Good Grief

Heart sculpture - onlineNormally when I hear the words “Good Grief” I think of Charlie Brown, not a reference to mourning.
Years ago, I heard a gentleman speak on losing three family generations in one accident: his mother, wife, and daughter. He tells of trying to hold on to the way things were, not wanting to face change, but found it was like chasing the setting sun; no matter how hard you run after it – eventually the sun will set, then you will have to face the dark night. However, if instead we turn to face the night – the dawn of a new day will arrive much sooner. I tucked away those words of wisdom.

My family were emotional stuffers. I never saw emotions over a death and those gone weren’t spoken of afterwards. It was like the person never existed and their life never mattered. I, too, learned to keep emotions in check, not realizing that the suppression of negative emotions also affected my ability to express the positive ones.

Why is it okay to express happy emotions over good things, yet not the sad emotions when hurtful things happen? Both are normal valid responses. To me to deny one emotion would seem to say God didn’t know what he was doing in making us emotional creatures. Jesus felt secure to publicly weep; why shouldn’t we?

I didn’t emotionally deal with my parents’ death for 13 years; once I did a heavy weight was released. With my husband’s passing I reasoned, I didn’t ask for it; But like it or not life will never be the same; that I would face the dark night and do this “grieving thing well”.

How does one grieve well? I have learned we all grieve differently; there is not a right or wrong way, or a designated time period. Grief is normal, natural, and necessary; grief provides a healthy way to cope with loss and what that person meant to us.

I’m learning good grief includes allowing ourselves to grieve, to be honest with where we are, acknowledging the loss – that it hurts, that our world has been turned upside down. I’m learning to embrace the emotions in a healthy way, giving myself time and space to cry, to mourn my loss; freedom to politely say “no I’m not okay” when a friend inquires; to not isolate myself, yet not over commit myself. To allow encouraging safe people in who are supportive; relying on the Lord for help; talking with others, reading encouraging material, attending bereavement and GriefShare classes. To give myself grace when I make mistakes and to well-meaning people who unintentionally say the wrong thing.
Though we may not like this season, let’s try to look forward with hope to the day mourning turns into dancing. Moving forward does not mean leaving the person behind, we take them with us in our hearts and the special memories we hold dear.

Trust the words of Jeremiah 29:11.

5 to 6 = 32

In our office when an equation did not equal the expected results we jokingly called it “creative accounting”, then we dove into to find out why the difference. I have found some things in life don’t logically line up; they are better understood with the heart or spirit.
My husband’s prognosis was five to six months, when he passed at only 32 days I felt cheated out of time with him, it did not add up to “what was supposed to be”.
When speaking with a visiting chaplain he stated individuals have more influence over length of time they continue in situations such as ours, whether they are ready to go or fighting to remain. Barbara Karnes writes in “The Dying Experience”, “How we approach death is going to depend upon…, and how willing we are to let go of this known expression to venture into a new one. Fear and unfinished business are two big factors in determining how much resistance we put into meeting death.”
John 19:30 states of Jesus “…He gave up His spirit”. Despite taking our infirmities and bearing our sicknesses they did not kill him, no one took his life – He gave up His spirit. In Philippians Paul talks about being hard-pressed between the desire to depart and be with Christ or to remain in the flesh which is more needful for others. Later, Paul, nearing the end of his life writes ”I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord,…will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”. I am not comparing Gene to Jesus or Paul, just the desire/willingness to lay down the earthen vessel when our earthly journey is over. They had no fear of death or unfinished business.
A gentleman’s actions years ago made a lasting impression on me. Knowing he would soon die he reached out to anyone that he thought there might be unresolved matters with, all was settled, he had peace, he finished well.
32 days was not what I expected logically, but a grieving heart recognized the grace of God and answered prayer as he entered heavens’ gates. We cannot put life in a box and certainly not God who is far greater than we could ever conceive. Thus begins the tension of rejoicing for the one who has gone before us while at the same time grieving our loss; yet we “do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope”.
Like it or not grief is an experience we must walk through in order to be healthy and have a new normal; it’s not a place to campout in; thankfully we do not walk alone for the Lord is with us. He wants to turn our mourning into dancing.

Get Excited

colored-lights-onlineWhen My Children get excited to be with Me I get excited, as does all the heavenly hosts, it causes a shift in the atmosphere, it ushers in a freedom for Me to move. ~ Papa

I’m Ready!

Bible PicWhat do you do when your loved one say’s they’re ready to go home – ready to be with Jesus?

   Even when you have heard the doctor’s report, know the test results, and see health declining, it does not fully prepare you for the moment when your spouse says they are ready to stop treatment and to be with Jesus.  It was no more a subject I wanted to discuss then, than I desire to write about now, except that hopefully someone is encouraged. The weight of the statement implied that I would become a widow; something difficult to contemplate. Nevertheless there was a white elephant, figuratively speaking, in the room that must be addressed, to ignore it – though not fully possible, would create its own issues, an uneasy tension, or even shut down communication at a time when it’s needed.  Death is an individual experience, yet, the dying process affects all those connected with the person; and just because they are nearing the end of their earthly life does not mean their feelings and opinions are no longer valid, that they are not concerned for loved ones, or have matters to settle.

   It’s prayer time! Time for a frank one on one conversation with the Lord regarding what’s going on, all the wild emotions, concerns, questions, doubts, and fears;  a time to hide nothing and a time to listen. Then to take time to bask in His loving presence, to receive His encompassing peace, being assured of his promises and faithfulness, to gather strength, courage, and guidance to face what is ahead. I find when I’m at peace it’s easier to have the difficult conversations; to clearly address concerns and know better how to pray for and with others.

   Having first settled matters with the Lord, I was able to discuss all that was on my husband’s heart with relative calm. I was able to see from a different perspective, not by looking down from my point of view at the situation, but from a knelling position in prayer and humbleness, looking up to see from his; with God’s grace I found the strength to say it was okay for him to leave if he was ready to go. For some individuals facing the end of life it helps having permission to go, it lets them be a peace instead of struggling between wanting heaven and feeling they have to remain because of loved ones. A hard prayer is – Lord, you know his hearts’ desire, be gracious to him, please don’t let him suffer; keep him in peace.

   Is it easy? NO! But, scripture tells us God will be our strength: ex: Ps 29:11, 10:17, Isaiah 40:29, 40:31, 41:10, 58:11.   In difficult times we must “Trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding” Prov. 3:5, and believe God works for the good of those who love him…. Rom. 8:28.
What now? Pray, trust God, love unconditionally.

How To Pray?

  Pray - onlinePray? Yes… I believe that as long as there is breath and life there is a plan and purpose.
  We heard the Oncologist report, did not dismiss it, however – wanted to also look for the Lord’s report. My friend Tammy adds a perspective “did God say he had 5-6 months? God is the one who determines when his children enter this world, He number their days. He is the one who determines when they will be with him on the other side of the physical world. It may be five months or five years, each day is to be lived in Him and He will be there for each day.”
   Most of us have heard stories of individuals given a year to live and passed away in one year, some given a few months then in a couple of weeks breathed their last, yet others given two months were still doing well two years later.
   I appreciate doctors and happen to have a wonderful personal physician who is a believer. I value the wisdom God has given doctors; I respect what they do and how they try within their abilities to help.  I am also of the mindset if I am going to follow man’s instructions to take a prescription three times a day – I should also be praying three times a day to the Great Physician for healing; who knows – perhaps the situation we face is the perfect set up for a miracle.
   The question is how to pray, a broad and varied territory. Praying in great faith has not always been easy, when my faith and belief lacks confidence I pray as the father did in Mark 9:24 “I do believe, help my unbelief”. We are all given a measure of faith, it grows by exercising it. Pray how we know and watch it grow.  Find scriptures to pray that apply to the situation at hand.
   Sometimes my prayers are simply those of tears – but the Lord understands them. Romans 8:26 “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words”.
   With changing prognosis and passing time it broadened my spectrum of prayers, no longer simply for healing but strength equal to the day, for the plans of the Lord to be fulfilled, peace in the midst of the storm, wisdom in decisions, the ability to show grace, to have an understanding heart for what the loved one is going through, to not become bitter or impatient. When at a loss on how to pray there is a powerful but simple prayer Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:10 “‘[Father let] Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven”.
   What do you do when the loved one say’s they’re ready to go home – ready to be with Jesus?
   Next month…

What To Do

Sherry fb picWhen there is an unfavorable diagnosis it’s surreal, after all I believe God still heals today; in April we celebrated the sacrifices Jesus made, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. My Bible says that by Jesus’ stripe we were healed. He did it once before but why not, yet, this time? I have experienced personal healing, witnessed others healed, prayed for individuals who received healing, including cancer; so what’s different? It is certainly an age old question but of this one thing I am sure, God’s word is true, he hears our prayers, and does heal.

   God desires to heal as he desires to save. Psalm 103:2-3 “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:  Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases…” We know not everyone is saved but it doesn’t change the fact He desires no one be lost; not everyone is healed but it doesn’t change the fact that He desires to heal. There are some things that may remain a mystery in this life.

    So what to do? That is an enormous question! I can only attempt to offer thoughts that are not all inclusive and based on where I am and have been when a step-daughter and parents passed; facing each one brings different challenges – as it does now with potentially a spouse.

   Trust and hope, a great place to start, even in the dark night hold on to them; even if the outcome is not what we may prefer God promises to always be with us, the thing I have found is I have to let Him into the situation and not hold him at bay or blame him.  One scripture tells us to comfort others as we have been comforted, another says He sent the Holy Spirit to give comfort; if we were never going to need comfort I doubt He would have told us these things. Sometimes his comforting presence is tangible, other times he sends people to us to give comfort, to be strong when we are not. I find being vulnerable in some situations not easy, in part from being in a leadership role or when others need encouragement; I think, but not that they do, they expect me to be stronger and grounded in faith, yet at times I find my eyes moist with a tear escaping; but God can’t help or send me help if I put up a facade that all is well. Hebrews 10:25 is taking on a personal meaning “not forsaking our own assembling together [with other believers], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another”. I am grateful for my brothers and sisters in the faith, we need each other.  When we face difficulties – it does not always mean it is not well with our soul.

   Pray? Yes!

   Pray how?

   …continuing next month

Five to Six

FB95IMG951441722821172_resizedFive to six months elicits different feelings based on what the months reflect. For one given a jail sentence – it feels like an eternity; for separated lovers longing to be together – the short months are agonizingly long; for the family receiving an Oncologist report of life expectancy  – it’s all too short.

The latter is where my family is. I had not planned to write as the pressure to meet deadlines and having one more thing to do was overwhelming. I was encouraged by the Lord and a message from a reader I’ll call Mr. J, stating “The…message spoke to me right where I am in life… I have some decisions and moves to make and is often the case with your messages, they remind me of His precious promises for all of us! Thank you for the reminder that God is with me (Mt 28:20; Jos 1:8,9), for encouraging me to step out in faith, that no matter the outcome, He is on my side, and loves me more than I can ever know on this side of glory!”.

I praise and give God glory for how he touches people by the articles everyone writes; I’m certain it’s all our prayers that the Lord uses them to minister and encourage others. Late one night I felt the Lord encouraging me to write, not be silent, during the travels into unknown territory. In upcoming articles the intent isn’t to elicit sympathy or bring sorrow, rather to give hope and encouragement when facing troubling times. I’d like to be real and not try to appear super-spiritual, for I certainly have my moments.

For perspective let’s step back in time; my husband was first diagnosed with prostate cancer and treatments seemed a breeze, which was without doubt answered prayer. At the end of treatment we were told it would give him five years; the Lord blessed us with 17 years before once again hearing the words “cancer”, this time it was aggressive and too advanced for surgery and few medical options available. Treatment began early 2018, unlike 17 years earlier the cancer was not stopped; my husband made the decision to stop treatment. He knows the Lord and like all of us looks forward to being with. There are no answers to some questions and sometimes I’m uncertain how to pray; the pause button has been hit, plans on the calendar erased, and priorities changed.

I have my moments but try not to dwell there. I do not know what the future holds but I know the One who holds my future. I know the goodness of my God and His promises; he has a perfect track record. Thank you Mr. J for the encouraging reminder that “God is with me”, “He is on my side, and loves me more than I can ever know”.

Next month… What to Do.

“…lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

Looking Beyond

meerkat-onlineI had a dream last night in which I was telling a neighbors daughter, who was helping her mom clear the abandoned garden, that I liked dead veggies. After a while of laboring she asked if I really liked dead veggies, she was thinking it would reduce her work if able to give me the seemingly worthless vegetables.

   Some toss aside a cabbage or head of lettuce when they see wilted leaves, yet when the outer layers are removed exposing the inner leaves there is good to be found, there is still value in what outwardly seemed worthless.

   Isn’t that what the Lord does with us? He looks beyond the outside appearance to what is inside. Consider the sons of Jesse, one would be anointed king. Samuel kept looking at the outside, but God looking inside rejected each until the one son, who was not even considered by his family, or even called in from the field, was brought before him, that was the one God chose. Inside the boy was a man of strength and courage who killed a lion and a bear, who would one day kill a giant who dared to defy the God of Israel; a shepherd boy who would be a man after God’s own heart.

   When we see others are we looking at the outward person measuring them to our expected norms, acceptable appearance, mannerisms, and contribution to society? What about the person on the street corner holding a sign asking for money? Do we see a panhandler, a lazy person, an irresponsible deadbeat, or perhaps an unkempt drug addict? Do we take the time to stop and hear their story or just brush them off, or look away not even acknowledging their presence?

   A few years back I was in Sacramento for meetings rushing from the parking garage to my location several blocks away. There was a man who looked like he had not bathed or washed his clothes in some time and appeared to be sleeping on the sidewalk next to the building. I gave a weak smile, a little nod and faint hello never slowing my pace, but his words “thank you for acknowledging me”, nearly stopped me in my tracks, they struck a nerve; is that not what we all at the core want, to be recognized? Our existence acknowledged in some small way; a kind word or look that says we matter. I think of the lepers, tax collectors, harlots, and other non-acceptable people in society, that Jesus had no qualms speaking with or even touching. He took the time to look beyond the exterior that caused others to pass by on the other side of the road, and underneath He found there was something of value; He found you and me.

   Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, He ends it saying “Go and do likewise”.

   Let’s peal some leaves and look beyond for the good…

You Matter

Margie - Burney Falls #1Your life does matter, you have value you don’t even realize, there is much in you waiting to be revealed. You are a gift to those who know you and the ripple effect touches others you will never know. Live life to the fullest, not in excesses, but in the abundance that comes from a life lived connected to Me.

Roots

Bible Pic

Let your roots run deep in the fertile soil of the Word, take of the life-giving nutrients found there, and the Living Water. Grow strong in faith and be filled with the Holy Spirit.