Tuesday, August 12, 2014

...who is grateful for brighter days?

Yes. Nights can be dark. Very, very dark.

But there is another side...

After the darkest of nights the sun ALWAYS shines again. 
The light always breaks through the stormiest of clouds.
Breathing becomes easier, living becomes possible, peace becomes real, and joy attainable.
Grace is offered, strength is granted, and patience is renewed.

And this is where I live much of the time. On this other side.

Our days are filled with the silliness that exists in a household of five where four are minors...
We work together, feeling the satisfaction of performing normal duties and creating a peaceful haven of safety in our home.
We support each other through our most difficult tasks, helping where we can.
We shop together, often finding things Daddy would have liked. 
We eat out together, sometimes talking about what Daddy would have ordered.
We go places together, often remembering the last time we were there with Daddy.
We learn together, wishing Daddy were here to help us with new challenges.
We pray together, remembering Daddy's faithfulness to pray for our family and others.
We play together, enjoying some of the same activities Daddy did.
We attend church together, missing hearing Daddy sing the hymns beside us. 

We never forget. But we do not dwell on the sad moments. We cannot.
We live because Michael wanted us to. 
We live because we must. 
We live because we want to.
We remember the best of times and keep them close to our hearts.
We cherish Michael and all he was to us. 
We will never forget. 

Michael would be amazed at the strength his children have shown.
He would be proud of the maturity they have exhibited.
He would be impressed by the things we have learned, the new experiences we have enjoyed.
He would be awed by what we have accomplished individually and as a family.

And he would be aware, as we are, that all of this has come about because of the 
                                      grace of our Father!  

I know I continue to come back to that truth, but once again, I sincerely state that it's true
Jesus is the reason we are who we are and where we are in this journey. I'll repeat it with conviction until the day I, too, exchange this world for the eternal one. 
And it will work for you, too! 

That same grace will be there for you when God calls you to face a difficult task!
That same strength will enable you to accomplish much more than you ever dreamed possible! 
That same faithfulness will uphold you when you face your darkest nights!
That same love will surround you when your heart is shattered and crushed!

Stay grounded in God's Word, stand firm on those promises, pray about everything, and rest....
God IS and that's all we need to know.

Reveling in the brightness of God's mercy,

P.S. Those dark nights? Well, they come around kind of often. But this song also comes to mind often and I hold on tightly to the thought that someone out there is praying me through (click link to hear song).  I know there have been many who have carried our family in prayer, and some that have even been awakened from sleep with us on their minds for prayer. If you have been a part of that team, I thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you! The above post couldn't have been written without your faithfulness to follow those Spirit promptings...the brighter days would be few and far between without that support. May God bless you richly for your care and kindness! 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

...who hates dark nights?

I know. 
I’m sorry.  
Here I go again…
As I begin this post, it’s late…and it’s dark.

I hate this part of the journey. 
I loved serving Michael and caring for his needs AND wants.
I loved being there for him in any way I was able. 
I admire how much my children have grown as a result of this trial and how resilient they are.
I want to be of service to others - it gives purpose to this pain.

I just hate nights like these. Maybe it’s not right that I hate them or at least strongly dislike them. I don’t know for sure. But for now, it’s where I am. 

Why do I dislike them so much? Well, maybe it’s because they seem so incredibly long…
…endless loneliness haunts me.
…tormenting pain breaks me.
…intense fear overwhelms me.
…numerous memories taunt me.
…monumental responsibility daunts me.
…multiple failures mock me.

And I don’t know what to do - so I pray, pray, PRAY!!!
And I cry until the tear reservoir empties.
And I pray some more.
And I hope someone else is praying, too, because my words fail me.
And I cry some more…
And I sit in his chair, right where his hospital bed once rested…and wrap myself in the blanket that displays my three favorite “us” pictures…and soak in the glow of the white lights on the tree in the corner of the living room; I never let them go out - because he loved them.
And I pray some more.
And I hold his Bible close, not even sure what to read, but soaking in its comfort, nonetheless.

I’ve discovered somewhat of a pattern to these darkest of nights…the kind where I fall into Michael’s shirts in the closet and cling to them, sobbing. 

The pattern seems to be that they most often occur just after I have had an opportunity to reach out to someone else in pain, to share my story of how wonderfully God has blessed my life with His perfect strength and grace, or to testify in some way of His amazing goodness…or after a wonderful outpouring of God’s presence that bathes my heart in peace and joy like we experienced this past week at camp.

It seems to be then that I feel the weakest…the most vulnerable…
I guess it’s like I’ve donned an extra large target and am yelling at the devil, “Hey!  I’m over here!  Bring it on!!!” 

It terrifies me at times to think of even trying to minister to others because I know I’m in for it if I do. But I also know that’s Satan slapping me around. I don’t want him to win; and I am very, very well aware that I cannot do this in my own strength. 

I have no idea how to be the mother and father my children need.
I have no idea how to do anything about the fact that both vans now seem to be distinctively showing their age…and some new issue arises every little bit.
I have no idea how to competently maintain a houseful of computers or fix their issues.
I have no idea how to make the best decisions regarding the longterm handling of our finances. 
I have no idea how to keep two youngsters from bickering so much - I’ve run out of emotional energy and my creativity was exhausted months ago.
I have no idea when it’s okay to be open with my emotions and when it’s more appropriate to hide them. (And I’ve bombed this one multiple times now.) 
I have no idea how to know when it’s okay to work on one of my therapeutic projects rather than getting another “to-do list” item checked off. 
I have no idea how to reach out and help others who are also in obvious deep soul pain for one reason or another…I want to, I just find it difficult to figure out how.
I have no idea what to do when my body betrays me and plays out no matter how many tasks loom before me.

But I DO know that the One Who feeds the sparrow stands right beside me!
And I DO know that His presence goes before me into the flame or flood!
And I DO know Who holds tomorrow!
And I DO know I felt His presence near and dear just a few short hours ago.
And I DO know the comfort of His everlasting arms underneath me!
And I DO know that He knows I am dust…a bruised reed…and He cares.
And I DO know that I’ll understand it better - by and by.
And I Do know that God’s mercies are new - every morning!
And I DO know that He has promised - PROMISED - to…well, let’s just read it together…

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isa. 41:10)
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

“It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23)

“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deut. 31:6)

“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Ps. 27:14)

This passage reminds me why I need to accept these dark times as also allowed by the hand of the Father:

“It is better to go to a house of mourning

Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.

“In the day of prosperity be happy,

But in the day of adversity consider—
God has made the one as well as the other
So that man will not discover anything that will be after him.”

(Ecc. 7: 2, 14)

God keeps my priorities in focus through this grief. 
He reminds me daily that my focus goal is not even IN this world, only in the next.  
He reminds me of my God-given mission: taking my children with me to Heaven.
He reminds me that reaching out to others is more important than a clean kitchen floor.
He reminds me that prayer should be a constant in my life.
He reminds me that this life was never meant to be comfortable.
He reminds me that any strength or courage I have comes from Him.
He reminds me that I am completely dependent on Him for wisdom.

He reminds me that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

I understand…that this, too, shall pass.

Life will go on…even if I don’t know how.

And Jesus gives me reason to smile in spite of the darkest of these nights.

  1. "He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
    He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
    To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
    To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
  2. "When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
    When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
    When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
    Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
  3. "Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
    Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
    Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
    The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
  4. "His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
    His power no boundary known unto men;
    For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
    He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again."
  5. Annie J. Flint