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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

 
8 Comments

Posted by on April 15, 2016 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

 
4 Comments

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

 
16 Comments

Posted by on January 24, 2015 in Grief

 

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Something Precious to God

I recently read Psalm 116.  It is a beautiful psalm about the grace and mercy of God in the face of trouble and death.  I urge you to read the entire psalm, however one gem of a verse may catch your attention (as it caught mine):

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. (Psa 116:15)

Did you catch that?  The death of God’s people is precious to Him.

I looked up this verse in a modern translation because I was curious how modern scholars handle it.  One such translation rendered it as:

The LORD’s loved ones are precious to him; it grieves him when they die. *

Have you ever thought about why the death of one of God’s children would be precious to Him?  I can’t even pretend to think for God, but maybe God grieves because of the pain and heartache death causes for the living loved ones.  Maybe God grieves because death was not part of His original creation and did not enter the world until man sinned.

On the positive side, I could think that the saint’s death is precious because that spirit is finally free from the trials of the world, the flesh, and the devil and is in the company of God.  Maybe God values our relationship and fellowship so much that it makes Him happy to have one of His children close to Him in unhindered fellowship.

Maybe it is because…?

This verse reveals to me something about the heart of the Father.  I am comforted knowing the God grieves with me over the death of one His dear children.  My hope is that you are too.

Blessings,

Andy

* Scripture quotation is taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189.  All rights reserved.

 

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Horses and Hope

Last week, our neighbors who live just a mile up the road invited us over for horse-drawn cart rides.  First, the children (and adults) enjoyed several rides in the cart drawn by the pony named Miracle.

Merrily we go...

Merrily we go…

Three ladies and a Miracle

Three ladies and a Miracle

The boys take a turn with Miracle

The boys take a turn with Miracle

Next, David and Gracia took turns riding the pony named Lovey.

David rides Lovey

David rides Lovey

OK, maybe not

OK, maybe not

Finally, Isabella rode Oliver.  She was a little unsure mounting him because he stands over 16 hands high!  Isabella commented that the ground looked so far away.  Once she was on and rode a few laps with him, she settled right in.

Preparing Oliver for a ride

Preparing Oliver for a ride

Isabella and Oliver enjoying the beautiful scenery

Isabella and Oliver enjoying the beautiful scenery

100_4777 100_4782 100_4788

Brushing Oliver

Brushing Oliver

New friends

New friends

We enjoyed our visit with our new friends.  Although we only live a mile apart, we just met this last year because of a common yet unwanted bond that we share.  In August 2012, our neighbors’ daughter tragically died in an automobile accident.  Though we would have never chosen the circumstances that brought us together, it is encouraging and comforting to have each other to share our heartaches and hope.

Who by him (Jesus) do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. (1Pe 1:21, emphasis added)

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. (1Th 5:9-11)

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (2Co 1:3-4)

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Family Updates

 

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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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