Friday, October 24, 2014

Faithful Friday: Forgive

Day 24: FORGIVENESS. Today let us open our hearts to forgiveness. Even if it is just a conversation that we have with ourselves. You may not be ready to forgive someone today and that is okay.  True forgiveness can never be forced so if you are not feeling it – then you are not feeling it! But we can still plant a seed. Forgiving someone may take years. It is a process. When you forgive another person you are not condoning their actions, you are just releasing yourself from them. When you hold onto anger or resentment for too long, you only end up hurting yourself. It is an easy thing to know in your heart that forgiveness will help you but to actually feel that is a whole other story. 

What are your thoughts on forgiveness? 
Have your had to forgive someone in your life? How did you do it? 
How did you let go of resentment? 

- - - - - - - -

Two years ago I wrote about this topic, specific to forgiveness in child loss.  Reading it again, I had to give praise to God for where I am now.  In 2012, I was still hurting, healing, processing the forgiveness needed to move on.  Now, I can't even pinpoint who or what that post was about.  And I know, without a doubt, any forgiveness I gave came from and through Him.  What a wonderful feeling when your soul is free from anger and resentment!

Today, I thought I'd focus on forgiveness of self in child loss.  Guilt is common with losing a child, no matter the circumstance.  As parents, we feel a responsibility to keep our children safe, happy, healthy.  When that goes wrong and life turns upside down, we blame ourselves.

For so long, it seemed, that night was on auto play in my mind.  I relived the moments leading up to Austin's death over and over and over.  Was there anything I could have done to prevent this?  Should I have made him get his flu shot that year?  What if I'd said no to the bike ride?  Should I have postponed his tonsillectomy, even though he'd begged to wait until after Thanksgiving so he could taste all the family's traditional foods. Why didn't I help Tim with CPR instead of sitting there sobbing, screaming, holding Austin's hand?

Would any of it have mattered?  Would anything turn back time and return my son?  

Months later, when we discovered the true cause of his death and heard the medical examiner assure us there was nothing before-during-or after that would've changed things, it helped.  Somewhat.  A piece of the guilt we carried went away.  But, I just replaced it with other reasons to not forgive myself.

Did Austin know we loved him?  Should I have not shopped on Black Friday and spent the day with the boys instead?  How many times that last day did I hug him?  Was I good mom?  Did he realize how much he meant to us?  to everyone?

And even now, six years later, I still find myself wishing, wondering.  I still have moments of guilt and areas I haven't forgiven.

I look at his little brother, now the same age but stockier, taller.  He fills up the queen size bed in his room and my heart cringes, remembering that Austin was still in a twin.  He'd grown faster than we'd ever imagined and the bed seemed to shrink beneath him overnight.  Though we'd talked about buying a bigger size, we hadn't yet.  And I think about whether his nights were uncomfortable, or if his back hurt in the mornings from being cramped in a small bed.  He never said.

Or that I never bought him the Iphone he wanted.  Perhaps I didn't spoil him enough.  Guilt has caused me to do so more with his brother, I know.  We never went on that trip to New York.  Or to a concert to rock out to AC/DC.

Your mind is continually filled with coulda/shoulda/wouldas when you've lost a child.  You wonder if you made the most of the time you had with them?  If it - or you - were enough...

There's no cookie cutter response to forgiveness, whether it is to yourself or others.  Each situation, every hurt or wrong or regret comes down to time and prayer.  Time helps anger and guilt fade.  Prayer erases the pain and replaces it with healing.

Thankful I'm not where I once was, hopeful I'll continue to grow, and laying it at His feet to help me.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


There's a bucket list in my head every fall.  You know, where it isn't fall until....

The leaves start changing, creating a patchwork quilt, and then begin to drift toward the ground.  
And at least in my mind, I envision scooping them up into a giant pile and jumping in. 

Trust me, it is much more of a "Hallmark moment" in my visions vs reality.  
Should I actually attempt it, it would be more iFunny or AFV.

And it isn't fall until...

All the seasonal food favorites make their debut.
Like the first pot of chili.
The gooey crunch of a caramel apple.
Pumpkin flavored anything.
A mug of hot cocoa.

or until...
My steps are covered with mums and pumpkins.
The fall wreath is hung and other decor.

We've attended at least a handful of fall festivals.
Craft booths.  Food trucks.  Cake walks.  

and until...
We visit the Apple orchards.
Corn mazes.  Apple everything.  Hayrides.

or until....
A few bonfires have been had.
Feet warmed and belly full of laughs, surrounded in a circle of friends.

or until...
My guys take off to the woods to hunt
and me and my girl snuggle in for movies.
Spooky, creepy, sleep with the light on movies.

And as we wind up October, with a little over a week to go.
Halloween is calling to cap off the fall season.

With costumes, trick-or-treating, crockpots of soup and trunks full of candy.
Where I sneak and steal all the dark chocolate.
Jack-o-lanterns glowing.  Pumpkin seeds toasty from the oven.

Then, the fall-la-la-la-la (October) bucket list will be complete!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Faithful Friday: Trust God

When I think back to last October and all the change that has come, I'm amazed.  Life isn't anything like I'd expected or planned it to be.  But still, life is good.

Last fall was a major life change for me, leaving a job after 16 years.  For the first time ever, I was unemployed.  And instead of providing, helping, doing, I was on the other side.  It was a scary, uncertain future.

For a girl with a slight case of OCD, and one who surely likes to be in charge and control, not having a job was like setting out in a boat on choppy waters.  For awhile, I didn't know where I'd end up and it felt like I'd been abandoned.

Our finances took a hefty ding and, at times, I felt like God let us down.  Hadn't we suffered enough on this earth?  Why must we struggle again so soon?  How were we ever going to manage?

Eventually, with my hubby's loving reminders, I let go and just trusted God.

The past year hasn't been easy.  There have been huge adjustments, changes, of figuring out who I am in a new career, and a shifting of priorities. Not that we ever lived extravagantly, but we lived in excess.  Now, we've learned that less really is more.  There's a tremendous difference in needs versus want, something the kids have been somewhat less eager to learn at times.

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, 
to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” 
~ Will Rogers

Change has helped us to refocus and reminded that God is in control.

What's been wonderful is that somehow, every need, every time, God has provided, often to the penny.  There's been unexpected blessings and many lessons along the way.  What we know, no matter what, is that we can trust God with our tomorrows - and our todays.

We may not have a lot but we certainly have all we need.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Faithful Friday: Support in Childloss

If you've been following me on Instagram or elsewhere, you know I'm participating in the #captureyourgrief project with CarlyMarie.

Day 10, today, is Support.

That's a tough one for me to verbalize because, in many ways, I've felt alone while navigating my way through child loss.  One of the most popular posts I've written about support, or rather lack of, can be found here at Still Standing magazine.

What I know six years later, is the majority of people just don't know how to begin to support someone who has lost a child.  Because, for the lucky ones, they've never experienced the horror.  To step out into that possibility is just too scary.  So most just avoid it.

Where I found the most support {from people} was from those who had already walked this dark path.  Even from those first days at the funeral home, I recall every heart-aching face that came out to relive their nightmare, just so they could hug us and let us know they were here.  The pain was tangible, even if their loss was years prior.  With so much truth in their faces, we knew what we were up against, seeing their lingering grief; but we were grateful for their help and guidance.

Where I found the most support {online} was through child loss sites.  Message boards, where I could pour my heart to strangers who knew my pain, helped me cope in the middle of the night. Websites specific to child loss gave me a connection, an understanding that others had experienced what I was going through, hope to see how other's had survived. Reading and researching grief, watching for the signs of depression in my family, how to help my marriage and prevent the staggering divorce rates shown on Google, and what to say to my little boy grieving his brother helped me process, plan and prepare.  I was in charge online and could choose when and where to go, what to say, and when to shut down.  Online, it has been easy to share about Austin and our child loss journey online, but face to face, my emotions usually fail me.  Online, I have been able to bare my soul and heal with each typed word.  Along the way, I've been blessed to gain many new friends, members of a club no parent wants to join, but united just the same.  One such friend has about the best collection of what to do for grieving parents I've ever read.

Where I found the most support {from community} has been our current church home.  We wouldn't find this home until we were 3 1/2 years out from losing Austin, but the timing of when we found them was impeccable.  We joined our church in what would've been Austin's graduation year from high school.  So many milestones and missed moments, heartaches we could have never anticipated, and pains, like a wound ripped open again, led us to covet the many prayers freely given for us by our church family.  It touched our hearts even more that we were so new but they welcomed us with open arms, and treated us as if we'd been members for years.  The church typically gave all students a gift card the Sunday after graduation.  For Austin, they made a donation to his scholarship fund.  That first year, we also joined a Lifegroup, something foreign to us, but that close knit group of friends surrounded our family with love and support in a time we needed a sense of belonging most.

But how I've survived most, where I've found the biggest comfort, solace, peace and support is {spiritually}.  Even when I pushed Him away, God was there to hold me through the darkest pain my soul would ever know.  He has been my guide, the place where I find rest and compassion, where I could pour out anger, heartache, questions, and tears, yet still find kindness and understanding.  He carried me when I couldn't take the next step, held my hand as I braved another day, and nudged me to help others facing this loss as I began to heal.  I cannot imagine my life, especially these past six years, without Him by my side.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Faithful Friday: Unanswered Prayers

For six years I've struggled with one very personal factor of losing my son.

God said no to my deepest, most heartfelt prayer.

While I would never wish this pain on even the most evil in this world, in the early days of grief, when I heard of other's answered prayers - of healing, of miracles, a part of me would twinge. Sometimes, if I'm honest, a part of me still does.

Why not my son?  Why not my prayer?

It's the question that's crept doubt into my faith.  Why I felt anger brimming on the surface, even from the ER that first horrible night.  What turned me away from church for awhile.  And why I tried to push God out of my life.

I couldn't understand how He could let my husband and me survive a motorcycle wreck, but take my son while simply riding his bike around our neighborhood.

Nothing made sense anymore.

Our wreck had changed me.  It was a stop sign for our life.  During the days that followed, I appreciated moments more.  Sunrises and sunsets had meaning.  I treasured every moment with my family because I knew how precious time was.

And I shared it with others, frequently giving praises to God for saving us.  Helping others see the special in every day, was what I thought my purpose was.

So when God pulled the rug from under my fairy tale dreams, nothing made sense anymore.

What more could he want from me?  How much more did I need to suffer on this earth?  And how could I ever share the good news when so much good just left this earth?

I know now our wreck wasn't just a stop sign - it was a gift.  Those three years after were the closest our family ever was.  We made the most of every single day, packed more "I Love Yous" than ever before, and created sweet memories, not realizing a countdown was ticking away in Heaven.

Somehow we came through the darkness that comes with child loss.  Eventually, slowly, joy returned.  And my relationship with God strengthened beyond measure.

Yet, in the background hissing now and then was the reminder that God didn't hear my prayer.

At least not the one that mattered most.

To this day it is something I've fought with, what I've internally pushed aside during moments that required my faith to stretch and reach.  Though I tried to ignore it, that question was always lingering.

And then, in His perfect timing, He sent me a message that changed it all.

Last Sunday, our pastor spoke the words God knew I needed to hear.....

Even Jesus had unanswered prayers.

Wow.  That single sentence weighed heavy, bounced around the corners of my mind, and settled into my heart.

In the Garden, on the evening before Jesus would die for my sins, he prayed his deepest, most earnest prayer to His Father.  But even in his distress and agony, God couldn't answer His prayer.  His own son's.

Even knowing the pain it would cause, there was a purpose and a plan.

 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, 
and he said to them,
Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, 
and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 
Then he said to them,
My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. 
Stay here and keep watch with me.
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed,
My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. 
Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October: Capture Your Grief

I've been drawn to sunrises and sunsets for many years now.  When you've faced a life or death experience, in addition to the deepest of pains - child loss - it, without a doubt, changes the way the you look at the world.

I try to treasure every moment, to make the most of each day, and to celebrate the joys it brings.  I do this because I know ours day are precious and never promised.

So, it is nothing unusual for me to comment about a sunrise, to stop my car in the middle of the road to capture a photo, or to even call someone and have them look outside if they're not with me.

This morning, the sky was beautiful.  

We were headed out a little earlier than normal, as I'm traveling this week for training.  With the kids in the car, I leaned on them for photo assistance.  Noah, still half asleep, grabs my phone and starts clicking.

Not pulling over, windshield between, and the limitations of a camera phone, I didn't expect to get great quality, but wanted to catch it even still.  But, dropping them to school, commuting, and then jumping straight into an all-day training, I didn't have a chance to look at what he caught.

As I'm relaxing and catching up on my news feed tonight, I notice a photo project online that catches my eye. From a sister-in-grief, she shares of a project for all of October to capture our loss and what heals our heart through photos.

November is right around the corner, a difficult season for us.  I love photography.  Sharing our grief to help others.  ....Seems like a perfect match.

Day 1:  Capture today's sunrise

Wow.  I remember that I did just that today.  But I hadn't even looked at them yet.

Pulling up the photos, I'm covered in goosebumps when I see the symbol reflected onto the windshield.  Call it angel wings....perhaps a butterfly, but there's obviously something there, under the sunrise.

It wasn't something I could see with my own eyes, only the photo captured it.
I wasn't in my typical vehicle, but Tim's.
It wasn't our normal time of time to catch the sunrise.
And I didn't even know about the project until after the sun set.

I'll take that as a big sign I'm meant to participate in this challenge.
Want to join me?  Comment below and I'll follow you.
Follow me on Instagram @ joyfulchallenge for each day's capture.

Joyfully expectant for where October takes me....

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