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

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“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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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.”

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

 

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.

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 🙂

 

A Christmas Carol: My Thoughts on Tiny Tim

“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart’s content.

“As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

A couple of years ago, my obsession with A Christmas Carol became evident to my family. My son, Taylor, who resides now in Heaven, asked, “Mama, why do you have every version of that movie possible!? Don’t you get sick of it?”

“It’s the best movie ever, Taylor, because it always reminds me of what is really important at Christmas. Besides, what a blast to watch Scrooge shock everyone at the end!”

My favorite versions are the ones where, in the end, you get to see the presents Scrooge showers on people who have feared him. The best shocker is where Mrs. Cratchit doesn’t know whether to karate chop Scrooge Miss Piggy-style or wrap him in a huge bear hug.

The compassionate depth of this story is obvious to me except one line that always confounded me: Tiny Tim’s comment quoted by his father, “…that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.” – Until this year.

Would it be asking for pity if it were me? This year, it has become real to me. Although five months have passed, I still get to share with people the familiar phrase, “Our son, Taylor, was married and twenty-eight days later went to be with Jesus.” I finally get Tiny Tim! Sometimes I hesitate to share the news because I don’t want people to think I’m looking for pity. But I am truly thankful for this tragedy so I can share my next phrase of hope and my anchor, “But I know for certain he is with Jesus and our Lord is doing great things with this loss and holding me up in joy as I hold His hand tighter than ever!”

Last night, I saw a friend who did not know of our loss. I shared the first part of the story, and then we were interrupted. Thinking of Tiny Tim, I couldn’t go on today until I called him to share the rest of the story. I don’t want to share my story without the joy because there is no need for pity, just a chance to share, that in the midst of trials, there is hope for everyone. Tiny Tim saw the silver lining of gratitude in his life. When others see me, may it be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made a way for my son to have eternal life.

Merry Christmas.  I pray for silver lining perspective in each heart and “God bless us, every one!”

Thankful for Surprised Amazement

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

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

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

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

Eucharisteo always precedes a miracle!” (Voskamp)Image

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