 1:12-14 NIV

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

Sitting in my hotel room, alone in Montana, this morning, Sunday, June 25, 2017, while waiting for Gary to arrive, I was contemplating working on my book, but just can’t seem to get my brain or my spirit around it. Doubting if I should even finish this book or just focus on other things and people in life, I struggle to think then pray.

Jesus, would you please direct me and show me how you want me to spend my time this morning?

Receiving word, very early today, that the sister of Taylor’s high school girlfriend was killed in a car wreck, leaving two small daughters, I wasn’t sure I could write. Tragedy hits again in the wake of the loss of my friends, Travis and Debbie, all within one month. Overwhelming chains weighing on my friends’ families.

Praying. Phone calls with just love and mourning together. Text messages of love. More tears for all.

Knowing I just need Jesus, I open my Bible, and can’t see to read, so missing a few sermons from church, I log on to my church’s website sermon audio files and try to pick one I missed. If I can’t read the Word of God, I can listen to it. Wanting to choose the most recent, instead logic (God) tells me I should pick the first one I missed, even though the title, Gospel Chains didn’t sound interesting or pertinent, since I’m not in prison. (Yes, I am dense sometimes).

Listening to Rodd Ritchie speak on our chains in life and how God uses painful situations to share his love with the world, I begin to reflect on my circumstances and was strengthened in my resolve to write to encourage others who have gone through the same things I have. While I am at peace with losing a child, and learning to have peace with a hurting grieving family, I spend tons of time in doubt about my purpose in all this pain.

Why my story; so many others have gone through the same thing? I’m not a trained journalist! Do I have what it takes? Why do I want to share this story? Are my motives right? Am I sufficiently pointing people to God? Why am I doubting Christ in me?

So, as I’m listening to this sermon, encouraging strength returns as I hear of other stories of pain where God has used tragedies to share his love – Dr. Kim from South Korea, Paul in prison, among others, friends and family my pastor knows. These people didn’t plan to share their stories elaborately, nor was it them who caused the seeds of their stories to grow in the hearts of others. They just loved and shared – period!

Each time, someone loses a loved one, my heart breaks again for them with the same pain I felt when Taylor died. While it can exhaust me at times, it is not a bad pain, but a blessing of love that I know only comes from God as his compassion must pour out of my heart into theirs. God, personally, and many others poured this same love and hope into me to prepare me for loss as I grew up and others after Taylor went to heaven, so it is a totally natural thing to pass it onto others.

Listening to this sermon, I reflected on my hope shared in the current losses of others and I also realized, how God did this again with someone who wasn’t currently hurting. Last night, I walked into the hotel restaurant alone. While I am pretty comfortable eating alone with my phone, it is usually an awkward situation for many, especially those watching us who dine solo, thankful it is not them. Another lone woman cautiously asked me if I’d like to join her. Always up for an adventure, I thanked her and moved to her table as others in the restaurant smiled watching a stranger showing kindness towards me.

We shared our vastly polar reasons for being in Montana; me attending a motorcycle club convention with my husband and she, a keynote speaker at a convention. As we talked, I could see she was an intelligent highly educated veterinary professor with logical analyses of life. I didn’t sense we shared the same faith or interests, yet we found interesting conversation as I listened, fascinated with her line of work. She calmly, yet passionately explained how her job works, caring for students working with large and small animals at her university. We discussed all my last five crazy dogs, their temperaments and maladies with humor and laughter. My potentially lonely evening turned into a fun learning experience for me with a new friend, despite our differences.

Near the end of our meal, we exhausted the animal world and moved on to our families which always leads to the passing of our son. When giving a picture our beloved children, I brought Taylor up lightly but she asked for a bit more information. Within about five minutes, I shared Taylor’s passion and hope, thus my hope and some of the good that has come out of our loss. Surprisingly, this seemingly emotionally guarded woman teared up. I was touched by her compassion, but felt I needed to stop talking about me. After a bit of silence, I asked about her family. She shared and then it was time to part ways.

Who knows how much of a seed of hope for now or in the future will take root in this woman’s life from my brief story. Throughout my life, others shared their hope in the midst of their chains and thus gave me hope, courage and strength when I needed it most. So, today, my confidence was strengthened that sharing love and hope from the chains of life with this woman, I planted a seed of hope in God in her life. God is the one who will make it grow, I just share God’s story in my life.

So, what chains in life are holding you down? Have you found purpose in your pain in sharing with others? It doesn’t have to be written in a book. Like this morning, just crying with a friend who lost her granddaughter. Like last night just mentioning a short story of hope from your life with a random stranger. For my precious friends in deep loss right now, don’t try to process what you need to do, just rest in Jesus and he will open doors for you to share as you walk this journey.

That voiced, onto writing a book about hope to share with others. I won’t worry about it being well done today, my editor and God will help with that. All this from asking Jesus to direct my day. He is so faithful…

 

Faith, Grief, Healing, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized

Why You Can Say “Happy Mother’s Day” to This Grieving Mom

2015-05-06 10.55.55
“As Judy and I placed roses on our children’s graves, we both stared at the obvious conflict that it should not be us placing flowers on our children’s graves but them putting them on ours.”

This meditation is not meant to apply to every grieving mother. Not all my grieving friends would personally agree with me on this and I wouldn’t expect them to as we all grieve differently and are at different stages of grieving. However, while some people outside of the grieving family may expect the mourners to be happier after time has passed, I sense that some people expect me to be sadder. Mother’s and Father’s Day are probably the most difficult days of the year for grieving parents. I’m not saying this is easy for me but I am happy this Mother’s Day. Before I tell you the why’s, let me take you on my journey over the last two weeks.

I had a mountain top experience over the last two weeks while sharing my hope with others in a public way. Being able to share my view of Eternity with others and encourage them gives purpose to my pain and, more importantly, it gives me great joy seeing others blessed by my confidence in my Lord who created the universe. I was soaring in God’s goodness over the last two weeks as I saw the power of God change lives.

Then suddenly this past Monday, I got terribly sad and couldn’t really understand why. I read the book I’ll Love You Forever to Josie, which didn’t help! I was saying goodbye to some students which was hard, but this was different. We were also giving out Taylor’s scholarship to an amazing young man on Friday, but I was excited for that tribute. Even though I was planning a Mother’s Day gathering for our family, it didn’t hit me until Tuesday night that I was missing my son for Mother’s Day. It was a surreal unconscious grief and reminder that I’m still terribly human.

I realized the Holy Spirit was groaning and grieving for me even though I was not conscience of it. When this hits, it usually means I need to look at pictures from the past or go the cemetery and grieve, then imagine the rapture and Taylor dancing out of his grave with the others buried there. So, I called my friend Judy, who also lost a daughter to drowning the same summer as Taylor, and we went to our kids’ cemeteries and grieved along with another lady whose husband died and was buried by Taylor four years ago. As Judy and I placed roses on our children’s graves, we both marveled at the obvious conflict that it should not be us placing flowers on our children’s graves for Mother’s Day, but them putting them on ours. Beautiful time was spent sharing each others’ grief and hope. After I cried and came home, my heart was lighter and I was ready then to give out the scholarship on Friday and say goodbye to my students with minimal tears.

Last night, I received an email from my pastor about Mother’s Day. He wanted the opinions of some of us in difficult Mother’s Day situations on a beautiful blog from someone who was discussing how to honor mothers in church this Sunday but still honor those who struggle with this day. (I will post this blog after he preaches on Sunday so my church friends will hear it fresh 🙂 ).

This got me starting to think, “Why do I want people to say, ‘Happy Mothers’ Day’ to me?”

My first thought was from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) – 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

This verse was grounded in my heart for two years prior to Taylor’s death. I learned to be thankful that I had a paralyzed vocal cord, thankful that I could at least talk and was learning to be a better listener and  thankful for many more difficult situations. I had begun to learn what it meant to pray continually which led to thankfulness as God showed me his hand in every situation.

The last two days, I have been thinking of all the reasons it is okay to tell me “Happy Mothers’ Day”, even though I miss my Taylor immensely. It all comes back to gratitude…I’m thankful…

  • I am in love with the most amazing man who gave me four children.
  • I am blessed to be Taylor’s mother now and for always.
  • I had 23 and10/12ths years with Taylor with memories that I will always treasure.
  • I am mother for the 28th year to three other truly amazing earth-bound children, Shawn, Drew and Bethany, who continually bring me joy every day and deserve my joy in their lives.
  • I am mother-in-love to two powerfully kind and loving women, Angela and Michelle, who understand me in so many deep ways and love me so well.
  • I am surrogate mother to many other “kids” and students who overwhelm me with their unconditional love.
  • I am grandmother “Mimi” to little Josie who is pure joy at this house and when I read that book, I’ll Love You Forever, to her and scooped her up after reading and sang to her, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, My baby you’ll be,” she looked up at me with pure joy and smiled a smile that filled me with all the happiness in the world!
  • The Biggest Reason I’m Happy: My deepest prayer was answered for Taylor with his Heaven going and I will see him again and spend eternity with him when this moment of loss will seem like a speck of dust in the grand picture that Jesus is painting for us.

So, when you see me, don’t be afraid I might cry if you say it, just know that I may shed a tear or two but will greatly appreciate your blessing and I truly am very happy and grateful on this Mother’s Day.

Abiding, Christmas, Grief, Healing, Hope, Listening, Trust

Christmas Hope and New Year’s Reflections: My Feet Set on Earth, My Eyes, Mind, and Heart Set on Eternity with THE SON

2014-12-16 20.48.31With the second Christmas without Taylor, I’ve tried to adjust to the new normal of living without our son. Another season of peace, hope and joy…how do I keep the peace, hope and joy? What is the new Carla going to do with this joyful celebration without being a fake? As always, only by trusting The Reason for my hope do I find true joy and balance in this awkward thing called grief.

When Taylor first went to Heaven, people asked me how I was surviving with a smile. At the time I told them,

“It’s like I have one foot on Earth and one foot in Heaven. I try to stand more in Heaven and focus on the joy Taylor is experiencing with the hope of seeing him again. But then my earthly foot gets heavy and I need to grieve for the deep loss missing him so much. If I try to stay on one side too long, reality tugs to bring balance between both places.” Although this did help me get through the initial shock of my loss, it started to feel like an awkward visual to stay in balance, like doing the splits between Heaven and Earth.

I’ve further processed the truths God has given me to realize what is more accurate. I’m still a resident of Earth and that is His plan for me now at this time in eternity. He has now confirmed both my feet are on this planet, placed parallel without any ripping of my spiritual Psoas muscles, but my eyes, mind and heart are focused on Jesus in Heaven giving me a peaceful balanced stance. Each of us was created with a natural longing to see our Creator, whether that is in Heaven now or in the New Earth after He returns. However, despite the fact that we are planted here, we can and I have experienced peaceful rest in His arms and His hope.The Heaven's Declare The Glory of God

Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV) explains it so well for a believer in Jesus, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Challenges to My New Balance

Keeping the proper balance has been extremely difficult at times for me for a few reasons. The continual longing for Taylor, an enormous stream of deaths in my life, and being over committed to too many things have given me too much to carry in my humanness.

First, the reality of how long it could be until I see Taylor and Jesus is so hard to bear some days. Training my mind to focus on Heaven and seeing the bigger picture is my prescription. I can imagine what Taylor is experiencing in Heaven is so much better than what he is missing down here. Then the realization of how much eternal time I will have with him and Jesus in Heaven with our whole family is unfathomably exciting. This brings balance to my life and the actuality that, yes, in this world, until Christ restores His kingdom here, I will have sorrow and troubles but there is hope as I fix my eyes and heart on eternity.

The second reason for increased struggles was from an overwhelming load of death in my life. Our school, church and family have experienced more death in the last three years, especially in the last three months, than I have experienced in one time period during my whole life. After Taylor’s death I experienced four suicides, children dying, parents dying, uncles, brothers, it’s been crushing.

I heard Beth Moore say recently, at a Louie Giglio Passion Conference, that our enemy, Satan, wants to discourage the Body of Christ in a great way right now, possibly because end times are nearer than we know. Whether that is because end times are coming or not, I have to agree with her. When Satan sees God doing great things, he gets jealous. I don’t know if you are like me, but when someone attacks my peeps, I get angry and that makes me rise up to do battle with a righteous indignation. I will not let Satan defeat me and my peeps! I’ve read the end of the Bible and we win!! Christ is our strength and through pain Christ can be glorified and others will see that hope!!! Can you hear me shout this to remind myself? Do I hear an “Amen”?

In John 15 and 16, Jesus prepared His disciples right before He died on the cross for the hard times to come. Although they didn’t get it at the time, He explained how he had to suffer and “go away” and how they too would suffer. He promised their grieving would turn to joy and the Holy Spirit would come. He ended chapter 16 in verse 33 with,

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Take heart! Have hope! He has overcome the world and our focus on Heaven with our feet on earth is our opportunity to share this with others. We will overcome with Him! This doesn’t mean that we don’t grieve but we grieve with the assurance that this pain will last a short while.1308887019480

The third reason for my recent struggles, and probably the greatest cause of pain, was in not leaving enough margins in my life. The ability to confidently balance my earthly feet and heavenly focus is largely dependent on how I spend my time. This summer, I found that if there wasn’t purpose in my pain and I couldn’t use that pain to help others, I couldn’t deal with Taylor’s loss but God was calling me to spend more time with Him and Gary. Some people medicate pain with drugs, alcohol, or food. I medicated with doing busy good things. What actually happened was a busy over-committed schedule kept me from having space for my marriage, God and grieving, so without warning, suddenly, I completely shut down physically, mentally and spiritually. Although I didn’t need it, my bosses, family, and friends gave me “permission” to take care of myself which eased any guilt I might carry in dropping things. I quickly prioritized my life and weeded out some things that weren’t necessary.

My over commitments were good things that I could have done 20 years ago. A life-long focus for me has been Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” However, I had to finally admit that I’m a 53 year old human, carrying grief that needs a deep healing from God, and understand that just because there is a need in front of me, doesn’t mean I have to be the one to meet it. I’ve always thought, somewhat arrogantly, from that verse, that it’s up to me to take care of things needing care because I have a big God working through me. He has had to remind me to leave some of that for the others He has equipped and also assure me His arms are big enough to care for those around me who are hurting.

Identity in Christ

Along with this, I also realized, at a deeper level, my identity is not wrapped up in what I do, or my talents. My truest identity is that I’m a beloved daughter of the Most High. My first calling is to sit in his lap and just spend time with Him. Just like I love my precious granddaughter, not because of what she does, but because she is mine, so God doesn’t love me because I’m a dedicated teacher, friend or mom. He loves me, period! This has made me want to protect more time for Him, reading about Him, worshiping Him and then just listening while reflecting on His love to heal and help set new boundaries for this grandma. John 15 talks about abiding in Him so sitting on His lap has helped rebuild my heart from aches and soften my pain for others to trust Him to care for those hurting around me. The more I get to know Him, the more my hope and faith grow as I live an abundant life in the new normal.2014-12-06 10.17.25

So as we end this old year and celebrate the beautiful first coming of our Lord, I keep my heart on eternity and treasure the sacrifice God made in sending His Son as a little baby, so my son can be with Him and I will see Taylor again. During this season, I pray we can all find balance in our grief and live life to the fullest with our hearts fixed on our risen Savior in Heaven and still allow ourselves to be human with our feet planted on Earth as we ache with the deep love we have for our treasured deposits in Heaven.

John 10:10 (NIV) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Faith, Grief, Growth in Trials, Healing, Hope, Trials, worship

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.