Abiding, Freedom, Grief, Healing, Living in the Moment

A Deeper Healing Journey Begun…Be in the Moment…Rest…Freedom From Heaviness…

I listened to this new song, Freedom, by my friend, Cindy, this morning. It reminded me of my journey after a long roller coaster season of grief. In the last 7 years, I have experienced sharp pain, healing in hope, practicing joy, going back into time of healing, then grieving again.
Last year began with finding joy appearing naturally, hope rising to give me strength, only to find more places God desires to heal, tears, then wanting the roller coaster to end. Asking for direction, God revealed to me powerfully, as I crashed physically, I was letting work become my alcohol hiding unresolved pain from all the death I had experienced.
He invited me to join Him on a journey to heal me deeper in body, mind and spirit. Gradually, I’ve realized over the last year, this means, first, practicing rest then learning to surrender and take the waves of life, living in the moment God gave me. Not dwelling on the past or intense planning for the future, leads to finding joy and a deeper surrender of aches and pain, continuing to rest in the arms of Jesus.
God gave me Cindy’s song, then let me see the peek of spring sunshine in a walk today. I felt a new freedom from heaviness, and it opened my heart to see the hope that healing is progressing, reminding me again that this is what it feels like to really live again.
I know this season of healing and rest is not over, it may rain or even snow tomorrow, but the peace that has come has brought new life energy in this moment that I will remember in the next wave of life.
Listen to Cindy’s song, be in the moment, rest in His arms and ask Jesus what you need to let Him carry for you.
Psalm 118:24
This is the day which the LORD has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

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.”

 

Healing, Hope, joy, Psalm 30:5, Uncategorized

Surprised by Laughter and Deep Joy

Psalm 30:5b (Good News Translation)

Tears may flow in the night,
    but joy comes in the morning.

When you lose a child, happiness is hard to find. You practice joy and fun for years, hoping one day it will come naturally. You focus on your hope of Heaven and look for God’s fingerprints in your tragedy. Each year it becomes a little easier, yet you forget what a truly good belly laugh really feels like. Then one day, you are surprised by joy and it takes your breath away.

Tonight was one of those brief powerful kisses-from-God-moments for me. First, I was listening to our firstborn talk about his seven-year-old daughter and the joy in her precocious observations of life. I felt a sudden burst of emotions of joy mixed with awe and pride over what a wonderful dad Shawn is. I had to ask him to scoot over and sit next to me so I could hug him and just tell him how proud I am of what an amazing dad he is.

A few minutes later, Bethany showed me a “princess post” on Facebook comparing Disney princesses to what we really would be like if we were that princess as real humans. Suddenly, I saw myself in those truly human versions of princesses and was overtaken with such deep humor, giggling and joy that I couldn’t stop laughing and my belly hurt and is still hurting now, an hour later.

God promises in this Psalm that weeping will last for a time, but joy is on its way. I wasn’t looking for joy tonight, yet it showed up, (maybe with a little help from caffeine).

Princess Photos with Belly Laugh Videos Bethany Took in the Comments

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.

Gratitude, Growth in Trials, Healing, Listening, Quiet, Stillness, Talents

Putting on My Eyes of Faith Rather than My Eyes of Fear

slide1After hearing teaching from someone, I take in God’s truths deeper when I can process them through writing or re-communicate them through art. I planned to create this scripture picture on Sunday after Josh’s sermon and his point to put on eyes of faith rather than fear. For some reason, didn’t feel led to do it then. My meditations would have probably been life giving and would have most likely looked the same in this picture. However, since Monday, there have been things in my life, not to mention the news, that make this scripture and line of thought even more meaningful and healing in my meditations now.

Four years ago, I lost my voice from a paralyzed vocal cord, never thinking I would ever speak or sing again. I even jumped the gun and left my job, “retiring” thinking my teaching days were over.  Monday the same problems began again in my voice from over working them. To protect my re-calling to teach, I felt the Lord ask me to back off singing in choir at church, my favorite and most natural way to serve and worship God. I have been through this before and have a healthy plan for caring for my voice but, nevertheless, grief with fear creeps in.

Will I ever get my full voice back again? Will I be able to keep teaching? Can I sit in church without crying because I can’t sing? Who am I without my voice?

I asked those questions for a year back in 2012. At first, my “eyes of fear” gripped me and I wasn’t able to see God’s purpose in losing the most treasured talent He had given me. When I intentionally trusted Him, put on my “eyes of faith” and thanked him for what I had, the light dawned on His purpose – to draw me closer to Him.

God eventually restored my voice, despite a continued paralyzed vocal cord, but during my “somewhat” time of silence, God taught me to be still and listen for a deeper healing that I needed from Him. Again, this year, He has tried to help me be silent and listen to His voice and to those around me. (Exodus 14:14 and Zephaniah 3:17). With God, I tend to do more talking than listening and with people, I tend to want to put in the last word of knowledge and have an answer for everyone’s problems.

My time of silence four years ago, taught me that resting in him is my greatest calling and was a light in the darkness of what I felt I was losing. Again, life has become so busy for me that my brain has not been able to settle long enough to hear His voice. My chattering has increased again. Time to re-set!

As I have pondered silence again, this seemingly dark vocal issue is another gift of light that draws me closer to my Creator. I know the worst could happen, I may struggle the rest of my life with my voice or lose it completely. However, I also know I am not my voice, I am a child of God. “Eyes of faith” and His voice are what I need.

As of now, I rejoice that, carefully, I can still teach and help the next generation worship and appreciate music. Yesterday, at our school Veteran’s Day program, I was unable to sing. Because I stepped back, my students rose up and sang the best I have ever heart them sing. Christ shined through them as I hung back. The best and greatest hope I have is that I will be able to sing in eternity forever, without strained vocal muscles.

If you are struggling in fear, whether personal or global, be encouraged! Get rid of “eyes of fear” and put on your “eyes of faith” to see The Light, God’s Son, God with Us, who will not let us drown in the darkness of our fears our trials.

God's Silence, Healing, Listening, Quiet, Stillness, Uncategorized

Silence in The Divine Romance

zephaniah-3-17-candle

My life has been a habitual journey of looking for God in everything.
Listening for his loud exclamations of adoration towards me and searching for gifts of obvious truth for my life in his Word, creation, in small and large miracles, have been the highlights of my life. His acts of revelation are how he romances us drawing us closer to himself and to remind us he is still here. The footprints of his love are everywhere to be found if we only keep our eyes and ears open, anticipating his next act of love.

When our son died, this habit was the tool that gave me strength to survive. God frequently revealed his love to me in special ways from the hummingbird, never seen before, at the cemetery which hovered over Taylor’s casket, looked at us all then flew over us, to dreams that comforted my heart, gave me hope and spoke to me clearly what God wanted to change in my heart. I began to expect constant clear signs of love from him, especially this summer as I had planned to finish my book about my life journey and God’s hand in our grief.

However, this past June started another season of God’s silence. Voicing my concern about this, my boss, Shelly, reminded me that God often says the most in his sweet whispers. I was asking for fireworks and needed to patiently wait for sweet candlelight. This started a deep season of listening and I did hear his whisper as he directed my plans for finishing a book, instead, towards grieving the loss of my mom and stepdad, spending time with friends and family plus harvesting an abundance of fruit in our back yard, which in itself is a text book of God’s wisdom! School started the week after we returned from my mom’s memorial. Back to a more rigorous teaching schedule, I’ve struggled with God’s apparent continued silence.

Guilt began to set in because I was REALLY getting tired of his silence at the same time wondering if I was doing something wrong as I felt so dry in my walk.  It was hard dealing with remorse for wanting more from the Creator of the Universe. While I forced myself to read my Bible each day, it was difficult to trust not knowing if God was going to say anything that would give me a spark of inspiration.

Reading the Psalms encouraged and reminded me that David too cried out to God, his Rock, to not be silent.

Psalm 28:1 (NIV)
To you, Lord, I call;
you are my Rock,
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who go down to the pit.

Psalm 83:1 (ESV)
O God, do not keep silence;
do not hold your peace or be still, O God!

Here was the man after God’s heart telling him to not be still! It made me laugh but at the same time gave me boldness to humbly continue to ask God to help me hear his words of love and guidance. In his sweet faithful patience, he did again, quietly.

My Lord gently surprised me one day around our wedding anniversary. After Taylor’s death, as I’ve said before, Gary and I began our journey of grief pretty much separately. He was unable to show his love well to me while drowning in grief. I was unable to show my love adequately to him as his weight of grief was too heavy for me to carry. Yet there was one constant thing we both knew for sure, we loved each other. Many times the best we could do was to sit on our porch swing and silently look at the stars or watch a movie together.

It’s been an up and down journey the last few years, but over the last few months, the Lord whispered to me to spend more time with Gary, rather than in writing. He quietly encouraged to me to trust Gary’s love and more purposefully show my love to him with his love languages, quality time and physical touch. I began to, once again, look for ways to spend time with him. If he asked me to go on an errand with him, even if it wasn’t convenient, I went. God reminded me to stop and rub Gary’s tense shoulders, even if I was feeling weak that day. Purposefully making him meals that he loved, even if they weren’t on my health-kick diet, became a habit again. I wrote him a letter and made  a video of our lives that affirmed his love and his pain which touched his heart deeper than I expected. That special peace in our marriage again began to grow.

On our 33rd Anniversary in September, Gary started to respond like the man I married and there was a spark of life in him as we celebrated the best anniversary since Taylor had gone to Heaven. He romanced me in the ways he knew I loved, a sweet card with words of encouragement, suggestions to go out to dinner and planning our next getaway. That comfortable long-life love began to show itself in our relationship even though it had been dormant off and on for three years. It wasn’t fireworks, but definitely sparklers coming alive again in our marriage.

As I meditated on this last week and looked into Gary’s eyes, I felt tears of awe as I realized he was unintentionally reminding me, through our love, that God does not always romance us with wine and roses every day either, yet his comforting love is always present and faithful.

Zephaniah 3: 17 is a verse that has fascinated me the last few years as I get energized hearing the words,

“he will rejoice over you with gladness” and
“he will exult over you with loud singing.”

It’s amazing how I missed the phrase between these two,

“he will quiet you by his love”.

God quietly revealed to me, through my husband, that he is not a boring lover. He wants to share times of silence with us just looking at the stars, gentle times of reminding us in whispers of his love in our quiet times, as well as delighting over us with shouts of his adoration and revelations of plans for our lives.

If the Divine Romance was always fireworks and loud surprises, we would miss the quiet and silent moments that fuel us with peace and deep confidence that our Lord’s love is solid whether he is shouting, speaking softly over us or loving us in silence.

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, Healing, Quiet, Stillness, strength

Cultivating My Heart Soil by Sitting Cocooning on God’s Lap

Luke 5:16
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Christmas break was a time of reflection for me in preparation for a half-time sabbatical I am taking this semester to cocoon with God, write a book, seek his will for my life and, most importantly, to make time for him to heal my sorrowed heart deeper after the death of our son. Like our Pastor Matt talked about today, I needed to cultivate the soil in my heart and spirit to ready it to receive wisdom and receive deeper growth in my heart.

I spent time, each morning, asking Holy Spirit to prepare my heart for this anticipated journey. We had the blessing of the “crud” that kept our Christmas simple and kept us from doing too much. Although it was a break from teaching, I didn’t sleep in late, blessed to awake before everyone else and sit in my God-spot that had been “God’s lap” for me for about ten years.

We are privileged to have our three earth-bound adult children and our eldest son’s wife and daughter living in our home right now. Most every morning, our two and a half year old granddaughter, Josie, on waking, would venture out past the living room. “Where’s Mimi?” Finding me with her sweet sleepy smile, she crawled up, postponing her morning juice to simply rest her head on my chest while I kissed her soft fine hair.2015-01-11 14.49.13

Normally talkative Josie didn’t ask for anything, rarely said anything, and definitely was too tired to be distracted by any toys, food, or television. She just wanted to be with me. We would sit for about ten to fifteen minutes immersed in enjoying each others’ presence. I was overwhelmed with the love and joy it brought me realizing she would choose to be with me just because she loved me and felt safe. Although providing care and giving her good gifts are fulfilling too, being loved because I am Mimi and not because I could give her something or kiss a new boo-boo was the most fulfilling human feeling I have ever had.

It was obvious to me the first time this happened, “This is how God feels!” Maybe my inability to think and reason in the morning is not an old-age curse but is his way of making a way for me to just sit on his lap, letting him know I love him. I began adoring him, not because I want healing, comfort from someone’s unkindness, or help in paying the bills, but because HE IS Papa.

This has opened up a door for me to have the most wonderful first week of the New Year as I’ve sat on his lap each morning with my tea, doing nothing. Then as the love flowed and he woke my tired mind, I was drawn to read the books and the Word he wanted to plant into my heart. That led to a flow of writing that healed and restored my trust in Him as I retold the story of his faithfulness in my past. That in turn fueled my plans for our Friday chapel. I was not tired in chapel, although I had a short night of sleep. God filled me with the enthusiasm to share the joy found resting and trusting in a loving God.

Although God has taught this principle to me many times over, I have repeatedly cycled through times of being too busy, having superficial routine Bible reading and prayer, and then being forced to rest to remember his grace. I’ve realized over the last month, at a deeper level than ever before, if I don’t leave margin in my life for qualitative quantifying time with God, I cannot possibly function in my gifting he has given me with joy. The circumstances that were dragging me down before last week are still there, but they are not heavy on my heart. I’m eager to share the peace I have with others and trust God even more with my circumstances.

Josie was just out here as I began typing this. Awake and full from her breakfast at 10:00 AM, she carried a butterfly bookmark. She wanted to show it to me. I asked her to get on my lap, hoping for one of these moments I was to write about and she complied. But it was short lived as she wanted to chatter about her butterfly, then about going shopping, then, she was down distracted by another toy, etc. Disappointed, I thought of all the times I sit down, start to pray, open my computer to “have it ready” for when I’m done with my God time, notice an email, make sure none of my kids text’d me last night, check Facebook to see if anyone needed prayer….Do you know what I mean?

I don’t look at sweet Josie for what she can do for me. I just love her and enjoy being with her. Although I don’t know how God can love a messed up broken woman like me, I know he does and he deserves at least a hug and special time in the morning but more importantly I need that “no-expectations-time” on his lap each day to be able to live life to the fullest abundantly in this broken world.

Cultivating the soil of our lives to produce fruit always begins with immersing ourselves in God’s unconditional love and grace. What comes after that is truly amazing and I don’t ever want to forget the miracles that came into my heart this week as I waited on his lap for the love to flow into my heart with mercy and grace so that I could rise up in his wings to fulfill his calling for me this week.

Isaiah 40:30-31English Standard Version (ESV)

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

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.”