Posted in college, Emotions, Family, God, joy, love, Parenthood

JOY Unspeakable

“Weeping may endure for the night, but JOY comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

9/29/99 was an ordinary Wednesday for most people.  But for me, it was a “line-in-the-sand” kind of day, a day that marked a change in my life that brought unconditional love in the form of a 9 pound 5 ounce baby girl.  Rachel JOY Goetz, our fourth child, was born that morning, at 1:09 am, to be exact.  And now, in just two short days, she is off to embark on her next adventure, taking the “Rachel-only” piece of my heart with her!

Two years ago, at the age of 16, I gave her a gold-dipped white rose for her birthday.  The thoughts I penned for her that day ring truer in my heart tonight as I sit at my computer.  My initial impulse is to weep (and I’m sure it will come in buckets soon enough), but in the wee hours of a Friday, I am reminded that JOY does come in the morning.  So for now, I celebrate.

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Dearest Rachel,

I love giving you this rose.  It symbolizes so much that I want you to know about yourself and why you have changed my life and the lives of all who meet you.

First of all, the rose is WHITE.  White is a symbol of innocence or purity, but not perfection.  I see in you a pure heart, one that longs to love others with good intentions, treat others kindly with much grace and little judgment and do your personal best without getting caught up in “perfectionism.” Your pure heart is beautiful!

Secondly, the flower is a ROSE.   Roses are heart-stoppingly beautiful to the eye and their smell is equally show-stopping. When I think of you, your outward beauty is heart-stopping for me. Many times, as you know, you take my breath away! You are simply gorgeous on the outside! I can’t get around it. But again, more importantly, your “aroma” is show-stopping. Your infectious smile, caring heart, and love for the “haves” and the “have-nots” is truly incredible.  

ROSES demonstrate the following things and I see them in you:

LOVE – You love unconditionally. We have said this about you from when you were a baby. When others are with you, they can’t help but feel loved and accepted. What a gift that is!

FAITH – You are a trusting soul. You believe the best about others. You easily trust God’s heart toward you.

BEAUTY – Rachel, you are truly beautiful, inside and out.

BALANCE – You understand the delicate balance of life: work, play, others and yourself. I love watching this in you. You are a good teacher to me.

PASSION – What can I say? Your passion for what really matters to you is crazy cool to watch!   Those five things…God, love of family and friends, music, puzzles and the beach!

TIMELESSNESS – I think of you as a timeless person. You enjoy people aged 2 to 102. You love where you are and who you are with. Time seems to slow down when I am around you!

WISDOM – Dad and I used to say that “you got it” even when you were a teeny one. You see so much of the world through wise eyes and a wise heart. You are the best counselor to your friends and you see things that others just can’t see.   My favorite wise saying that you have ever said was, “It is better to be kind than right.”   You were only 10 years old when you spoke that deep truth to my heart (and to our basketball team).  Yes! You just “get it.”

INTRIGUE – No one can say that they have explored the depths of what makes you Rachel. You have a mysteriousness about you that is very interesting and causes me to want to know you more. There is so much to you and it has been fun seeing a beautiful young woman begin to unfold!

DEVOTION – You are one of the most loyal people I know.   You stick by your friends, your beliefs, your love for Jesus, your family and yourself!

SENSUALITY – You love all things…what you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch! You enjoy life to the full. You see all the gifts God has for you in nature, in others, in music, in so many simple things, in all of life!

Lastly, the rose is dipped in GOLD. To me, gold symbolizes long-lasting value. Every time you look at the rose on your bookshelf, I want you to be reminded of how incredibly valuable you are, to God, to us, to yourself and to your future. You have infinite value, much more than any GOLD in the world.  The whole person that makes up Rachel JOY Goetz is so undeniably precious and I pray that you would continue to hold onto that understanding for the rest of your life!

I want to end with the second verse that God gave me when you were born! It has really come true for me! And for anyone who has spent a minute with you!

“My God shall do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ever ask or imagine, according to the power that works within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

I love you precious daughter!

Mom

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PS  If you aren’t tired of Rachel yet, click HERE to watch my gut-wrenching slide show of her amazing life!

PPS  And if you want to read what it was like to be her sister, check out Sarah’s blog post from May of 2011 about the unconditional love that was 11 year-old Rachel.

 

Posted in Emotions, grief, love, sacred, suicide, taboo

Grief – A Friend’s Story (Railroaded)

“There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.” (Aeschylus)

I sat in the car on a long trip, asking questions and listening.  Hard questions.  Painful questions.  The friend I was traveling with had lost her teen son to suicide only 14 months earlier.  The sacred beauty that poured out was mesmerizing and heart-changing.

Most of my life, I avoided all things about death.  One of my close friends in high school lost her battle to depression and died by suicide when we were in our 20s.  After that excruciating pain, I vowed to avoid all suffering, especially death.  It worked for many years.  I was not confronted with the horror until last summer.  And as you read in my first grief post, it came on full-force.  So much loss.  To so many.  People I loved.  People I could not avoid.

I decided to go deeper.  Lean in.  Experience pain.  Go to the hard places with those I cared for.  Seek to understand and learn and change and grow and plunge into the depths of all that it means to be human (including profound loss).

During our car ride, I asked this friend to share her thoughts in written form.  I wanted to pour over, pray over, learn from and understand this shadowy part of life.   Two days later, I received a Facebook message from her, sharing her current grief and continued suffering, trying to make sense of what had happened to her.

I encourage you not to click away and avoid, but listen with your heart and share her sorrow with your soul.  Come into the shadows, where hardship is, but where beauty lies, where suffering is, but the sacred is revealed.  I warn you.  Grief is beautiful and terrible and wonderful and necessary all at the same time.  Here is some of her heart.  

Nothing about my life is the same since my son died. Nothing. Yes, he is gone, but it is much more than that. My friend asked me one day if I felt “railroaded.” Yes, that’s it. Railroaded.

Before my son’s death, I had two kids who attended school and played sports. I hopped from here to there providing taxi service as well as being a spectator of those sports. I spent my weekends on a soccer field or at a cheer competition or sang at church. A free weekend was rare. I was a business owner who worked 4-5 days a week. I worked out five days a week and watched what I ate. I had just lost about 35 pounds and felt great. I spent evenings on the couch with my kids watching our favorite shows. I organized a charity Christmas party every year that we as a family participated in and Dad was Santa. We vacationed one week a year in the tropics and one week at the Jersey Shore. I planned girls’ nights. I went out with friends. All summer long, friends would be over for BBQs and the pool.  I was the life of the party.

After.  I don’t even know where to begin. My daughter got one too many concussions and had to quit her sport. I do not have to taxi anymore. I am not on a soccer field or at a cheer competition on the weekends (unless we go to watch friends). I do still sing at church. That’s one thing that IS the same.

Work is tough. Feeling like I can’t function and am just not up to doing things, it falls through the cracks. I do what I absolutely have to, but my regular work schedule is thwarted.

I work out as much as I can, but often not the five days I would like. If I feel bad mentally, I push through and go, but if I feel bad physically, I often don’t make it.

I feel, like my friend said, railroaded.

Eating. Another area that has been railroaded. Food. It’s what people bring when someone passes. Food. For months after. Food. Please don’t get me wrong. I greatly needed and appreciated all the food. If it weren’t for those friends who brought meals, I’m not sure any of us would have eaten. It is just much harder to eat the way you know you need to. Days turned into months and months into more than a year.

Railroaded. There are still shows that I watch with my daughter. But it just isn’t the same watching things without my son. Sometimes during Survivor I still get teary-eyed.

The Christmas party lives on. It was just different this past year. It felt railroaded as well. It was hard to plan because my son’s birthday is in December and I couldn’t do it that day. We struggled for the right day, but we did it because the kids would miss it. Dad was still Santa.

Vacations. Another victim of the railroad. We all did go to Florida last year. My husband and I were tourists, and our daughter spent her time at a cheer competition. Even though we were all there, it didn’t seem like a family vacation. There was the trip to Costa Rica that wasn’t. Cancelled at the last minute. It was just too hard to go without our son and brother. There was the attempt at Vegas for Christmas. We were there less than 24 hours. Too much anxiety and pain. We ended up coming home and blessing some homeless people in the midst of our pain. The Jersey Shore. I miss it so. I spent one weekend in early June and have not been there since. I miss a beach house and boardwalks with our family and friends. No more boardwalks, just railroads. I miss true family vacations.

My social life. Railroaded. I don’t want to be Julie the cruise director any more, planning a fun night for friends. Sometimes I turn down invitations because I don’t feel good. I miss being carefree and going out with friends. I miss feeling good.

As I contemplated my friend’s word, I realized it meant even more than she intended. This all started the night my son died on train tracks. My life has been, in more ways than one, railroaded. I hope that some day I won’t feel so lost and off kilter. I know that through all of this, God has held me in his hand and He has not let me go. That is the only thing that is keeping me on the tracks.

My response to her:

This is a good start to getting your feelings out there.  It makes so much sense to me.  It’s good to speak of losses and to say them out loud.  It gives a beautiful glimpse at the real stuff that makes up grief.   It is so good for me to hear and learn from you and share your pain.  It brings me both sorrow and healing.  I pray your sharing would bring you some measure of healing.

For those of you who have loved fiercely and lost someone precious to you, I pray that you would find a safe space to share your true heart, the one that might be hurting.  I pray that those who listen would dive deep and sit still and share some measure of your grief and suffering.  I pray that in God’s vast wisdom, compassion, kindness, mercy and love, He brings unfathomable healing to each of us in the places only He can reach.

To my friend who was willing to put her heart out there today, thank you.  You have given me the gift of yourself and there is nothing greater.  I am asking God to give you many good gifts straight from His heart to you today.

 

 

Posted in Emotions, God, sacred, thanks

TT (Season #01, Episode #04)

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.”  (Melody Beattie)

Which one of us, given the question, “Do you want more healing in your life?” would answer, “Actually, I want more destruction.”  My son, Josh, broke his hand a few years ago.  He was given a super teeny cast (the “Michael Jackson one-glove look”).   The doctor, as usual, (like I hadn’t heard this at least a thousand times before…after all, I raised four children) said, “follow my instructions and it will heal.”

We all know what it’s like to receive, from our wonderful and smart health care providers, that long sheet of paper spelling out all the instructions to make sure healing happens (and some of us… I won’t say who… do a better job than others at following them).  I knew this at the time.  I wanted Josh’s hand to heal throughly and quickly.  (After all, now he would have an excuse not to empty the dishwasher.)

Being the cynical person that I am, I wondered about the point of this miniature cast.  After all, look at it.  It’s ridiculously small and I’m not even sure it’s doing much of anything.  Did it even matter?  Could he get healing without the cast?

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However, being the rule-follower and anxiety-ridden person that I am, we followed the instructions to a tee.  We certainly did not want more destruction of the hand.  We both wanted healing.  And we both trusted that this wee cast would provide the right environment for it.

The right environment.  Hmm.  Now there’s a thought.  This bitty cast doesn’t heal his hand.  All it does, even super teeny, is provide the right environment for the healing to occur.  The cast doesn’t get in there and cause the bones to be “remodeled” (I know this term from watching 12 years of Bones episodes).  That comes because our bodies, given the right environment and care, have been designed by God to heal themselves.

More thoughts.  Can this apply to more areas than the physical?  Has God given our souls, minds and hearts the ability to heal if they are in the right environment?  I believe an emphatic YES.  Do they have to be huge?  I believe an emphatic NO.

This cast gave the room for healing.  What environments, even if they are not grandiose, but small, can I give to myself to make room for healing?

My whole blog is dedicated to hope and healing.  I would be amiss if I didn’t tell you that this morning, I need some of that myself.  It’s been a long, emotional week (as some of you who have read my blog know… and for those of you who don’t, check out anxiety post and murder post) and I am quite exhausted from it all.  I said to my husband this morning, “I just feel out of sorts and out of control.”  I sat down to write.  Process.   And guess what?  Next up (and I would imagine this isn’t a coincidence), Thankful Thursday.

I looked at my thankful app (that awful red notification circle was glaring on my phone).  I realized I hadn’t written one last night.  And to tell you the truth, I didn’t want to play catch up.  I didn’t really have anything.  Yesterday had been difficult.  But of course, God is wise and super loving.

The thought came out of nowhere.  Is thankfulness one of the environments that brings healing?  I began to look it up.  It is true.  There are about a million (okay, just a slight exaggeration) actual scientific studies to back this up (don’t want to bore you, but check this article out).

God reminded me that it might just be what I need this morning, even though super small, to bring some healing today.  No.  It’s not magic or formulaic (believe me, I have lived a lifetime of that destructive line of thinking). But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s GOOD.  So here goes.  Join with me.

  • My oldest brother turned 60 (and don’t get any ideas of how old I am…he’s the first born and I am the baby… like the super baby).  We got to surprise him and share Ethiopian food.  I was able to watch him become overwhelmed with the love of his family and friends.  He might have even shed a tear. Highlight of the summer.
  • A long lunch and talk with a friend from high school who I hadn’t seen for 30+ years that I thought might not go so well.  After all, she had her act together even then (in a kind of straight-laced, smart, preppy, godly way) and I certainly didn’t (in a bouncy, talk-too-much, all-over-the-place, boy-crazy way).  It was wonderful and beautiful.  Our hearts connected as we shared our similar journeys of brokenness and redemption.  A true gift for me.
  • Rachel’s wisdom tooth surgery and healing went off without a hitch (and this is no small feat in her never-ending saga of tooth infections and emergency extractions).  It’s the small things sometimes.  The not-end-up-in-the-emergency-room things.
  • Celebrating the wedding of our friends’ son.  Watching young love blossom.  Their commitments to God and each other.  The roasts (I mean toasts).  Shoe games.  Gorgeous weather for an August Saturday.  Reminders of our own love and commitment.  Continued thankfulness for Allen and our 26+ years.
  • A rainy Monday provided for the day I woke up with a sore throat.  Cozy rest.  A nap when I needed it.  Rain makes me feel safe inside.  Long story.  Thankful.

Here’s to asking God to do only what He can do.  I can’t bring healing to myself.  Only He can.  That’s his job.  And my job?  To follow the instructions of the Great Physician.  Listen to His heart for me.  Place myself in environments so that He can do His job.  It’s not a formula.  It’s not magic.  I’m not even sure how it all works.  But I do know this, celebrating and speaking out and reminding myself of all that I am thankful for is GOOD.  And I will take it today.

 

 

 

 

Posted in anxiety, beautiful mess, Emotions, taboo

“I Just Had to Pee” and other Half-Truths (Fighting the Monster of Anxiety…A Day in the Life…Glimmer of Hope)

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  (Desmond Tutu)

“Are you doing okay?” my husband asks at 3:30 am.  “It seems like you are having a hard time sleeping.”  “I just had to pee,” is my response.  Half-truth.  Statement that quiets the other’s worry.  Words designed to make everyone (including myself) believe that “I’m okay.”  This happens often with the struggle of anxiety.

I have fought with what’s best described as Generalized Anxiety Disorder since my late 30s.  More than 14 years.

If you knew me growing up, in my 20s and early 30s, you would have told others I was independent, strong, and care-free.  I was the teen who drove to Canada to see my boyfriend and slept in the back of my beat-up Ford Pinto without any thought to the dangers of a young woman alone at a rest stop.  I was the young adult who left home after college, delivering pizza while looking for work, and sleeping at friends’ houses with only about $20 in my pocket.  I was the young mom who allowed her preschool children to play in our cul-de-sac without supervision, never hesitating to think they might be snatched, hurt or fall into the river that was only 50 feet into the woods behind our house.  Not someone you would classify as anxious.  Far from it.

I will never forget that morning.   I woke up.  Just as I was getting out of bed, my left leg collapsed right out from under me.  I fell.  My heart raced and I panicked. I got up slowly and was able to walk normally, but called the doctor immediately. “What was happening? Did I have a brain tumor?” Not sure why that thought immediately came as I had never paid much attention to my health. I was crippled with fear almost in an instant. I was pretty sure I was going to die.

A battery of tests for brain tumors, lyme disease, and MS.  With each waiting period and diagnosis in the clear (my leg was probably just asleep when I fell), I thought I would have some peace.  I only got worse. The final diagnosis: a full-blown nervous breakdown. For three months, I lay in my bed, cried, couldn’t leave the house, and had what they call depersonalization, the feeling of being “out of body.”  I thought I was going crazy. It was the darkest time in my life.

Fourteen years of counseling, on-and-off medication, progressive muscle relaxation audios, my Headspace app, exercise, comforting Bible verses on sticky notes, deep breathing, prayer and begging God for relief, yoga, chamomile tea, close friends and a husband who shared my pain, changed diet, not watching the news or clicking on WebMD.  You get the picture.  Fighting it from every angle.  Seasons of relief and seasons of being back in the fight.  Fast forward 14 years to the past 24 hours.  I am back in the fight.

A day in the life of half-truths (the whole truth being said inside my head):

7 am “Good morning Allen.  I am glad Jared has work today.”   (“Will he get up on time?  Should I wake him?  He’s 23.  Don’t do that.  Bad boundaries.  But what if he doesn’t get up?  He will lose this job.  He won’t be able to pay his student loan.  He will get bad credit.  His future could be ruined.”)

8:45 am (knowing he is supposed to leave at 9) Send a text. “Want a smoothie before you leave?”  (“Hopefully he is awake and moving.  If he doesn’t respond, I can call him.  Don’t do that.  Bad boundaries again.  But what if….”)

9:45 am (“Sarah’s sonogram for the baby is right now.  They are rechecking some weird spot they found on his heart.  What if he has Down Syndrome?  It’s a soft marker for that.  Stop thinking that, Esther.  The doctor said it’s a super slim chance and all the other markers were fine.  You need to get over this.  Go to the grocery store.  And don’t text her.  Wait until she texts you.”)

10:45 am  Send a text.  “How did your appointment go?”  (“Is the baby alright?  Is Sarah going to have to quit her job to care for a special needs child?  Will she be able to handle this?  This would be horrible.  No, it wouldn’t.  Lots of people make it through and actually thrive.”  And on and on with the back-and-forth while I don’t hear anything for almost two hours.  Shaking at this point.)

12:37 pm Send another text.  “?”  Response:  “Everything is fine.”  (“Why do you keep doing this?  You are supposed to be over this.  See.  It was all fine and your worry was useless.  You have issues.  Maybe you should go back on medication.  Don’t want to do that.”)

12:45 pm (As you can see…relief was short-lived)  “Hey Rachel.  How are you feeling?” (said daughter had wisdom teeth out four days prior and had almost died of  a tooth infection as a young girl)  (“Does she have an infection?  Do we need to call the doctor immediately?  Please just say “better.”)

1:30 pm “Josh, did you hear from Uber yet?”  (“Why did we allow him not to get a real job this summer?  We should have been stronger with him.  Is that controlling?  He better start working.  I will feel so much better when he’s making money.”)

5:30 pm  From Allen:  “Any word about the truck selling?”  My response:  “Lots of people are looking at it and taking pictures.”  (“This truck is the death of me.  Why did we ever let Rachel buy it?  It will never sell.  We will be stuck with it.  I just need it gone.  This box needs to be checked off my list before she leaves for college.  Why isn’t it selling?  I will be okay when it sells.  What if it doesn’t?  I won’t be okay.”)

Dinner out with friends.  Distraction.  Bed time.

Fitful night’s sleep filled with dreams about above items.

3:30 am  Allen:  “Are you doing okay?  It seems like you are having a hard time sleeping.”  Esther:  “I just had to pee.”  (“If he only knew.  Don’t want to talk about it.  Maybe I should write a blog post to get this sorted out.  Would others read it?  Would they love it or stop reading all my future posts since I don’t have my act together?  Maybe it will bring this stuff to light.  Maybe someone will feel understood.  Is it worth the risk?”

As you can see, I believe it’s worth the risk.  I believe that I am not alone.  I believe that bad stuff thrives in the darkness, in the hiding.  So, here I am, bringing it into the light. A glimmer of hope arises in my heart that I have just taken another step towards healing.

You?  What do you need to bring into the light?  Where can you have hope?  Healing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Emotions, Family, love, marriage, wtf

Make A Marriage Great Again (Part Three of Ten)

Everybody’s got a dark side
Do you love me?
Can you love mine?
Nobody’s a picture perfect
But we’re worth it
You know that we’re worth it
Will you love me?
Even with my dark side?

(Kelly Clarkson)

We had a fight this weekend.  It was over boundaries and adult children.  And no, the next WTF (refer to joke in first MAMGA post) is not the word fight (sorry to disappoint…we will get to that F), but the word fallibility.  Back to our fight.  It was mostly about how we don’t believe the other person is doing a good job in these areas (and certainly not doing what we would do).  Remember, Allen is kind and gracious. I am sarcastic and discerning. Allen is a hard-worker, quiet and reserved. I am quick-witted and loud. He is methodical and analytical. I am passionate and decisive. Allen is a supporter and a peacemaker. I am a leader and aggressive.  Now just imagine (if you dare) how we might approach everything just a tad (ha-ha) differently and we strongly wish the other person would change and think and do what we think and do.

After a day of shutting down, processing by ourselves, apologizing, going to counseling, and then processing together, we came to the same conclusion we always come to:  we both want the other to accept us for our complete selves, flaws and all, even if change never comes.

As in many marriages, we started off seeing only the good in each other.  Believe it or not, we actually kept that up for about 10 years.  It meant a lot of hiding and dodging and pretending, and I must say it felt kind of good.  No hard talks.  No hard work.  We strived to believe the best.  After all, who wouldn’t want a kind, gracious, hard-working, supportive, peace-making husband.  I was sure for a long time that I did, or at least should.  And believe it or not, many times  I would ask Allen, “Isn’t there something that you don’t like about me?  What ways do I drive you crazy?”  And he would return with the answer, “Can’t really think of anything off-hand.”

Until it all “hit the fan.”  About 10 years into our marriage, and with help from some friends, Allen took a huge risk and shared some of his “not-so-perfect” stuff with me.   I would love to tell you that I returned his risk with the reward of kindness, understanding and grace.  Not so much.  His reward was judgment and anger.  After all, I liked my perfect, cookie-cutter world, where we were “godly” people and had a picture-perfect marriage and family.  It was really easy to live there.

Over the next months, things began to slowly change in my heart.  Allen’s risk effected me.  I was free to explore the “dark side” of my own life, the ways I was hiding and pretending, the parts of me that are fallible.  And you know what happened?  For the first time in our marriage I felt safe and free to share those things with him.  If he wasn’t perfect, then I didn’t have to be either.  What a relief!

(For you curious folks, I will share one example that might seem silly.  When Allen was at work and my littles were down for a nap, I would sneak and watch “Days of our Lives,” a soap opera I believed a Christian wife and mother should not do.   You might even be chuckling, and on the surface, it seems trite and “no big deal,” but it reveals the deeper hiding and lack of safety that permeated our lives and our marriage.)  

This was the beginning of a very different marriage (we say we have the tale of two marriages), one where transparency and authenticity came to the forefront, and hiding was over (or mostly over).  I would love to say it went swimmingly and that now, it is all easy sailing.  But that “ain’t the truth,” as they say.

Without the hiding came truth (sometimes hard-to-bear truth), and hard work, long examinations of ourselves, counseling and not-very-easy talks, which continue to this day.  We began to believe what we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt:  real intimacy can’t happen without knowing each other’s deepest selves (fallibility, or dark sides, and all) and loving and accepting those deepest selves.  This came along with another truth:  this is something worth fighting for.  It will bring healing and wholeness to places only God and His unconditional love can reach.

It’s been a full-of-hard-work, wonderful, tough, worth-it 16+ years since this “AHA” moment in our marriage.  And as you read at the beginning, the fighting continues, both with each other and FOR each other.  We continue to face the battle for grace, mercy, acceptance, kindness, and unconditional love, both for ourselves and for each other.  It’s tough going many days.

I watched Scott Harrison (the charity:water guy) on Sunday after my last post.  He said something in his message about the fight for clean water, but it struck me in a completely different way:  “Don’t be afraid of the work that has no end.”  There are days when I want go back to the pretending and hiding marriage where it’s easier and less complicated, where the work does have an end or seem to.  But as I know in the deepest part of me, the best thing in my life is that I am fully known (super risky STEP ONE) and fully loved (super hard STEP TWO) by another.  This reveals the very heart of God to me, something my soul craves and is designed to know.  This work has no end, but it’s worth every ounce of effort we put into it.  Allen and I are determined not to leave but to love.   We reminded each other of that very thing last night (and I promise, we weren’t in a good place at the time).  That changes everything.

There’s a place that I know
It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone
If I show it to you now
Will it make you run away?

Or will you stay
Even if it hurts
Even if I try to push you out

Will you return?
And remind me who I really am,
Please remind me who I really am.

(Kelly Clarkson)

***Watch the video of the song before you sign off by clicking HERE***

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Next Friday:  FINANCES…yikes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Emotions, grief, thanks

TT (Season #01, Episode #02)

“The grateful heart that springs forth in joy is not acquired in a moment.  It is the fruit of a thousand choices.”   (Nancy L. DeMoss)

I woke up early this morning to the very shocking and sad news that a close high school friend, Mark Jones, went to be with His Savior.  He was one of the best people I have ever known.  Kind, gracious, loving, wise, and more.  His velvety voice ministered to me (and many others) as he shared it on Facebook each Sunday morning.  I am so sad.  It’s only been two weeks since we talked on Facebook messenger and I told him I was praying for him.

My first thought is that I am not going to post this today.  I just sit in bed and cry.  For a while.  In the moments that pass, I recall what Ann Voskamp calls “the hard thanks,” giving thanks when you don’t want to, when it’s difficult, offering sacrificial thanks.  It almost seems inappropriate. But deep in my spirit, I hear a voice that reminds me that it is right and good and healing.  Ann says, “Lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty.”  Mark was a gift to me.  My life would not have been as good without him.  Thanksgiving truly wells up in my soul as I think of him.  His mantra was “God is good all the time.  All the time God is good.”  He was beautiful.

So dive deep and continue with me on this never-ending journey of giving words to the gifts that have been strewn to us by a generous hand and loving heart, treasures from a God who longs to speak His presence into our very souls (and today, they seem way out-of-place because I wrote this yesterday, but still I give thanks).

  • BurgerQue Enjoyed a mouth-watering burger on a salad (no bun because, of course, I am skipping the carbs on an endless venture to lose five pounds…don’t worry, I ate a brownie for dinner on Sunday and gained it right back).  Best part was sharing this meal with good friends.
  • Rachel’s piano and voice recital (she’s only been playing for one year, but she killed it…check it out here) #proudmama #samsmithlaymedown
  • A husband who is loved by and loves his children.  (huge shout out to Allen Goetz) “My father didn’t tell me how to live.  He lived and let me watch him do it.”  (Clarence B. Kelland)
  • Our power-washer (with the help of Jared) that made our deck sparkly-clean.
  • Getting the last child graduated from high school.  WHEW!  (snarky aside:  we did not need seven speeches from people who hope that what they say in their three minutes of fame will change a life forever…wow, that didn’t sound thankful) #gowatchunghillswarriors
  • This morning’s rain storm and the happy dance I am doing because I don’t have to water all the hanging plants and deck planters.  Yippee!
  • A text from a good friend reminding me of her love and thankfulness for me.  All just became well in my soul!

I would love to be drawn me into your world and the treasures you have been given.  Please comment below.  We will share the easy and the hard thanks together.  One thing does not cancel out the other.  They just sit there next to each other.  I am off to cry some more.

 

 

 

 

Posted in beautiful mess, Emotions, Family, grief, sacred, suicide, taboo

Grief – One Friend’s Journal Entry (For Steven)

“True love between two human beings puts you more in touch with your deepest self.  The pain you experience from the death of the person you love calls you to a deeper knowledge of God’s love.  The God who lives in you can speak to the God in the other.  This is deep speaking to deep, a mutuality in the heart of God, who embraces both of you.”  (Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)

Grief.  Most of us try our very hardest to shy away, or even run away from it.  We question what to say when someone is grieving.  We are unsure how often or even if to “bring it up” once life supposedly goes “back to normal.”  We don’t know what to expect from ourselves or what the other might need from us.  Should we come close or give the other space?  It can be a very confusing time for everyone.  And truthfully, if I can speak candidly about myself,  I don’t like to be in pain or be with others in pain.  It’s just downright uncomfortable.

The past couple of years have been filled with family and friends who are grieving.   And like most things in my life, I am not an avoider.  I want to throw myself headlong into the process, engage in it, learn from it, deal with it.  After all, it’s fairly new to me and I’ve heard that it’s horrible, sacred, beautiful intimate, and gut-wrenching all at the same time.

I lost my own sister-in-law, Denise Maret, just under a year ago, after a year-and-a-half long battle with colon cancer.  My brother and 19-year-old niece are left to raise my nine- and ten-year-old nephew and niece, along with the help of their grandparents.

My friend lost her precious brother to suicide.  He has left behind a wife, three children and two grandchildren and her heart is broken.

Our friend and former babysitter lost both her dad and her husband to cancer during her two pregnancies and she is left to raise two young children alone.

I reconnected with someone on Facebook who lost her only son to teen suicide.  This was the second time she lost a child, the other, a daughter, in early infancy.

A friend from church battled kidney cancer for many years.  His wife faithfully cared for him, only to lose him.  He missed his step-daughter’s wedding by only three short months.

One of my best friends from high school lost both of her daughters, her only children, in a tragic car accident on Good Friday.  They were only 19 and 20 years old, absolutely stunning girls, one only 10 days away from her college graduation.

You have your own stories.  So much horror.  So much sadness.  Grief multiplied.

This is probably where you want to click off, log out, go find puppy videos on the internet.  Me too.  At times.  But not today.  Come with me.  Lean in.  Learn along side of me.  Today, we will catch just a glimpse inside the world of my friend, Annie, who lost her baby brother to suicide at just 51 years old.  I promise you that it’s not all horrible.

When she first shared this journal entry with me, my heart was filled with horror, joy, sorrow, connection, injustice and comfort.  Yes.  All of those things.   Loss feels raw and sad and terrible and wrong, but also sacred and beautiful and precious.  Entering in to the pain allows our hearts to be touched with a deeper knowing and beauty that we will miss if we click away.  I ask that you would read on.

Annie’s Journal Entry on 6/17/2017.  Four months later.

Steven is gone.  He is gone.  He is gone from me.  How can this be?  How can he be gone, just gone?  I don’t feel disconnected from him . . . but definitely disengaged.  He is not here to hope, or dream, or plan for a future together.  All those things are gone.

My connection to a future here that includes him is gone, and nothing will take its place.  It is an empty space…and it will stay empty.  It is a space that holds his absence and my missing him.  My own future will always hold this empty space.  I am suffering.  I will suffer, but I will not be destroyed or left desolate by an empty space.

This empty space where Steven is missing is a sacred place.  I would rather have this sacred, empty space than no space at all.  Our love and connection to each other created a space for our future together.  If there had been no love and connection, there would be no space – – and I am thankful for it, for our empty space . . . for my empty space.

I am thankful for all the other spaces, the other spaces that are full – – beautiful, cherished spaces filled to bursting with love and life and memories.  Memories of the two of us.  All the precious moments we had together and apart-but-connected.  All the treasured memories we had together with others.  Those spaces are filled up and will stay full . . .
nothing will change that.

I don’t have you with me now my Steve, my beloved Steven, but I am forever grateful for you – my one time little brother, my forever friend.