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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.”

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