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Mothers’ Day Prayer for My Children

Praying Scripture Over My Children

I have learned over the 30 years of parenting that praying for my children, especially as adult children, accomplishes more in their lives than lecturing them. My prayers have not been just for salvation during their lives but for abundant life in Jesus on earth. I believe in the power of intentional prayers and have seen many answers from praying scripture over my kids.

Two friends have asked me to share my Armor of God prayer I began to pray over our kids weekly this year. So for my wonderful children, Shawn, Angie, Josie, Drew, Bethany, Michelle, Paul and their new little one. I’m praying this for you all, thankful this Mother’s Day for each of you.

I’ve included Ephesians 3:16-21 which I’ve prayed since their early teen years and had etched on the back our family bench over our graves next to Taylor’s.

Ephesians 6:10-17 NIV (Italics mine).

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 

Lord I pray my children (name them) will always recognize and take hold of your strength and mighty power in their lives. I pray they will put on your full armor to stand against the enemy and his minions.

I pray they will see who is the real enemy, (not those in their conflict), and use this armor as you meant it to be used. I ask that you remind them to trust you with all you have equipped them to fight these battles. Help them know that most battles are won standing still in defense, with your armor, praying while you fight the battles for them.

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, 

 I ask that you remind them to stand firmly with truth in front of their eyes and that your truth is not clouded by deception, desires and the world. I pray your truth will be highlighted with your glory in their eyes so there is no doubt of your reality.

with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 

I ask that you remind them of your righteousness given to them from the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and that they walk as ones right with you, in honor as a child of the One True King.

15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 

Lord, help them to walk in your shoes ready to share the gospel of peace with everyone they meet. Whether it is in word or actions, may all those they meet sense your love and ask from where their peace comes.

16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

As the enemy attacks and seeks to destroy and bring doubt in the trials of life, help them lift up their shields of faith with eternal unseen eyes that will eliminate these flaming arrows, knowing you will win the war with them.

17 Take the helmet of salvation 

Please let them be ever confident in the gift of eternal life which they have accepted from you. Let them always be conscious of this amazing gift and walk in the light that comes from your resurrection power.

and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 I ask that they desire your Word and that the truth taken from your Word throughout their lives will be on the tips of their tongues as they use it in battle and share it in love with others to be able to give an answer to those that ask from where their hope comes.

Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV

Finally, Lord,

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches you strengthen my children with power through your Spirit in their inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith. And I pray that they, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that they may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

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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.

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Fully Living After Loss

 

Fully Live signature jpgSince our son Taylor’s Heaven-going journey, three years ago, I have had people frequently comment on my strength, often adding they would never make it through my journey. This statement tends to always make me uncomfortable because, while I want to appreciate the affirmation of what Christ is doing through me, I know I’m not strong. I tell them it’s all Jesus, but recently I asked the Lord to help me break this down simply to help them not live in fear of loss.

It’s actually very simple. I do nothing but decide, when I wake up, that I will trust my Creator and Savior. In every moment, I know I must intentionally keep my eyes on the hope of Heaven, remember my feet are on Earth, respecting my grief. It’s crucial I trust in two things. First I trust in Jesus’ power of His forgiveness for my sins and my son’s sins given at the cross. Second, to really live in joy, it’s imperative that I trust the power of His resurrection which provides an abundant life here and hope of eternity for all who believe. I like how my pastor put it so well last week, I must live my life in “Light of the Resurrection”. Recognizing this I have no fear of death or of living a life here without my son. As Paul put it so perfectly, “For me to live is Christ. To die is gain.”

Those who know me well, know there are many days I am not looking strong as I neglect my intentional plan and fear can grip me, especially fear for challenges my family members may be facing, especially my earth-bound children. Spending quiet time with God is the powering root to my trust and peace. Without it, I’m a pitifully weak basket case!

The Easter season after Taylor died, Bethany’s boyfriend died. I was agonizing in prayer over her pain, and the Holy Spirit very clearly spoke to my heart, “Carla, why can you so fully trust me to hold Taylor in Heaven, but you can’t seem to trust me with your children on Earth?”

I remember those words frequently as I pray for our three earth-bound children, but in order to not respond like a freaking-out crazy mom, I must intentionally believe each day that He meant what He said and will take care of my family on Earth. Fortunately, when I fail in this, He pats me on the back and says, “Let’s try this again…” So patient, is my Jesus.

On this third anniversary of our precious son’s passing, I am happy to say the routine of trust gets easier from my growing love for my Savior out of necessity of clinging to Him. I truly could not do this life without Him.

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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Tribute to My Stepdad, John M Clark

John Vivian 2 toy

John 16:33 (ESV) I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

This past month has been a roller coaster of emotions. Taylor’s wife remarried, bringing us joy as she married a good friend of Taylor’s, then my step-dad, who was friend, mentor, father and grandfather to us, suddenly turned ill. Bethany and I eagerly made a trip up to be with him when he died, returned home to work for a week, then returned to Washington for his memorial service.  Through all these emotions, I am reminded again that Jesus is always there holding our hand through the ups and downs of life.  A few people have asked me to share my tribute I shared at the memorial. I actually only shared about a third of this as the rest of our family brought out most of these points for me. We all agreed, he is and was a wonderful man, reflecting Jesus.

My Tribute to Jesus in John M Clark

I first met my step dad, John, when Gary and I went with my mom and Matt to the Kent Nazarene Family Camp in 1984 on Whidbey Island. Gary and I were drawn to his infectious humor and obviously hospitable heart. Despite his recent loss of his wife and physical challenges from having polio, his trust in Jesus, his purpose for his life, and joy were evident. We began to see Jesus in him as we spent the whole weekend playing Rook. Eventually, my mom joined us at the Rook table towards the end of the weekend.

On the ferry ride heading back home, John, and his two children, Garren and Candi, were on the same boat. I hate to admit it, as we sailed back to the mainland, I stalked them, following them around the boat finally introducing myself to the the kids. Headed back to our car, I told Gary, “I never thought I’d want my mom to re-marry but if she did, I’d hope it’s someone like John.”

Within two months, they were dating, and they were married the next March. Then began my journey to see Jesus in a deep way in John’s life.

I saw Jesus as …
He loved and cared for my mom, and helped her update her clothing style while he was at it.
He made Carolyn, Matt and I his real kids. Loving us as his own, but still respecting our dad as our dad.
He carefully planned the most meaningful Christmas presents for all of us children, with the most precious being our Christmas village they spent a few years adding to.
He mentored me in teaching with love and logic before Teaching with Love and Logic was ever written.
He modeled perseverance and said, “Anyone can do anything or tolerate anything for 3 days”.
He rarely complained about his health problems until later in life as he longed for Heaven.
Each visit moved through a couple of years of playing Rook, then graduated up to playing Mexican Train Dominoes including the kids as they got older.
It was then I saw Jesus very clearly in our lives as we all forgave John multiple times for cheating and denying it!
He adored each of his grandchildren and let them ride his scooter or wheelchair. It was a sad day when you were too big to ride on the back of his chair.
He kissed his grand kids’ fat baby cheeks and prayed for them and all of us each day.
He and Mom never fail to call all of us on our birthdays and sing Happy Birthday to us.
I saw Jesus in a profound way as
He, my mom, my Dad and his wife, Mary Lou, put God first and us kids next in their lives.

The love of Jesus was most evident and so beautifully lived out as…
He and my dad took my young teen brothers, Garren and Matt, together to Promise Keepers.
He and all my parents and Garren drove in his van together, across the state to Matt’s college graduation.
He drove my mom out to Maryland and joined my dad and Mary Lou living with my sister for a about three weeks to help Carolyn as she delivered her third baby in three and a half years and graduated with her PhD. All the parents lived in the same house and shared the duties and worked with joy to support our sister.
He and all our parents came together for almost all our life events up until two years ago when their health began to decline.
He consistently prayed for my Dad and Mary Lou and visa versa when they developed struggling health problems. As one of my dad’s (I can’t remember which one) said it so well, “We have to get along in Heaven, we just decided to get a head start”.

This honorable behavior doesn’t happen with out the Spirit of Christ’s supernatural love living in families like ours. Dad and Mary Lou are here today. John, Mom, Dad and Mary Lou, we are blessed to have had you all as incredible models of Christ’s forgiveness and love. Thank you for loving all of us and each other so well.

There were many other ways I saw Jesus in Dad Clark’s life, but most clearly I saw Jesus in his last 4 days of his life.
He went beyond his conviction to persevere through anything for three days and chose to live another 4 ½ days awake with a respirator so we could get there to say goodbye. This was an especially precious gift from God as most people on ventilators cannot live outside a coma because of the extreme discomfort.
He still welcomed old friends and family into his ICU unit with an open heart, despite his pain.
He still had his sense of humor and used those amazing eyebrows to let us know what he was thinking even though for the first time in his life his chatty tongue was restricted.
His love and compassion flowed in tears as I asked him to hug Taylor and tell him that I miss him and love him.
He treated his nurses with hospitality, not demanding anything.

As there became less of John Clark physically, Jesus became more evident than I’ve ever seen in a life.
During a prayer time we had with one of the chaplains, he nodded his head with tears and hummed an amen as I prayed for his grandchildren that he loves so much and hated to leave.
My mom prayed without normal speech problems and I saw how her faith has not wavered in all this.
He became agitated and I remembered that when our son, Taylor died, I found Psalms were so comforting to my broken heart. I asked John if he wanted me to read the Psalms, and he quickly nodded.

I began with Psalm 1. As I read him the 23rd Psalm, when I got to the part “He leads me beside still waters”, he sighed a breath of pleasure. He then used hand gestures to have me read it again. I think I must have read that Psalm at least 10 times over the two days I was with him.

The hospital staff saw Jesus too. The doctor and nurse exclaimed over John’s spunk and kind heart and the love that poured into our dad’s room from the many people who visited him. They were also amazed at the love that poured out as we all were unified in the health plans for him because we had no fear. Other rooms were quiet or had fighting. Our room had laughter, singing and scripture mixed with tears. We had confident hope that our dad modeled for us. His hope of Heaven and seeing him again erased all fear from his and our hearts and we knew he would soon be sitting at the feet of Jesus and seeing Taylor and other loved ones he had missed for years. The hospital staff said most families are arguing during this stage of life and death. Garren shared with them that it’s because of our hope and confidence in Jesus that all five of us kids were unified.

In the last couple hours of his life, I was realizing how hard it was for him to live and how hard it was to die even with the most peace-filled medical measures. We experienced a beautiful sacred time that only came from worshipping Jesus as we shared scripture and songs and watched his countenance calm. Especially beautiful was listening to his granddaughters, Kaitlyn and Bethany, hold his hands and read scripture, sharing songs, and speaking peace over their grandpa trusting the Solid Rock of a God Whom their grandpa trusted.

As his last peaceful half hour passed, he opened his eyes and looked at me. I had an incredibly desperate urge to save him and keep him from the labor of dying. However, as there was almost nothing left of the physical John, I knew I couldn’t do anything to help him, only Jesus could, so the only words that could come out of my mouth, were to whisper to God asking him to wrap his arms around this precious man and fill him with peace.

Carolyn began singing, the rest of us joined as we could. This worship laced with sobs became a path to Heaven that our dad peacefully floated on through the veil to his Savior. Through our amazing Creator, we are labored into this world, and through Him we labor out of this world if we trust Him. After all I have gone through in the last two years and now this another sad time with our family, I have become even more convinced that in the end only my faithful Jesus can bring complete real peace.

Dad Clark knew he was an imperfect human living on an imperfect earth who needed his Savior’s sacrifice on the cross. He was confident that this Savior who died for him, was the only thing that would bring him peace and give him a new body in Heaven that could walk and breathe well. We are certain our son, Taylor, was standing behind Jesus and had a snow board and surf board all ready for him after John embraced Jesus.

Before I end, I want to publicly and deeply thank Garren and Katy, Candi and Paul, JP, Kaitlyn, David, Jordyn, and Emily, I have seen Jesus as you have cared for our parents so they could stay in their home and how you are all so lovingly supporting our mom and caring for her now when Matt, Carolyn and I are so far away. With the support of Garren and Candi and Paul, Katy has felt God distinctly call her to be our mom’s caregiver. This loving sacrifice is truly a priceless gift to her and our whole family.

To everyone who has loved and prayed for us, we have all seen Jesus as he has used each of you to show your love and support and hold us up in prayer. Thank you for loving our family so well.

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Thirty-Two Years of Marriage – Not an Easy Job But Worth It!

Our Wedding Day, September 24, 1983
Our Wedding Day, September 24, 1983

I can’t let this day pass without praising God for 32 years of marriage to this amazing man. He has given me so much, most importantly, 4 beautiful children and grace. Through good and bad, I am more in love with Gary than I ever thought I could be, but a year ago, I was scared.

Divorce – NOT!

When we got married, we agreed the word “divorce” was never allowed in our vocabulary and we have stuck with that promise. We both knew marriage would not be easy but we knew we loved God enough to trust Him to take us through anything as long as we kept our eyes on Jesus. I remember as I said my vows, I drew a line in the sand of my heart and said to my Saviour, “This is it. This is the one I love and  I’m committing to. Thank you for giving me a loving devoted man.”

Joy and Sorrow – Grieving Differences

In the first 22 years, there was more joy than sorrow. Beautiful memories raising our children, wonderful friends, and growing in Jesus. The last 10 have been different and have made us realize we need God more than ever to keep our marriage together. Through each trial, we grieved differently and learned to grieve alone but still committing to keeping our eyes on God. I won’t share the whole story now, (that’s coming in my book), but a year ago, I didn’t know if our marriage would ever be happy again. It was never a thought of divorce but wondering if we would just have to resign ourselves to being sad forever. We found ourselves on different paths moving towards Jesus, wondering if we would ever be on the same path again. I was the bouncy, “let’s see the joy” member of the grieving marriage, always looking for purpose in our pain. I wanted Gary to pick up his bootstraps and find joy. He wasn’t ready for that and  I am tearfully ashamed to admit, I was impatient and not very understanding or consoling.

Undeserved Comfort

Suddenly, this summer, through different experiences, I swam through a deeper grief, more than I had since Taylor had died. It was my husband’s example of grief and his beautiful undeserved sacrificial comfort in my grief that restored a deep bond that I had forgotten existed between us. His unconditional comfort, despite the fact that I had not given him much consolation through the first two years year of our deepest grief, softened my spirit and heart as I floated down this surprising path of grief that God was taking me on.

Love Languages

As I allowed myself to fall into my husband’s arms and not try to be the strong one, a different kind of peace settled into my heart. I felt protected and cherished and began to desire to meet Gary’s loved languages – quality time and acts of service. I helped in the yard and ran errands with him, making time for him even if it might not be the most convenient time for me. My added daily summer duties became scooping poop and vacuuming the pool, chores I had despised in the past and now found comfort doing! He said these simple acts were a major blessing for him and he didn’t realize it but that blessing turned around and made me feel more loved than I had felt in many years by him.

Communication

We then began to communicate with each other and really listen to each other’s heart. We have always been a pretty decent communicating family, but this went to a whole new level. For you who know me, listening is not my dominant position. Talking is my default! I began to really listen to how Gary was feeling and ask questions to get a clearer picture of his heart. I was able to better affirm his feelings and he with mine.

New Love and Peace

Our anniversary is on the eve of Taylor’s birthday in three days and Gary’s in five days. Yes, we are dealing with sadness at a time that used to be a week of celebration. We are celebrating in a new way now rejoicing in the comfortable love and peace that is in our hearts after God has restored our hearts to a new love, deeper than we knew was possible.

Cropped Gary and Carla at McGinnis Wedding

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Beauty in Grief, Beauty in Brokenness

Tomorrow will be the second anniversary of our son’s death. I am sharing the rough draft from a chapter in my book. I usually edit and re-edit my posts, but feel the need to be real and authentic today hoping it helps others open up their hearts in grief or for some to better understand those grieving. You are getting the raw footage. I hope this more journal-like entry will bless.
While we all have different griefs and burdens to bear through our lives, losing a child is in the top 5 worse things that I could imagine happening. Despite my hope and faith, it is the worse pain and continues to be the worse pain I’ve ever had. My son, the one who punched my belly for nine months and made life energetic for our family for twenty-four years, still should be here. After two years, I still can’t get used to not hearing him say, “Love You!” when leaving for work in the morning or shouting, “Hi, Mama!” and bouncing in the door after work. Life is going on for all of us and some days I just don’t like it! I want him back!
The first year I cried almost every day and didn’t feel bad about that because I was expected to cry. Every day I would fall at the feet of Jesus with my heart and sometimes with my body, almost moment by moment so I could breathe, teach, drive, and take care of my family. Waking up to read “God’s text” in my Bible phone app, each morning craving my Bible and sitting on Jesus’ lap was essential. Listening to our Christian radio, KTSY, got me from home to school each day so I could teach my students about worship. Every moment was an opportunity to hold the hand of Jesus and look for his touch in my life.
Many of my posts shared about finding the balance between keeping my eyes on Jesus, but reminding myself that I still had my human feet on earth and needed to grieve. I thought after the first anniversary I should not cry as much. I was tired of crying! People around me were tired of my tears. The pain was still there but softer. I put my energy into work, family, and writing my book. Still having powerful unexpected moments of grief, I began to realize I needed to make sure I created margin in my life to grieve when it hit. I wanted to fight it but found that I couldn’t. When grief builds up in my heart, I must cry or I get a headache and feel like I’m going to have a heart attack or stroke.
At first these building moments were every day, then once a week, with moments spreading out to once a month. Even sharing all the positive things in my life with others didn’t take away from the fact that I still needed to grieve. I began to embrace grief and like my friend, Jessica says, honor it. I learned I had to go to the feet of Jesus, admit my pain, ask him to wash the pain with his love, then drive to the cemetery or get out old photos and home videos and have a good long cry. After that, I could go on for another period of time without deep pain, still walking with my Lord in mind throughout my days.
On this second anniversary of Taylor’s home going I am reflecting on the beauty of grief and all the good it brings. May brought a very busy schedule with the ending of school and I realized I wasn’t going to the feet of Jesus intentionally like I did when Taylor’s death was fresh and raw. I told the Lord I wanted to desire that depth again but was afraid of asking for it and suffering another tragedy. I felt peace in asking him and being honest with him, trusting he wouldn’t give me more than I could take.
I returned last month from a trip to Seattle to see my family. I had some wonderful reunions with family but also had to see the stress my immediate family is under in caring for my ailing mom. I began to grieve for her, for them, and all the answers we need for helping her. It was a new kind of grief that exhausted me. Being there for three weeks, an intense ache grew in my heart for Gary and home. I was weak and needed God and my husband like I had never needed before.
With not much strength, I then returned to Boise and began to mourn for Taylor deeper than I had in a long time as we passed what should have been his second wedding anniversary. My prayers had been answered for God to give his wife, Michelle, a wonderful fiancé that would love her and the Lord. In my mind, my immense joy over this should over shadow Taylor’s death as it had been doing since their engagement in January.
I couldn’t understand why I was almost feeling the raw bitter pain of his death again. Then I realized the beauty of grief in that moment was that God had answered my prayer and I was drawn to be with him intimately at his feet, on his lap, in his Word, just worshiping him for who he is and receiving that love that can only come from him.
Up until this time, Gary and I had been grieving on different time lines and not together. When I got home we began to grieve together, he was now the strong one holding me up and encouraging me. Grief not only drew me again to God but to my husband. I allowed myself to be broken and not insist on being the strong one. The brokenness I felt was a freeing relief to admit that I didn’t always have to have it all together. It was the release of a burden and a blessing to our marriage to allow Gary to share in my pain.
After crying for a week around the wedding anniversary, I started my two summer jobs and got distracted a bit from my sorrow. It’s not a bad thing, but it did make me think I would get through this weekend without crying. Thursday, I realized it was two years since the last time I had seen Taylor. Yesterday, Saturday the 18th, was the anniversary of the last time I spoke to him on the phone arranging a time for him and Michelle to give us their gifts from Maui and I began to get the ache in my heart again and knew I’d need to go to the cemetery after church on Sunday. Today, planning to make it to church, I began to cry realizing I needed to go to the cemetery this morning or I’d just cry all morning in church. Deciding to go to the grave site, a fleeting thought came to me that I would like to see a young couple, Thom and Jessica, I’d met at the cemetery who had lost a baby a month after Taylor died and was buried near him. They had a new baby and I wanted to see her.
I had hoped to take some of the lilies that we had planted for Taylor’s and Michelle’s rehearsal dinner. They didn’t bloom for that event but bloomed the week of his death. Yesterday the white ones were wilting and the pink Star Gazer lilies were not open. Getting ready today, I decided to take my favorite roses that my Grandma Bernice had introduced to me, Peace Roses. They emit a rich deep peachy smell and spark something in my heart when I look at them and hold them reminding me of my grandma.
As I walked out the back door with my clippers, I looked towards the white lilies and the Star Gazer lilies were in bloom! I couldn’t keep my tears of gratitude from falling as I went out and clipped two of them. God was so good. Gathering up my flowers and some things to clean Taylor’s stone, I began my thirty minute drive. Normally, I drive and cry then the tears turn off as I arrive at the cemetery. This time, they didn’t turn off.
I continued to cry as I wiped Taylor’s stone off in the warming morning sun. I felt like I did when stroking his feet when he died and like I did when I was caring for him as a baby, changing his diaper or giving him a bath. It was an act of serving him in a way that brought comfort to my mama heart. I told him how much I missed him still and ached for the day of Christ’s return. I read his scripture, Romans 8:38-39, on the back of his stone next to his picture with confidence and faith knowing Taylor was happy and I would see him again. I talked to God but can’t tell you what I said in words. Words from my heart emitted from my spirit as I cleaned knowing the Spirit was praying for me.
After arranging the flowers and organizing my things, I looked over to where my friends, Thom and Jessica’s baby was buried and they were there with their new little one! They had gone to church and decided on a whim to come up to the cemetery. We had a wonderful conversation and they ministered to me in my sorrow today. They are the younger ones and God used them to touch this grandma’s heart in sweet ways. Grief beautifully brings people together and expands our ability to love.
I’m having lunch with Michelle tomorrow. I’m not sure how tomorrow will go but I will allow waves of grief flow and welcome them knowing beauty comes, not from my strength, but from my brokenness as I allow my hurting heart to open up and let God, Gary and others love on me. 2015-07-19 10.30.29

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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.

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Renewed Promise of Hope

June 21-22, 2014

One year ago tonight, we were rehearsing for the happiest day of our lives. There were many obstacles trying to prevent Taylor and Michelle’s wedding from being all they had dreamed. Her wonderful mother, Dana, and I were nervous as so many things seemed to be going wrong. As we were trying to quietly practice the wedding ceremony, the double booked party at our event center began to spread outside where we were.

Out popped a very dear CVCS teacher who was close to most of the wedding party, Claudia Mehlhaff. As we visited with her, the joy and concern disappeared from mine and Michelle’s mom’s faces. As we turned back to finish the rehearsal, this beautiful perfect rainbow, photographed by my brother, Matt, hung over the backdrop to the wedding ceremony. Dana and I knew the wedding was to be perfect and God wanted us to trust Him with everything.

The wedding day was anointed and many commented on the sweet joyful spirit that filled the evening. We all felt the special presence of the Holy Spirit and I wondered at the time why He would shower us with so much joy and hope. He knew we would have to hold onto that moment as the year passed on from there. He also knew that I would need my precious “daughter-in-love” to sweeten our lives. I’m so grateful for her!

This week has been perhaps one of the hardest for me, yet today as I was allowing myself to grieve today, at just the right moment God sent a text through someone, who normally does not text me, with a word of encouragement, He prompted a friend to call me that I was aching to talk to, and He gave me a massage therapist who understood my faith and needed to hear my story today for her own encouragement. All week messages from so many on Facebook and others I have seen have loved on me for God reminding me of His rainbow promise from last year. He is so faithful!

Once again I began to start thanking God for his constant faithfulness to meet me where I am and to help me get through another stage of grief, another first, another “should have been”. I’m thankful for Michelle and her wonderful family, for my precious husband and our amazing children, Shawn, Drew, Bethany, Angie and Josie. I’m thankful for Taylor and Michelle’s friends and their constant love and support and for all of them, like Paul, who are taking such good care of our “daughter-in-love”. I’m again thankful for all of you who have been so faithful to pray and love on us this year in ways I’ve never felt loved before!

Most of all I’m thankful for our story of hope: When grief hits so hard I can’t breathe, I can look up to the Giver of Hope and rejoice knowing He has overcome the world!

John 16:33 (NIV) “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.” (Bethany’s favorite verse).Image

 

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Kisses and Miracles Never Cease

The last few weeks have been difficult – Valentine’s and family Birthdays without Taylor, going through his things, traveling, illness, walking through grief with others. Weary and exhausted today, I asked God again for an extra ounce of strength in this very busy week. As usual, He faithful provided it in unexpected ways.

Two of my students’ and their mom are walking through the final stages of brain cancer with their dad. The younger of the two girls is in my elementary worship team. Knowing how much worship has been the key to my strength this year and realizing that this daddy had not ever seen his little girl help lead chapel, the Lord put in on mine and my co-director’s heart to take the worship team to their house today for a time of worship.

The first kiss from God came in the songs we had chosen to sing. They were not handpicked by us for this family. My co-director had chosen our list of songs to sing at the Rescue Mission the week before, so it was an easy decision to use all those songs for our visit today. But as we sang each of the 7 songs, it became evident that the Lord handpicked them for this family as the messages were specifically for their situation.

The second kiss, truly a miracle, from God came in the response from this father. He has not been able to talk very well for a month nor has he been able to speak at all for the past week. In each of the songs, he was able to mouth almost every word. From an old hymn to new worship songs, he participated silently and blessed each of us as we saw him connect with our Lord in pure worship. His wife watched with us in awe. The miracle of seeing that sweet man of God expressing his love for his Savior on his lips will be forever imprinted in my mind.

The concluding kiss came at the end. When we were done, we noticed a little statue on a nearby shelf that had our school theme for the month of March with our verse of the month: FAITH – Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” A perfect ending to a perfect moment planned by God.

Not only did I get that extra ounce (actually pounds) of strength, but our students and all of us were able to see the face of God and feel His love and encouragement in the midst of pain. We left with confidence and tearful joy that His love would remain there, wrapping this precious family in peace and comfort.

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Kisses Come From God When We Need Them Most

As of yesterday, January 20, 2014, our son, Taylor has been in Heaven for 6 months. I don’t see this as “six months without him” but “six months closer to seeing him in Heaven!” Some days I need reminders of this and, once again, God sends me a kiss reminding me He is in control and loves me.

 I was began missing him deeply today when Taylor’s friend, Kevin McGinnis, emailed me the tribute he read at Taylor’s Celebration of Life Memorial Service. It once again fired my hope and understanding that Taylor’s life was not lived in vain, he is in the best place with the Most High, and that we are to carry on for him with the same kind of joy he gave to all of us with determination and confidence in Christ in us! Thank you, Kevin!

 From Kevin McGinnis – July 27, 2013
                 Last Saturday evening I was alone in my living quarters at work when I received news of Taylor’s passing.  I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t understand it.  I asked God why…why Taylor?  But I know without a doubt that Satan wanted Taylor gone because look at how many people have gathered here– how many people Taylor impacted.  And this isn’t even close to everybody.  For every good friend I ever had in life, Taylor had twenty-seven.  It’s no wonder why Satan wanted this Spiritual Warrior gone–but now I know God’s getting the last say.  I picture God sitting next to Taylor looking down at us, nudging him for a laugh to say “See Taylor, that’s why I chose you- because out of you came 100 warriors.  And more to come!”

          Taylor undoubtedly lived more than a full life in his 23 years– he had time to be a brother, son, friend, and husband.  A drummer, singer, skateboarder and snowboarder.  A fighter, forgiver, dancer, and adventurer.  He did parkour, back flips, wake surfing, and fishing.  He was a do-it-all man with friends and with God; he never stopped growing, and always learned new talents.

          As far as him being an artist– I remember his two large paintings on his bedroom walls–and his many smaller drawings and paintings all representing something special, something important.  Whether it was a dream, vision, feeling, or memory, he was able to display it with color.  Colorful dreams, colorful memories.

          Aside from drumming, he loved to call me up to come over to hear his new acoustic songs as he finished them.  I’d go upstairs to his room and listen to his dedicated works where each word in the lyrics was selected to be in there, every line meant something special to him.  Again, his colorful attitude shown in his poetry and lyrics…out of music came his feelings and emotions.

          Speaking of music– I know many relate to his moments on the way to the skate park or up to Bogus when he’d be driving Carla’s minivan and blaring Coheed and Cambria or screamo, or on other days Taylor Swift.  He wasn’t stuck in any one genre, he lived open to anything– and found the good in everything.  So if Taylor Swift fit the mood, I’d suck it up and sing along with him.

          The storyteller in Taylor was something special.  He could turn Bambi into lions, a mole hill into mountains, and a puddle into a pond with fountains.  I don’t think, now, that he realized some stories were larger than real life, because it wasn’t the size of the fish that mattered to Taylor– it was the excitement behind catching the fish– so to say.

          Speaking of excitement, I hope you all had a chance to watch Taylor dance at some point.  As with everything else, he had a gift for it.  I would spin, he would spin kick.  I would jump, he would back flip.  I would try to shake it, but he already was.

          I think he was a self taught genius when it came to his many talents– because when I’d be on YouTube looking up How To’s, he would be out trying things.  Experimenting and experiencing.  That’s what Taylor’s life was about…adventure.

          Above all else, Taylor was a lover.  He was the one brother in Christ that I had a true connection with for years.  We always made it a point to have nights alone to share feelings, hardships, blessings, and relationships.  Always positive and full of advice, he was a man of morals.  As we could see with his beautiful marriage to Michelle, he understood God’s love.  He knew how to treat his lady right and follow Rule #3.  Never forget Rule #3, Everybody Love Everybody.

          The Word of God says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” and that was true of Taylor to more friends than just me.  The Scripture also says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” and this, too, rings true of our brother Tay.

          This isn’t a time to recognize death, but to honor life.  I find rejoicing today because of Taylor’s life.  The Bible tells us that this battle in life is not of flesh and blood, but between the angels and demons.  This is a Spiritual world.  Taylor’s body was not the most important part of Taylor– it was his Spirit, and that is more alive now than ever… Taylor is more alive now than ever.  If you don’t know the love of Jesus, you couldn’t have understood the love of Taylor.  Recognizing his life is where I begin today–starting to step out of myself and into God.

          If I could thank Taylor today, I would say to him, “Brother, you have lived as God asks us to, and through you I knew him more.  You showed me how to fight this worldly battle–you showed me how to win.  Thank you for your example in love.  Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for the Light you left behind, it is burning ever brighter like the first Light of day.  I promise to God, because of your life, that I, too, will share this Light.  I love you, brother, thank you for your life.”

          And to all of you here, I mean that, if  you haven’t found Jesus, you haven’t found life.  I am confident that Taylor showed you love, and that’s the first step to finding Life.  Talk to me, talk to Michelle, talk to the Woods or Jamison, Paul or Trevor.  Ask anybody for more Love, and you will end up finding Jesus.  Use Taylor’s life as motivation.  Use Taylor’s life as a celebration.

          I started a new habit today honoring God as Taylor showed me to, with every moment.  I find rejoicing at this Celebration of Taylor’s Life.  I miss Taylor… but I am ready to accept his eternal life because it gives so many of us a reason for a Celebration of Life, every day.

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KEVIN AND TAYLOR ON A BOATING TRIP 🙂