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Five Years

April 18.  This year, 2016, it will mark five years since Isaac’s death.  There is a popular saying that “time heals all wounds.”  I don’t agree with that statement, but I do believe that time provides perspective.

The first anniversaries of Isaac’s death were difficult to endure.  The first year we felt a need to get away for the day and try to focus on something else.  The second year was a much more quiet remembrance.  I really don’t remember the third and fourth anniversaries.

So why does this year feel different?  Maybe because five years marks a significant milestone in other aspects of our lives (i.e. marriage, employment).  Maybe because this year April 18 will once again land on a Monday, the same day of the week that it was in 2011.  I’m not sure which of these it is, or perhaps for some other reason, but this year the anticipation is slightly haunting me.

I mentioned earlier that I believe time provides perspective.   One way this is true for me is that the intensity of pain from losing a child has lessened.  The first year or two was just so difficult and painful, with so many thoughts and events triggering intense emotional responses.  As we have forged a new groove for our lives, we don’t carry the heavy burden of that pain or get lost in the cloud of grief.  We can remember good times with smiling and laughter and not focus so much on the events on and immediately after April 18, 2011.  We can focus on the eternal truths in God’s Word and look forward to when we will see Isaac again.

By God’s grace, we have moved forward with our lives.  We haven’t moved “on”, as if whatever happened before didn’t matter.  But we have chosen not to remain frozen in the past, where we could play out the “what if” scenarios in our minds (though this is tempting at times, but quite unfruitful).  Moving forward to us means that we still remember (how could we forget?).  We laugh, play, and work, while rejoicing in all these things.

Yet, while moving forward and rejoicing, there is a piece of my heart that is missing.  I am not always consciously aware of it, yet I feel that it is gone.  I can feel the void that Isaac’s passing has left.  It is difficult for me to describe that feeling.  I just feel like I am not an entire person.  The best physical analogy that I can think of is if one is missing a body part that they once had (which I’ve never experienced, so forgive me for taking the liberty of this analogy).  While I see (physical) and know (mental) that Isaac is not here, in my heart (spiritual) he is still with me.   These conflicting aspects of my being make me wonder if I am something less than a full person.

I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.  It is only through my faith in our loving, merciful, and just God that I can even stand where I am today.  I believe that Isaac is safe in His hands and I hold fast to the hope of seeing him again someday soon.  Yet because Isaac is there in Heaven and I am here on Earth, a part of me is missing.

May you be blessed this day and rest in the eternal hope we have through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Andy

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2016 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Where’s the fire?

How many times have I intended to write a post, only to not find the determination to follow through?  I even started several of them, but could not seem to find the proper words to bring them to completion.  Being frustrated with my lack of passion to write, and wanting freedom from the duty to try to complete my earlier thoughts, I recently cleaned out my “draft” posts and decided to start afresh.  So here we go…

Spring is almost here.  It is the time of year when the earth brings forth new life and we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior.  It is also the time of year when a dark cloud hangs over the anticipation of a particular date – April 18.  It will be almost three years since our beloved Isaac passed on into heaven.  Even after the long cold winter we experienced, it is still difficult to be fully excited about the change in season, at least until we pass that day.

So, how am I?  Well, I wish I had some fire lit under me to tackle my callings in this life (hence the title of this post).  Most days I feel as if I float through life.  The enthusiasm that I had the first and even second year after Isaac’s death, to turn around the experience to help others, has diminished somewhat.  I still want to share with and help others who are grieving after the death of a child, but it is not my driving force and passion.  Everyday life has returned to – well – everyday life.  I go to work, Brenda home schools the children, we gather together in the evening, and we wrap-up our day.  Then we do it all over again.  Were we supposed to return to this hum-drum routine?  Or, rather, should we not be serving our Lord joyfully through the “normalcy” of everyday life (and not considering it “hum-drum”)?  How long do we have to endure this life?

I think there are really only three things that keep me going these days:  God’s word; the unconditional love and support of my wife and children; and my relationships with close family, friends, and brethren in Christ.  The word of God has been my life support.  If there is one positive from this experience, it is that I have learned to cling to the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, especially when the world offers other means of false comfort and peace.  I realize that there are things about God that I don’t understand, and I am trying to be OK with that (do I really have a choice?).  I wish I had answers to my big questions.  But if God didn’t give Job the answers to his big questions, then I should be content with the same.

Lately, some annoyances in my life have really been getting under my skin. I have been impatient with others and harbored bitterness over some perceived injustices.  I know the Lord calls me to forgive (up to 490 times right?), but doesn’t that only apply to my “brother” and doesn’t he/she have to apologize first?  You see how I rationalize my anger?  Oh yeah, I can be angry, as long as I don’t sin, right?   Anyway, I’m not liking that stinky attitude coming out of my heart.

I hope you don’t mind me just being honest about where I am spiritually.  We could really use your prayers.  I wish I could share some great spiritual insight and breakthrough with you, but it seems that I’m just wandering through the desert land.

On a lighter note, I did want to share a recent family “selfie” below.  Yes, we do have a new dog.  His name is Stride and he appears to be a collie/German shepherd mix.  He is a little over a year old.  We adopted him near the end of 2013.  We have been challenged to get used to Stride’s energy and personality, but things are improving and we are learning to accept each other.  Our previous family dog, Mikey, died suddenly in early October 2013 while we were away on vacation.  That was a very sad experience for us.  Also, our two cats that Brenda and I had from early in our relationship died within a short time frame.  So, the last half of 2013 was a little rough for us as the older generation of our pets all died within a short period.  For us, losing a pet is not nearly the same experience as losing a child, but it is sad and difficult.

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Well, I think I will actually close a post for now!  If a fire kindles underneath me, maybe I will write a little more often in the future (no promises though).

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Andy

 

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Homesick

CCI04222011_00001Today Isaac would have turned 13 years old.  It seems so cliché to say “it’s hard to believe”, but those words describe how I feel  This is the third birthday anniversary that we will commemorate with Isaac in Heaven.  So many times it seems like just last year that he left us, while other times it seems so long ago.

I wonder what he would look like at 13 years old.  Would he have facial hair and be shaving?  What would his voice sound like?  How muscular would he be?  Would he like his hair buzzed or longer?

I also wonder if he would still be interested in trains.  How much historical knowledge would have he accumulated about the American Civil War?  Would he still enjoy the outdoors?  What type of work would he be interested in doing?  What other interests would he have?

Finally, I wonder where he would be spiritually.  Would he be following Jesus with all of his heart?  Would he still be concerned about others being saved?

We don’t have to concern ourselves with these things anymore because Isaac is safe in Heaven.  Our spiritual training with him was completed suddenly on April 18, 2011, when it was his time to go home.  I imagine the day that I go home.  After I greet my Savior Jesus and bow at his feet, I expect to see Isaac standing close behind him with that big smile on his face ready to give me one of his hearty hugs.

I’m homesick…

I miss you buddy, so very much.  Sometimes I laugh and sometimes I cry when I remember all of our times together.  How I long so much just to see you, hold you, and laugh with you.  Happy birthday, my dear sweet son.

Every passing day brings us one step closer.

Blessings to you all,

Andy

 
 

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Almost Two Years

calendarToday is Sunday, March 24.  Next Sunday we will celebrate Easter/Resurrection Day.  Then we will turn the calendar over to April.  The date stares me in the face – the eighteenth.  18th.  18.  One-eight.  That combination of numbers used to intimidate me; however now they are no longer as daunting.  I remember when I used to expect every 18th.  Now, months can go by without noticing that another 18th has passed.

It hardly seems possible that over 23 months have passed from the day our lives changed forever – Monday, April 18, 2011.  That year, it was the Monday before Easter/Resurrection Day.  That day, our son Isaac suddenly passed on into the presence of Jesus.  Now, as we remember the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God, we also remember the death and burial of our son Isaac’s body and promotion of his spirit into Heaven.

What has happened over these months and years?

The darkness and the fog of the first months and year have lifted.  We don’t feel as heavy in spirit as often as we used to, as reflected in my early writings.  We’ve experienced joy, happiness, and peace.  We’ve also experienced anguish, sorrow, and regret.  We’ve experienced healing and relief through sharing our journey with others and receiving encouragement from others.  We’ve smiled and cried when someone shared a memory of Isaac (and those tears are healing and full of gratitude – so please continue to share!).  Though we live with continued confidence in our Savior and the goodness of God, we still have a painful scar deep in our heart.

This experience has resulted in us being known in our local community.  If we’re not careful, we can feel self-conscious in public as we imagine who may know us as “that family who lost a son”.  Positively, our experience has opened doors to relate with others that may never have been opened any other way.  We’ve been able to interact intimately with other parents who have “lost” children and other mourners.  We’ve been able to witness to God’s faithfulness through the darkest of days, even when it seemed that He had abandoned us.  We’ve tried to comfort others with the same comfort that we received.  When we don’t know what to say, we’ve learned that our presence, a hug or a firm handshake, and/or providing for some material need can speak more than any words could have at the moment.

Personally, we are being tested to go deeper and be more honest in our spiritual walk with God.  Our hearts have become more tender, especially towards others.  We’ve reexamined our lives, wondering if God was seeking retribution for some past sin.  Instead, we’ve comprehended more deeply the price that Jesus fully paid for us through his suffering both before and on the cross.  The punishment for every sin that we would ever commit (past, present, and future) was laid on Him.  I don’t see where Isaac’s death was God’s way of “getting us back”.  Do we not realize that we all die at some time?  We are all in need of repentance towards and faith in Christ.  We are not God and therefore cannot understand all of His ways.  We continue to believe that there are greater purposes in Isaac’s “untimely” death.  We are experiencing some of these purposes now in how our relationships with others have grown deeper and richer.  We expect that we will perhaps see more of these purposes, if not on this earth, then when we enter into Heaven.   Don’t get me wrong – I would rather selfishly have Isaac here with us than go through this pain of separation.  But I am content knowing that I will see him again someday – all praise and glory to Jesus Christ for that truth!

Some days are very challenging and difficult for me.  I find it hard to handle some of the trials and challenges of everyday life.  I have to remind myself that I am constantly serving God, even as I go to work.  There is no area of my life that God is not interested in.  He wants me to be a loving husband and father.  He also wants me to be a faithful and diligent employee.  I know that God will not give me more than I can handle, but these past two years have been very difficult.  When will I learn to stop trying to handle things on my own and completely rely on His strength?

Overall, we have learned to take this grieving process slowly.  One area that we are being deliberately slow is in addressing Isaac’s belongings.  Although we have passed on a few items, we still have a closet full of memories that we have not yet addressed.  We expect that, when the time seems right, we will decide what to do with Isaac’s creations and earthly possessions.  For now, we will keep them tucked away behind the closed door.

So, as April approaches and Spring begins to show its signs here in snowy Central PA, we can also feel the budding of the season of Spring in our hearts.  The long, cold winter seems to be behind us and our new lives are beginning to shine with renewed hope.  Lord, please help us to walk in the beauty and newness of Spring in our hearts day-by-day.

Blessings,

Andy

 

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The Void

Last night I was looking at some pictures on our computer and also watched the two videos that I had compiled from photos of Isaac.  It has been several months since I’ve strolled through those memories.  As I reopened my memory closet, I was reminded of how much I really miss our son.

Isaac left quite an impression wherever he went.  The boy could be loud and he really enjoyed a hearty laugh.  If there was fun involved, Isaac wanted to participate.  He was also a leader – he liked to take charge of a situation.  I remember how determined he was to rescue Patches the cat out of a tree for his sister, Isabella.  Because Isaac left such an impression on our lives, a very large void remains after his departure.  As I was telling someone recently, it feels like there is a hole in the middle of our family.  Though God has helped us tremendously to feel as one when we’re together, I still feel incomplete.  I don’t know if I will ever feel complete as a family this side of Heaven.

I anxiously anticipate the day to be reunited with Isaac in Heaven.  I don’t know what the nature of our relationship will be, but I imagine it will be even more glorious than what it was here on earth.  After all, we will be in the presence of God the Father and God the Son!  Jesus said:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. (John 14:1-4)

I believe that Isaac is seeing that place that Jesus is preparing or has prepared for us.  Being the leader that he is, I imagine that he will want to give us a guided tour himself.

Knowing that I have an eternal destiny waiting for me in Heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, this time here serves to prepare me for that destiny and perfect my faith.  What I do here and now will determine what rewards I receive in Heaven (note that salvation is not a reward, it is a free gift to those who believe in the Son).  Even so, I walk this earthly journey sensing that a great void is always with me.  Yet, even with this void caused by the departure of my son, I cling to my God for:

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. (Psa 147:3)

I leave you today with this quote from A. W. Tozer that has graced my eyes on several occasions recently:  “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”

Tozer also writes:

The flaming desire to be rid of every unholy thing and to put on the likeness of Christ at any cost is not often found among us. We expect to enter the everlasting kingdom of our Father and to sit down around the table with sages, saints and martyrs; and through the grace of God, maybe we shall; yes maybe we shall. But for the most of us it could prove at first an embarrassing experience. Ours might be the silence of the untried soldier in the presence of the battle-hardened heroes who have fought the fight and won the victory and who have scars to prove that they were present when the battle was joined.

(Tozer, A. W.  The Root of the Righteous.  As quoted on: http://www.crossway.org/blog/2010/02/must-we-be-hurt-deeply-to-be-used-significantly/, accessed February 7, 2013.)

Have you been hurt deeply in your life?  Has that hurt left a void in your heart?  Do you blame God for what happened?  Do you blame Him because He is sovereign and, even though He may not have caused the hurt, He didn’t prevent it?  Whatever the hurt or the void, He alone can permanently and completely heal and fill them.  He has greater purposes for them than we can ever imagine, if we would just have faith.  Sometimes I just need to remind myself of these truths – that is one of my purposes for writing.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Just Sleeping

Mat 9:18-19, 23-26 (emphasis added):

While he (Jesus) spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. (19) And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples.

(23) And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, (24) He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. (25) But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. (26) And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.

As we recently read through this passage together as a family, I was impressed by its relevance and truthfulness.  Here, Jesus visually demonstrates His power over death by raising this girl back to physical life.  As I related this to our circumstances, I captured the truth of these words in my heart.  For our son Isaac is not truly dead, but lives.  His body is sleeping in the grave, waiting for the resurrection.  His spirit lives on in Heaven, rejoicing with his Savior, Jesus, and all of the saints who have passed on to that glorious place.  Even though Isaac did not experience a physical healing and resurrection like this girl did, the spiritual reality of this truth (he is not dead, but sleeping) renews hope to a grieving heart.

I pray that this truth renews your hope and strengthens your faith in the One who has the power over death.

Joh 11:25-26: Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: (26) And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

1Th 4:13-18: But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (15) For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. (16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (18) Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

 

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He Would Have Been 12

Today marks the twelfth anniversary of Isaac’s birth. I remember how Isaac used to extend his birthday celebration for almost an entire week! He would bargain to watch his favorite movie, eat his favorite food, or play his favorite activity for several days before and after his birthday. He really enjoyed celebrations, whether it was for his birthday or another person’s milestone. He liked to receive gifts but also had pleasure in watching others open their presents. Isaac’s favorite toys for most of his young life were trains, although he mostly played with Lego’s during his last few years. I really miss him, especially during this past week when he would have been so excited.

Here’s some pictures of birthday milestones throughout the years:

1st Birthday with the customary cake face

2nd Birthday with a bunch of balloons (Daddy had to go back out to buy a second football balloon after he accidentally let the first one fly away)

3rd Birthday at the Strasburg Railroad’s “Day Out With Thomas”

5th Birthday with sister and cousins

7th Birthday

Isaac’s 10th birthday

As I reflect back on Isaac’s 10-1/2 years here on earth, I am moved to lift up this prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father:

You know what this day means to us. We thank you for the years that you entrusted us with Isaac. We trust You and Your goodness, even when we don’t understand Your ways. We rejoice that Isaac is in Your presence and exploring the wonders of Heaven, yet ache because we miss him here. We would never ask for him to come back, for that would be so selfish, yet we long just to see his face and feel his presence. I don’t know if it is proper to ask this, but if it is, please tell Isaac that we remember him with much love on his birthday and that we can hardly wait to see him again. Most of all, we anxiously anticipate the day that we see Jesus and feel those nail-scarred hands (the ones that took the nails for our redemption) as they wipe away our tears. Amen.

For more images from Isaac’s life, click here and here.

Blessings,

Andy

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Family Updates

 

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