An Unlikely Combination Since the beginning of November, the act of having a thankful heart has been at the forefront of my mind. I have pondered and wrestled through some deep waters trying to figure out how to change the trajectory of my less-than-thankful heart. […]
Our bedroom has a revolving door most mornings; today was no exception. Joshua, our youngest, climbed into bed with us after a middle of the night potty accident. He gives the sweetest wake-up calls, usually greeting me with a hug around the neck and multiple kisses; first my cheeks and then two more, one for each closed eye. He finally makes his way out of our bed, and I breathe a sigh of relief as I hear his little feet padding down the stairs to see his Daddy.
Moments later, again the door opens, and I spy our sleepy-eyed Sammy boy, he’s nine-years-old, and a notorious cuddler. He melts into my arms, and I kiss his little cheeks say, “Good morning, Buddy.”
While he lies next to me a moment longer, seven-year-old Luke makes his effervescent appearance, throwing on the light while simultaneously releasing a newly captured butterfly into our bedroom, where I am sure it still hiding. After yelling, I mean telling Luke to turn off the light, I call him to me and greet him with his morning hugs. He melts and breathes an audible sigh of relief as I rub his hair and say, “Good morning, Lukie-bug.”
It’s 7:00 a.m., and it’s time for me to start the day. The big boys head downstairs, and I pick up my phone. My heart freezes as I read the devastating news, sweet friends lost their baby girl this morning. Tears pour down my cheeks, and I pray for them, pleading with God to comfort them and to be near. I feel entirely inadequate to write anything of worth that might be of help to this dear sister. It doesn’t matter that I am a Mom who lost their child, there are just no good words.
Heavy-hearted, I willed myself out of bed and went downstairs to help with breakfast preparation. I couldn’t help but think of the first hours we found out we’d lost Justin. I remember the peace within the chaos, the whirlwind of emotions, the disbelief that he was gone, and the dear people who surrounded us. I shared the news with Tim, and we took a moment and prayed for their sweet family, again, with fresh tears. Oh, God, please be near to them.
Breakfast prep was underway; two were having Malto-meal, one wanted cold cereal, and of course, everyone wanted eggs. One of our boys who has been having an issue with a quick tongue landed himself in time-out after making a snarky comment to one of his brothers. Said child has a sharper wit than I could ever dream of having; no doubt he inherited it from his Daddy.
Finally, we all sat down to breakfast and thanked the Lord for our food and a new day. It was a relatively peaceful meal, indeed a gift. The boys went out back to play, and Tim and I shared our morning cup of coffee together. Oh, how quickly the times passes once we sit down together. Before I knew it, it was time for him to begin his work day, He has a whole 10-second commute since he works from home. With a kiss and a hug, I am on my own.
I get the boys situated and do a rare thing; I started a movie for them at 9:00 a.m. We haven’t begun our school year yet since it’s only the end of July; when we still lived in Texas, I usually started after Labor Day. I am not sure when we will start-up again, most likely mid-August. Honestly, I can hardly remember our last school year; it’s all a fog. I limped through every single day, and by the grace of God, we survived. Throughout this last week, I made a little progress and started cleaning out our homeschool closet, have mercy! All of that to say, they watched a movie so that I could savor some time in the Word, in the end, this small act produces sanity for this Mama. Today, I am thinking on Isaiah 2:22, ‘Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?’ This truth speaks volumes for my desire for approval. It’s all vanity, for man is merely like me, we each require the same air to breathe, and we will all answer to our Maker one day. I write in my journal, ‘Self, keep your eyes on Jesus and off of man.’
Well, the boy with the quick tongue landed himself in time-out again. He cheered when his brother fell, because, in his words, he was angry with his him and he deserved it. Once his time was served, we talked. We talked about Jesus’ words, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Incidentally, this is the same child who asked me earlier this week if there was a “special pill” he could take so he could be kind to others. I tried hard not to laugh at that one. In the end, I told him Jesus is the answer, always Jesus. Afterward, he shared with me how he missed Justin and lamented how everything was more fun with Justin. Oh, how right he is. I told him I missed him too and agreed with him, yes, everything was more fun when Justin was with us. We ended our conversation with a hug and both of us determined we would figure out how to have fun without Justin. Because, well, there’s no other option.
As I sit here and write, I am aware that my to-do list is ever-increasing;
- There’s an unpleasant odor wafting in from the garage; one our boys unplugged the extra freezer in the garage sometime earlier this week. Although my awesome husband emptied the contents of the freezer last night, the stench remains, and I need to find a remedy for that horrid smell.
- Oh and earlier this week, Tim noticed our kitchen island is rotting at the bottom, most likely from past water damage. I can hardly wrap my mind around that one. That is a massive project, and we neither have the emotional or financial resources for such a thing right now. Help, Lord!
- Not exactly abnormal for me, but this morning, I had to rewash a load of the boys’ clothes that sat in the washer one too many days, I must remember to transfer that load!
- And, speaking of laundry, the basket of clean clothes needs to be put away today. It has been sitting there for days, at least they’re folded.
- Our downstairs bathroom is a terrifying place to walk into right now because it’s frequented by three little boys with very poor aim; a hazmat suit might be in order.
All of these things are typical for running a household; except when you are walking through grief. The most mundane task seems to take every ounce of energy I possess. It reminds me of the time I went to on a mission trip to Mexico for spring break my senior year of high school. We were camped out in tents in this big and beautiful open field. The first day was lovely until it started raining. Soon the vast expanse turned into one massive pit of mud; when we tried to walk anywhere, our shoes became one with the earth as they were promptly suctioned off of our feet. Walking through grief feels a lot like that spring break trip. I declared I would never go back to Mexico; God had other plans for me; a different story for another day.
It’s noon now, and I need to get lunch started. Which reminds me, I have no idea what we are having for dinner, but I better decide soon. We have had a reasonably peaceful morning. I only had to break up a few arguments, and I issued less than five time-outs; that’s a win and boy, do I need a win.
Before I forget, I am transferring that load of laundry, now!
Forever held in His grip,
I wanted to run and hide to ease the pain somehow, I was weary and heavy-hearted. A fresh wave of grief came crashing in, and my mind was racing with a hundred different thoughts all at once. I pulled out my journal and wrote; “O’ Lord, I spent 20-years nurturing, training, loving, and guiding Justin. Now, he’s just gone. Lord, I ask you, O’ God, to take this ache from me, I run into Your arms, and I lay the pain of this loss and my heavy heart at your feet. You are the bread of life, the living water. Please come and fill this grief-the hollowness in my heart, with you and your goodness.”
Again, seeing the American flag-man, I walked over to his table. When I looked into his eyes, I was overcome with emotion. I began to thank him for his service but unexpectedly through tears, I told him what a patriot our Justin was. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned all the American flags hanging on the wall of his bedroom.
Since the early days after the accident, I have sensed a certain sacredness in grief. With the most vulnerable part of my heart exposed, I could only cry out to the Lord in my brokenness. It was laughable to consider anything else being even remotely comforting. As the days and weeks have turned into months, the temptation for distraction is enticing.
I am learning that it is of utmost importance to allow myself to sit in the waves of grief as they come; avoiding and postponing the ache is futile. In my lament, my heart is drawn to the great Comforter enabling me to cling to the Gospel, my hope. There is a sacred exchange in the acknowledgment of my brokenness and from the ashes arises a beauty only God can ordain.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:17
Journal Entry 10-31-2016…..my weight gain has been one of the worst consequences of lacking self-control. Physically, my body is maxed out. It hurts to sit, there’s too much weight on my tailbone. It’s hard to get comfortable, there’s just too much
Nine months is quite a significant number to any mother. I carried Justin, our firstborn, to full-term counting down the days with eager expectancy. I spent numerous hours preparing for his arrival and tried with all my might to imagine what it might be like to be a mother. While I was full of anticipation to meet him, I was also petrified that in some way, I would ruin him. I eagerly listened to radio programs like Focus on the Family, I searched the Scriptures with a new set of eyes for wisdom, and asked as many questions as I could think of to other Mom’s that seemed to know what they were half-way doing. In the early days of his life, my biggest prayer was, “Oh dear Lord, please don’t let me mess him up!”. Truth be told, nothing fully prepares you for motherhood until you are holding your precious little one in your arms and an unstoppable bond transpires.
In the same way, nothing prepares you for your child’s death until you are walking in that very reality. For nine months, I have struggled to adjust to Justin’s absence. In this journey of grief, sometimes it’s the simple things that are the most difficult to bear. I look at his empty chair that sits at our dinner table and I am reminded of the many conversations and outbursts of laughter that once filled that space. I see his portable speaker and immediately can hear the music that once played at its highest volume faithfully blaring throughout our home while he sang out tone-deaf at the top of his lungs. I gaze at his enormous whiteboard etched with co-worker’s names, Scriptures, and beautiful truths and my heart brims with both joy and sorrow. With a grateful heart, I remember that no matter what went on during the day, there was always an “I love you” at the end of the night. I still smile when I think of my twenty-year-old son tenderly saying, “Night, night, Mama. I love you.”
Justin was quite taken with Heaven and talked about it often. I remember him repeatedly exclaiming, “Won’t Heaven just be wonderful!” or “Aren’t you excited to go to Heaven?” I confess that my reply was not at all elegant and I would usually say, “Yes, Justin, Heaven will be so wonderful. But please stop, you are freaking me out. I want you around for a long time.” We cannot go back and change the past, but I do wish I would have breathed in those specific moments with him and lingered there. It is obvious that the Lord in His kindness was giving him a glimpse of eternity. I do not beat myself up over such things, but I do take note of my limited understanding.
Now, I am no longer “freaked out” by one of my children contemplating Heaven, I welcome the thought of how glorious it will be. Justin had it right, his hope was anchored for what is to come. Now more than ever, I long for the day when He will wipe away every tear from my eyes and death will be no more. Gone will be mourning, sadness, and pain. The striving will be no more, and I shall see my Savior face to face. I will touch his nail scarred hands and my eyes will see what my heart has believed! “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 There will be a day that I am reunited with our dear Justin and we will worship the Lord together. I am certain that I cannot begin to imagine the pleasures of Heaven, but oh how it fills my heart with great joy to think on such things.
As for now, in the waiting; gone are the days when tears were a rare commodity, now it seems I have an endless supply that flow freely from my eyes showing up whenever they please. I am no longer alarmed by their presence, in truth, I have become so accustomed to them gliding down my cheeks that I am convinced that one day, I will have permanent grooves as a remembrance of what once was. I do not loathe these tears for I am reminded that “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17 To this I say, Come soon, Lord Jesus!
Until that day,
When Justin was ten-years-old, and Sarah was eight-years-old, my husband began talking to me about the idea of homeschooling, I was not at all interested. At the time, it felt like such a radical move. In deepest recesses of my heart, I felt completely inadequate for the tas