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Upside-down Goodness

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It was an early Sunday morning when we were awakened by the doorbell ringing. Tim went down and answered the door, both of us were thinking that Justin must have locked himself out of the house. I stood at the top of the stairs waiting to hear his voice; instead, what I heard was Tim inviting the Sherriff’s deputies inside our home.

As the unthinkable news of Justin’s death reached our ears, our three little boys made their way down the stairs, still in their cozy jammies with sleep in their eyes. While the deputies were talking to us, I kept trying to smile through the tears and reassure our boys that everything was somehow going to be okay.

Justin left behind four siblings; Sarah, Sammy, Luke, and Joshua. As my mind was trying to come to terms with our new reality, my heart broke all over again as I thought of my children. I ached for their loss and the pain that they would experience. Suddenly my world came crashing down as I realized that for 20+ years, I had done everything in my power to provide them with an emotionally safe, trauma-free, stable environment. In the blink of an eye, the “trauma-free” environment I worked so hard to protect was gone.

There was no “fix” for the pain that they would endure; this would be something that they would have to walk through and learn to trust in the goodness of the Lord minute by minute, day by day. My heart hurt for the loss of my son, for the loss of their big brother, for the loss of their carefree-spirit, and for the pain in their hearts that I could not take away.

Sometimes as Mamas, we unknowingly set up little kingdoms here on earth. At the time it didn’t seem like a kingdom; safety, stability, etc are all good things. In my understanding, I wanted these things for my children for their good. And while these things are “good”, they can also become an idol, an idol of control. Because when my little kingdom of trauma-free, stability, and safety was torn away, I was devastated. Cognitively, I understood that God was ultimately in control of all things, but somewhere along the way, there was a disconnect. The Lord gently uncovered the deepest recesses of my heart revealing a posture that said all of my children’s well-being depended on me. I was wrong, no one has that kind of power but God. He sovereignly reigns supreme and He has the final say what will be the best for the children that he blessed me with.

To my limited understanding, it’s so upside that the exact opposite of my worst fear is happening. What I thought would destroy our children is actually cultivating a depth, an empathy, and a compassion for others that ease does not produce. In no way do I diminish their suffering and grief, it is real and we face it together every day. But God, in his kindness and goodness truly works everything together for good to those who love him. To him be all the glory and praise.

Forever being kept in His grace,

Missy

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Grief in the Grocery Store

I have found that going to the grocery store is one of the most difficult of my tasks to complete. I try to prepare myself as I drive down the familiar road and listen to encouraging songs on the radio. I pull into a parking spot and pause. Oh Lord, please help me. Help me to see someone else through your eyes today. I think to myself, maybe if I can just take my eyes off of me, it won’t hurt so bad.

Out I go, I walk through the parking lot trying to collect my thoughts and secure a buggy. I walk through the automatic doors and am immediately greeted by flowers. I love the flowers but I don’t buy any because we are on a spending freeze. Next, it’s the produce and I can already feel the lump forming in my throat. As I select my fruit and veggies I work to swallow the lump and breath deeply. I know what’s coming. I walk by the “Naked Juice” and just about lose it. Justin loved that juice and it was his special thing that I occasionally buy for him. At this point, you may be thinking, just let yourself cry! In the grocery store, no thank you!

I look around slowly and take note of all the people walking around and wonder if they have just lost someone very special too? What is their story; could they be in the middle of a serious illness? Can they see the grief and sorrow on my face? I hurriedly try and complete my shopping forgetting that I was going to try and smile at someone today.

Soon my shopping trip comes to an end as I exchange benign pleasantries with the cashier. I walk back to my car and wonder if the thick cloud of grief is visible for all to see. I am told that this task will get easier with time, I am counting on that.

Hoping in His unfailing love,

Missy

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Am I too far gone? A Pivotal Conversation in My Weight Loss Journey.

I was in despair. My weight was completely out of control and I had no idea how in the world I was going to climb out of a very deep pit. My body physically hurt, I was exhausted, and very discouraged. One morning, I woke up feeling hopeless. I poured my heart out to the Lord and said something like. “Oh Lord, please help me, I am so stuck. I have no idea how I am ever going to change this. I have so much weight to lose. I wish someone would help me. Please help me, Lord.”

Just a few days later, our son Justin came to me and asked me if we could talk. That evening we sat down together on our living room couch. He began, “Mama… (how I miss him calling me Mama). Mama, you know how you are worried about my safety driving a motorcycle? Well, Mama, I am worried about you. I am worried about your health. Can we make a deal? If I agree not to get a motorcycle, will you agree to get healthy? I will work out with you early in the morning or late at night, whatever you need. I will help you.”

I immediately agreed to his deal and his terms. My mind was swimming as I felt completely humbled that my 20-year-old was coming to me with something in my life that was obviously so out of control. I was/am so proud of him. I told him that that was a very brave conversation to have with me and affirmed that he was growing into a man. With tears, I gave him a big hug and thanked him. I remember going upstairs to our bedroom that night with joy and thanksgiving in my heart. The Lord had heard my prayer on two accounts; Justin wasn’t getting a motorcycle and I was finally going to get healthy!

My “getting healthy journey” started that very next morning. I said goodbye cold turkey to sugar and began a lower-carb lifestyle. That night, Justin came home to his Mama eating a healthy salad and he beamed with delight and said, “Good job, Mama.”.

Just six days later, our dear Justin was in a fatal car accident and taken home to be with the Lord.

Are you stuck? Cry out to the Lord! He hears and He is a mighty Deliverer.

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;[a]
he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103: 8-14

Today, by the grace of our great God, I am keeping my promise to Justin.

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A Sweet and Bitter Providence, Resting in God’s Sovereignty

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Today, I opened my journal to its first entry dated April 3, 2017. It read, “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8) Please help me to trust you when I don’t see or understand your plans.”

I had no way of knowing or even anticipating the loss of Justin. Yet, the Lord in his kindness was preparing my heart to trust him in such a time as this. For several years, I have been quite taken that the Lord reigns sovereign over all. I have said many times over that I find great safety in his sovereignty.

In those early days and weeks of grief, I was hurt and angry that the Lord didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted him to. You see, I had a horrible feeling all day and into the night about Justin’s plans for the evening. I talked to Justin that afternoon and asked him to please be safe. I prayed and asked the Lord to please keep him safe. As I lay in wait for him to get home that night, I continued to pray. It was while trying to calm myself in the wee hours of the morning by reciting Scripture, I knew in my heart that Justin was not the kind of safe that I had asked for. My fears were confirmed by the ringing of our doorbell early the next morning.

I walked about numbly while a whirlwind of activity took place around me. I cried out to the Lord in my distress. I asked him to help me get to each next minute as I felt like I was being swallowed up by the most intense pain that I have ever felt. And now still, my most consistent prayer; Oh please, Lord, please, be near.

After the memorial service, we made a quick trip to California as I deeply desired to walk along the oceanside; seeing the vastness of the ocean has always reminded me of how big God is and how small I am. I could feel in my heart that I was harboring resentment towards the Lord. As I walked up and down the shore, I poured my heart out to the Lord. Finally, I stopped at a quiet spot and gazed at the enormity of the sea. It was there that the Lord reminded me of his conversation with Job. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?…” I then remembered releasing Justin to the Lord when he was just a newborn baby and very sick. All throughout his life we have declared that he belonged to the Lord. And he did, he was not mine, he was the Lord’s. The Lord gently and kindly put me in my rightful place as a good Father does. He is the Potter, I am the clay.

His sovereign reign is a sweet and bitter providence even when I don’t understand his plan. The Lord continues to sustain our little family every day. He is indeed close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. He can be trusted for He is faithful. A song that has blessed me 100 times over is A Sweet and Bitter Providence. I have shared the link below.

Continuing to trust in His care and grace,

Missy

A Sweet and Bitter Providence

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Six Months Later

Life can change in the blink of an eye. One minute I was telling Justin to be careful and that I loved him. The next minute (or hours later) we were being awakened by the sheriff’s office telling us something no parent ever dreams of hearing, our dear Justin was gone. As anyone can imagine, there was wailing, weeping, and pure disbelief.

In those early days, we walked about in a fog. Dear family and precious friends began pouring in from all over the country to be with us in our great time of need. We were surrounded by loved ones, did they ever love us well! Our house was cleaned, meals prepared, our children were doted on, and laundry was completed (no small miracle). Mostly, we just cried and they patiently listened and held us tight.

We, with the help of a great army of laborers, planned a memorial service. We honored our dear Justin’s young 20-year-old life. The Lord called Justin to salvation at a young age. We are overwhelmed with joy that he loved the Lord with much enthusiasm and an authentic wonder. He was one to talk about heaven often and how he longed to be there with the Lord. A sweet memory to always be cherished is the night of the memorial. A great number of us sat together in our living room singing hymns and songs of worship to our mighty and faithful God. Justin would have loved it. I have found one anecdote for my heart in the deep seas of grief is to sing praises to our King. It puts me in my rightful place and reminds me of my hope.

Just days later, we buried our precious son with guttural moans, each of us longing to join him. Eventually, we returned to our home and life as it once was no longer existed.

Everday is one where we learn to live without his presence, his loud music, and his contagious laugh. Each of us misses him so and try and imagine what it must be like for him in heaven!

Forever hoping in our faithful God,

Missy