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You are not alone

Some people very close to us are going through a very difficult time.  When we heard this song today, we could not stop thinking about and groaning for them.

This song is for them/you.  Please remember that you are not alone.

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Mat 28:18-20, emphasis mine)

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2015 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Faith

This past week I listened to someone preach through Hebrews 11, the “faith” chapter of the Bible.  I began to think about what faith really is and looks like.  I thought that I could write a post about faith, Hebrews 11, the faith “hall of fame”, and so on.  But as I recently laid down and had a few moments to meditate, the thought came that I should write about what faith means to me.

First of all, how do I define faith?  Well, let me use the Biblical definition:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)

If I could put this into my own words, I would say that faith is my conviction to trust God’s promises, that I have a future hope better than this world, which hope I cannot see at this present time.  I can understand that there are things invisible through observing the things that are visible.  I understand that there is a Creator by observing the things that are created.

My faith comes from believing that God’s Word is true and that He demonstrated His love for me by sending Jesus Christ to take the penalty for my sins in his flesh.  Through believing in His Son, I receive the Holy Spirit of God, who helps me and strengthens my faith.  Through believing that, on God’s accounts, I am now crucified and raised with Christ, I now have guaranteed eternal life and victory over sin.

As I read through Hebrews 11, I see many great Biblical “heroes” who demonstrated great acts of faith.  I read about Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab, and so forth.  I read that people subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, escaped peril, received ones back from the dead, and more.  But then I read that others were tortured, mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, cut in half, tempted, killed, or were nomads.  The Scripture says that the world was not worthy of this later group and that they did not receive the promise of their faith during their lifetime on earth.  However, they, along with us, will receive something better from God.

Faith is not just mountaintop experiences, although such experiences are wonderful.  Faith is also walking, well faithfully, though the valleys of life and still trusting God’s promises even when we cannot see.  In Scripture, I don’t see the faith that some of these preachers on television and the radio speak about.  I don’t see God instructing us to speak the word and believe without wavering to get a new car, house, job, or money, money, money.  I once heard someone say that the world will be drawn to God when they see how he causes us to prosper.  I could understand the point trying to be made, but wouldn’t unbelievers also consider God when they see someone trusting Him when their world is falling apart around them and they have a worldly reason not to trust Him?  I’m not saying that the only way to point people to God is through suffering, and believe me I am not going about looking for more, but I want us to consider what would really make a lasting testimony of God’s grace and faithfulness in someone’s life.

My faith in God has caused me trust Him even while in the darkest valley of my life.  Faith has helped me to realize that God knows what is best for me at all times, even when evil happens to me.  He can turn that evil around to work good in me, if I don’t fight against Him.  Faith has led me to trust God at a deeper level and to set my eyes more on the unseen than the seen.  OK, that part is not always true because there are days when what I see pulls at me to indulge in…well whatever.  But through faith in believing God’s Word that says I am crucified with Christ and dead to sin, I can overcome the temptation and press on towards Christ and my promises awaiting in Heaven.  If I do stumble, I also read that even the great “heroes” of the faith stumbled at times, but God was merciful to them and he is also merciful to me.

So, what is faith?  Is it believing that God will give us our wants, or that He provides us with all of our needs?  What is our greatest need?  Is it not to have His forgiveness and mercy?  I believe that is my greatest need.  Through faith, I believe that all of my sins are forgiven and I am completely righteous in God’s eyes, not because I feel like it (because I don’t) but because God says so.

I don’t believe that faith can be stagnant.  I heard someone say that faith is not like a pond but is like a river.  We can’t rely on a one-time faith experience, but should exercise it daily to keep it vibrant and growing.

Blessings,

Andy

 

 

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Seeing things differently

Today Brenda continues to write about her journey after the sudden death of our son Isaac in April 2011.

Where am I now?

As I reflect on the last several years after Isaac was promoted to Heaven, I have changed.  I am not the Brenda I was before.  I see things differently.  I am looking through a different lens.  One thing I can now see after several years is how the Lord provided for me:

  • Providing help from a neighbor
  • Providing hospital workers who all prayed together surrounding us
  • Providing rainbows in the sky to let me know that He was still there and a double rainbow on the first-year anniversary date of Isaac’s promotion
  • Providing mourning doves to let me know that He still heard me
  • Providing finances, even from people we never met
  • Providing a loving and supportive family
  • Providing food
  • Providing time off from work for Andy
  • Providing the many cards, emails, and flowers even from people we never met
  • Providing friends that would just listen
  • Providing churches that were willing to reach out to us
  • Providing a sister who was willing to come and stay with us
  • Providing uplifting and encouraging words
  • Providing friendships with those who have experienced the loss of a loved one
  • Providing a local GriefShare support group
  • Providing understanding and helpful neighbors
  • Providing those who would pray for us

Those are just some of the things I can reflect on and know that the Lord was with us during our time of need.

I did not always see this.  The first year and a half was the absolute hardest of anything I have ever experienced in my life.  But, the fog started lifting and I could “see”.  I began slowly to see and hear the birds sing again.  I could see the beautiful colors the Lord has provided for us to admire.  I could see and hear and experience laughter again.  But most of all, I could see how blessed I am with the family I have.

Do I still struggle and have bad days?  Yes.  Triggers that come from nowhere may send me for a loop, but I do not stay “there” as long.

(2Co 10:5) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

This verse was key for me to remember to turn off my negative switch and turn on my positive switch.  I give thanks to the Lord for all that He has provided.  I have to choose to do this and I choose not to think upon those things such as:

  • What people may have said to me that hurt
  • Cards or emails I didn’t receive and thought I should have
  • or…fill in the blank with any other negative thought.

There is grace and forgiveness.  I never experienced anything like this before and most other people have not.  Many do not understand and are not trying to intentionally be mean.  I didn’t understand either.  The Lord has helped me to see this.  He gives me grace and lots of it; therefore, I should also extend grace to those around me.

Do I still grieve?  Yes.  Will I always grieve?  Yes.  However, as I look back, I can now see things that I couldn’t see when I was clouded by grief – the Lord was still with me.

Blessings,

Brenda

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2015 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Grieving with hope…a mother’s perspective

I miss Isaac.  I miss him so very much.

I miss his creations.

I miss him waking up and dragging the laundry bag down the stairs faithfully every day.

I miss him trying to occupy David.

I miss him playing with children of all ages……he loved children and could occupy them so well.

I miss him wearing shorts in the winter.

I miss him dressing up as a cowboy or a soldier or a combination.

I miss him utilizing items for other purposes, like a bathrobe for a civil war coat, a basketball hoop set up for a cannon, and others.

I miss him wearing either a civil war or cowboy hat or a handkerchief on a regular basis.

I miss his interest in history, one of my favorite subjects.

I miss him fighting me for salt and vinegar chips, mashed potatoes, and other foods that we both enjoyed together.

I miss his fluffy hair when it would grow out.

I miss his hand holding mine when we would pray.

I miss his hugs.

I miss him fussing at the children for slopping while they ate.

I miss his ability to see right from wrong.

I miss him saying out loud what I was thinking.

I miss him sitting beside Andy in the church pew, flipping his Bible pages, following along to our pastor’s sermon.

I miss him pretending he was our pastor and holding church service in our front room.

I miss his heart for others.  For example, giving his beloved Thomas battery operated train to some other boys to bless them like he was blessed, giving of all his money he had saved to Mission India’s Bible clubs with no hesitation, drawing or coloring pictures for others, giving his money to our new pastor and his wife when they visited, and many other examples too.

I miss his smile and his laughter.

I miss being his mom and teacher.

But most of all,

I. Just. Miss. Him.

I love my boy and will forever miss him, but there is good news and hope.   You see, Isaac had a childlike faith that Jesus Christ was God’s son that He was sent to die on the cross for his sins, past, present, and future.  Praise the Lord for God’s provision for us so that we may see our loved ones that were promoted to heaven.  All we have to do is believe this too, a free gift from God!  We do not need to do anything, just believe!  I miss Isaac terribly, but my hope is that I will see him again and, for now, I hold dearly to that!  May you experience that hope too!

A grieving mom with hope,

Brenda

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2015 in Grief

 

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Bent Over, Broken, and Uprooted

IMG_20140714_193107

Last week, a severe thunderstorm swept through our valley.  The storm came quickly and its fierceness was unexpected.  The wind was strong and the rain was heavy.  After the storm, we assessed the damage.  Several trees in the neighborhood were either bent over, broken, or uprooted.

Bent over

Bent over

Broken

Broken

Uprooted (well, almost - but bear with me!)

Uprooted (well, almost – but bear with me!)

Such are the storms of life.  Sometimes, an unexpected tragedy hits us out of nowhere.  Spiritually speaking, the storm can either leave us bent over, broken, or uprooted.

  • Bent Over – We are doubled over in emotional pain and spiritual exhaustion.  We can barely stand on our own two feet and need to lean upon someone or something to get us through.  We may even be on our hands and knees.  Hopefully, when we are in this posture, we turn our hearts in prayer to our Heavenly Father who loves us.
  • Broken – We are more than bent over but not quite uprooted.  Something in our midst was weak that allowed the storm to break us in pieces.   A bit of us is still standing, but our shape is marred.  Further pruning may be required to salvage the remaining stump and encourage new growth.
  • Uprooted – Our roots were not strong or deep enough to allow us to withstand through the storm.  Our life’s foundation has been totally destroyed.  What is left of us can only be cut up and burned in the fire.  We must plant new life and allow it to grow.

This analogy has caused me to think about my own spiritual walk and how the storm of Isaac’s death has affected my life.  I don’t think I was uprooted because my spiritual roots were in Jesus Christ and they still are.  I was more than bent over, which left me feeling broken.  I still feel as through some of my broken pieces need to be cleaned up, even as new growth has sprouted out of my remaining “stump”.  Lord, will you help me to feel whole again?

If you have experienced an intense storm in your life, in which of these three positions has it left you?

Blessings,

Andy

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Beware the Frozen Heart

Yes, the title of this post was borrowed from a recently popular animated movie.

And yes, we have watched the movie “Frozen” (gasp!).

Why the “gasp!”?, you may ask.  Well, there is some controversy about the message of and some scenes in the movie “Frozen”.  I suppose that, if you watch the movie while holding a particular worldview, you could read into it whatever you wanted.  What I took away from the movie was a warning about the dangers of and the cure for a frozen heart.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil too much for you.  One character, Elsa, has secret powers that she attempts to conceal.  In her attempts, she not only harms herself but has a negative impact on her relationships and the world around her.  When she finally decides to “let it go“, thinking she will find freedom, she instead descends further into fear and isolation.  As her sister Anna tries to rescue her, she learns the secret to breaking the “eternal winter” spell:

Only an act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.

As we watched the climatic scenes of the movie, these words of Jesus Christ came to mind:

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (Joh 15:12-13)

I don’t believe that Disney would intentionally put forth an overtly Christian message.  However, from my worldview, I can choose to see the good message that this movie presents.

What greater love was ever demonstrated than Jesus dying on the cross to free us from the “eternal winter” in our souls due to sin?  His one act of true love, and sending the Holy Spirit into those who put all of their faith and trust in Him, will melt away the iciness of sin and isolation and bring an overwhelming warmth into our hearts.  We will be truly free, instead of further isolated and in bondage to fear.

Why did this theme speak to me?  Because with grief, there is a danger of developing a frozen heart.  In our pain, we tend to isolate ourselves and not be open about how we truly are.  We want others to think that we are “OK” so that we can avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation.  But instead of making the situation better, and allowing the opportunity for some healing and love (not only for ourselves but for the others who are trying to help), we create an icy emotional environment.  When we lay down our desire for self-preservation and reach out in love, even serving others and considering their interests as more important than ours (laying down our life), then we free ourselves from the bondage of our frozen heart.

Again, this is just our personal view.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2014 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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I Gave Up on Him…

I Gave Up on Him…

Grief after the death of a child. Sometimes it is hard to describe our journey. Guy Wolfe has found the words to articulate the thoughts and feelings that bereaved parents can experience. I can relate to much of what he wrote.

Holy Ghost Bumps

alone_man-1440x900 On the way to the park, Emma says to me, “Daddy…I hope there will be other kids there so that I have someone to play with.”  She’ll walk around the house with her dolls in her hands talking to Mia…”If you’ll just come back, Mia, I’ll let you play with my favorite toys and I won’t get mad.”  She comes up to me at random times and asks, “Daddy…can I go out on the porch and talk to Mia?”  Whenever she sees a butterfly, she chases after it calling out, “Mia!  Mia!  Come play with me!”

I was sitting in the living room the other day watching Emma play in the sun room.  She had all her dolls out, and she was playing out each individual role.  They laughed.  They got mad.  They were happy.  I was heartbroken.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  How am I supposed to…

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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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