Tag Archives: grief

Mistaken

It’s not something I prefer to talk about, but I may have mentioned I deal with some tremendous sadness. Now and then it can seem like too much for me. Sometimes I like to say, “Hey, let’s stop the pain train.” Even when I’m trying to be funny, I’m usually serious about that.

I hate to admit it (but hey, it’s just us here), sometimes I want to just quit – though that mostly happens before coffee.

The trouble with quitting is

1. I still don’t know how, and
2. I can’t imagine explaining to God how I couldn’t trust Him any more.

My life’s main accomplishment has been to prove how easy it is to drift off-course, to lose sight of even the nearest, biggest, most important goal.

Seriously, from the time I was about three for thirty-odd years, I often felt I was a mistake.
Circumstances and developments can seem like too much, but at least now we recognize and understand PTSD.

My personal game-changer happened when I was thirty-something. I rediscovered that I love God. I’m not talking about sitting in sanctuaries where my family met every Sunday, First Friday or Holy Day, nor the beautiful buildings filled with art that I fawned over as a child. I mean I cried out to the Creator of the Universe, God. He answered me and He showed me He had never actually left me.

He stayed with me and since then God consistently proved to me that relationship with Him is the best way through this world.

Today I’m all about appreciating that God does not make mistakes. Not even the devil (evil, et. al.) was a mistake. (How else would we appreciate God’s goodness?)

More than ever before I appreciate that I’m actually co-piloting my journey. Like most everyone else I know, I will likely continue to diverge – occasionally often. Yet, I can unreservedly trust that God, my Pilot will continue to make continuous adjustments, redirecting me back to His intended route. And He does it constantly for me and innumerable other souls, all the time.

So, I can sum up my whole point today in three words:

I’m. No. Mistake.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5, 6 (NIV)

 

 

Video, Mistakes by Influence Music  

Images courtesy Pixabay

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Already Been So Long

I’m not done here yet, Baby Bother, but I sure long to see you and talk with you again.

Richard Mark

November 30, 1957 – March 18, 2014

 

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord… Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:6 & 8 (ESV*)

 

 

*By permission, English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

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Be-longing

I’ve been thinking a lot about things I don’t possess anymore. I don’t mean items I remember disowning. No, I’ve wondered where I left some things behind.

I really don’t care too much about possessions. I won’t carry anything into heaven. But weeks into this phenomenon, I’m now paying close attention.

This morning I wondered about a mug.

This “wonder” even bled into my normal routine, beginning my day with prayer and Bible time. Instead of flipping my Bible to where I left off last time, I got stuck paragraphs back. I tried, but I couldn’t move on.

Again with the mug. I was getting concerned.

How does one seriously approach God about something as insignificant as stuff anyway? Well:

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Romans 8:28, 27 (NIV)

I wish I could say I always have the presence of mind to pray at the first hint of something beyond my grasp, and especially something that taunts at me. But without a dramatic crisis it usually takes me a while to remember little things – like stuff – until they become big things. Eventually I just asked God why stuff had been haunting me.

I prayed and then I worked in the garden before my study time.

Soon I could see past that mug. That’s pretty remarkable from where I stood on soggy ground by a pile of freshly pulled weeds, while being serenaded by horses, the steer, hens and the dogs.

But I saw my brother Seagh standing in my kitchen with me, his fingers comfortably gripping the mug. During Seagh’s routine pause before sipping his coffee, the mug literally broke away from the handle, fell to the floor, creamy coffee splattering dramatically.

As he gazed in disbelief I:

  1. marveled at how, of all the mugs on that shelf, he picked the one I had repaired and forgotten,
  2. hoped he’d clean the mess, and
  3. hoped the surprise wouldn’t make him late for his appointment.

Breath bated, I watched him – I imagined the entire drama playing out behind his curtain. In a moment (which actually felt much longer) he set the handle down, took another mug and began pouring the last of the coffee saying, “‘Guess it sucks to be you.”

With that I burst into laughter. Perfectly played, straight-faced Joe Cool effortlessly stepped over the mess, out of the kitchen and through the front door. I imagine he had a strangle-hold on every cell in his body to not laugh – at least until he was well out of ear-shot.

So, I get it now.

It’s not about stuff, acquiring or eliminating possessions. Seagh left us in early spring. As did our second brother, our father, and now our oldest brother. Don’t ask me why it sneaks up on me every year. It just does.

Though I’m sorry he had to go on without me, Seagh and I both experienced the strange, new sensation of home living here on this property. I left here intent on returning once sister Roan had settled in Texas. Who knew?

Naturally I miss him and especially his unique sense of humor, but really he’s as much a part of this property as the ground.

I’m determined to let the trivial stuff go and stay focused upon what’s important.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

Stacked mugs image courtesy Pixabay

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Weddings, Funerals and Games

Each day during this past week and two weekends I’ve felt as though I was being pulled in every direction, my emotions jerking me around substantially. To cope I’ve been hanging out with my blogger friend Christi at Feeding On Folly more than usual.

For much of my life overwhelming, upsetting emotions was my normal – disappointments, heartbreaks and tragedies continuously shaking my foundation. Thanks to God I developed impressive sea legs early on and became very good at the hiding my feelings game. I got so good playing mind games I wanted to be a contestant on The Price Is Right. I would have seriously rocked that!

Image courtesy CBS.com

Jesus becoming my best friend, the Holy Spirit my closest companion was my game changer. Now God’s got me to where I enjoy relationships with my family and friends without the old, dramatic crash-and-burn episodes that once hobbled me.

I cherish my family. Being scattered all over the country as we are, I’m simply not used to talking at such intimate levels, each day with so many loved ones. But it’s what you do before, during and after weddings and funerals – right?

Most people I know embraced this reality in their 30’s. And if you’re like my family, at each wedding and funeral everyone’s astounded by how quickly the weddings and funerals thing is becoming their reality. The farther we get from thirty-something the more we gather for the latter.

So this morning as I resisted getting out of bed, I primed myself just in case I make the cut for The Price is Right. I crunched numbers on how many hours I’ve been on the phone as compared to how often I converse with extended family other than for weddings or funerals:

Big surprise this morning: not only has CBS NOT called me, but my mind is slightly scrambled, I can’t brain. Very old memories (good, bad and ugly) continue to surface at not-necessarily-opportune moments. My emotions range from deliriously happy to prickly-volatile as I’m sure the most former  more mature – fine, the older members of our tribe are experiencing as well.

Though the Bible says we actually are fearfully and wonderfully made*, the fearful thing for me is a no-brainer, the wonderful, well, let’s just leave the emphasis on the wonder. But while I am indeed special, I am not so unique. I imagine this sort of thing happens to most people reaching these milestones.

“Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble. They spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.”

Job 14:1, 2 (NIV)

Honestly, with Jesus I feel so much better in my reality. BIG PLUS – I get to choose:

Option 1 – We can continue the practice of keeping our focus upon God, trust Him to carry our concerns, fears, upsets as well as our grief and pain. When we do, the darkness recedes, we can feel hope springing eternal again, and the worst of times (that actually are not a surprise in the grand scheme of things) become a milestone instead of a stumbling block.

{Insert audible Ooohs-and Aaahs here}

-OR-

Option 2 – We can wear ourselves out trying to figure it all out without God, carrying burdens He ever intended for us. While it’s an impressive work-out, it also stresses the mind, body and soul to unhealthy degrees and steals joy from our lives. I certainly don’t want to pass that example on to my loved ones…

{Insert audience “Oh…” here}

I’m gonna go with God’s Overcoming Power in my life, Bob. (Drew, Dennis, Tom, Whatever).

Dunt – ta-da-daaaah!

Oh my God! I get heaven too!! Wowee!!!

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

1 Corinthians 15:55 (NIV)

 

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

*Psalm 139:14

Raise challenge image courtesy Pixabay

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Bright Week

Spring, even Easter can be like a two-edged sword in my family. I doubt we’re so unique that this should surprise anyone. At some point in life most every body I know tires of winter’s short daylight hours and long, dark nights.

Even so, my family seems to have had more than average trouble getting through to spring – so much so that several times some of our loved ones didn’t make it. My siblings and I for example lost a parent, a cousin, and two siblings before spring.

These, our first losses were when we were all very young and somehow nobody explained what happened. So, understandably our history set up my siblings and me for a sneaky darkness to come creeping around in  early March. Typically that gloom lurks in the shadows until early April. Remarkably, none of us recognized that particular annual happening until we were all grown and set in our individual ways.

Since that realization we learned to reach out to one another about the time our spirits began going down for the second time. Regardless of which of us start it, we team together to help one another through, one way or another. We celebrate the good aspects of our family and we rationalize the bad, the sad and the painful. Mostly by Easter we’ve all beat it.

This year Easter came early so my breakthrough exploded into Easter Monday.

I’m glad to have celebrated the Resurrection, our hope in glory* with extended family this year – people who know my family, our history and they’re as glad to see my siblings and me get through our struggles as are we.

 

 
 

Today I determined – yet again – to continue my campaign to celebrate Bright Week. Essentially borrowing from the Eastern Orthodox tradition, only I’ll continue to observe through to Holy Week next year. Embracing the pain and rising above it, I’m confident God shall carry me through the joy of Easter Sunday all year.

I’ll let you know exactly how this goes after I finish sorting through last weeks’ photos.

“To them [the Lord’s people who are the church] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Colossians 1:27 (NIV, [addendum mine])

 

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Resignation

You know, Ol’ Man, this morning wasn’t as awful as I expected. For a few heartbeats I was angry with Cole for not calling me up last night, but I can’t stay mad at him.

“Ol Man” Scout in a happy, albeit inelegant moment.

I’ll bet you chuckled to yourself that way you do, on and off all night about how we want to change things up this year. I tortured you with my ideas, chattering the whole week before New Year’s. You have always been a good listener. I still have some more ideas to run by you, but that can wait.

Cole surprised me this morning slipping quietly in the door instead of his usual boisterous entrance. I started to tease him but stopped abruptly. I can’t remember exactly why. Perhaps it was the uncharacteristic way he held his coffee mug against his chest. I offered him the tropical green smoothie I’d intended to take up to the house to him – you know, changing things up – but I carried it to the door. Since you didn’t come in with him I went to open the door for you the way I always do.

I surprised myself asking Cole as I turned from him to the door,  “Did your roommate’s grandmother die?”

I never noticed how cold the metal of the doorknob is until I heard Cole respond, “No. Scout died.”

I turned on my heel gasping, feeling Brother’s pain more than mine. The Ol’ Man’s been my friend these five or so years, but he and Cole have been inseparable since Scout was a tiny pup. Silently, I held my face between my hands a moment to keep back the sob and the tears that surely wouldn’t help him that minute.

Cole tried to put a log I’d intended to take up to the main house in my little stove. I held my words until he clearly realized the log was beginning to smolder but wouldn’t fit. Then I said gently, “That one’s for your stove. Let me take it up.” He handed it over but continued staring into the fire.

I found you there where Cole laid you, on your travel blankets in the dining room. You looked peaceful, as if you were napping. I rubbed behind your ears and your throat remembering how we got to play yesterday under clear, blue skies on a perfectly comfortable winter day. It had been weeks since you felt up to playing, but yesterday you moved painlessly once again. You got to greet a new visitor and then we played some more just because the weather was so perfect.

This morning I let you rest when I saw NewOldFriend arrive. Like you, I like her very much too. Cole had already brought the quad up to the house to carry you and some tools. I walked around to tell the neighbor ladies you’d laid it all down and apologized for all the commotion so early in the day. I’m sure you know how they are also fond of you.

Certain the fair weather would not hold out, Duck and his nephew showed up with the back hoe. Ninety minutes later Cole finished packing rich topsoil back over that high spot in the north pasture with the tractor. We all felt we were finished and should go but we couldn’t. Then we heard the horses in the surrounding pastures begin to neigh and whinny, bobbing their heads in a country chorus. Then we said our good-byes too.

We solemnly returned to the main house. It wasn’t one of the rare occasions Scout stayed home alone and he didn’t greet us as if we’d been away for days rather than hours. We toasted our dearly beloved friend and a life well lived. Cole commented that from the kitchen window we can look out onto his spot in the pasture, near the youngest of the trees.

Later, the pasture drew me back before returning to my cottage. Without Scout along it felt colder and empty. I didn’t hear him approach, but as rain began to fall Hero the steer gently nosed me from behind. Taking that as him telling me to stop being a silly human, I returned to my cottage to reminisce on my time with Scout, our dear Ol’ Man.

Scout
September 2005 – January 4, 2018

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.”

Philippians 1:3 (NLT)

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What If

    

I wept because he died,
and the Spirit asked me,
“What if he’d never lived?”

Seagh
1957 – 2014

“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Psalm 30:5 (NLT)

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Rearview

For the second time in my recent history I’m delighted for having gone out of my way, when doing so made little or no sense.

I thrive on variety and spontaneity, so there likely have been many such occasions. Always pushing forward, I rarely noticed, so these two instances stand out.

I wanted to drive to the opposite side of town to attend church services with my friend, instead of staying in my neighborhood. With gas prices skyrocketing – again – and some extra expenses popping up this seemed silly. There was no special occasion, speaker or program, I simply wanted to meet my friend at the church we attended together years ago.

Still, by Thursday I made a date with Dear-Old-Friend. By then I had forgotten all about how my tomatoes weren’t ripening and the wilting pepper plants.

Had I not followed my heart:

  • I would have missed people bringing their garden surplus to church. I forgot I could bless others by taking the extra fresh, homegrown, organic veggies,
  • I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to drop off any of the eggs I’d brought (and almost forgot about) at Dear-Old-Friend’s house, so I wouldn’t have also stopped at the peach grove,
  • I would not have had the extra fresh, wholesome food to give to a young family I met along the way – in dire need of it.

That was just this past weekend, but it brought to mind another seemingly crazier decision I made three-plus years back:

Had I not left my home for weeks to stay with my siblings, to be their housekeeper while Sister recovered from surgery:

  • I would not have witnessed firsthand the importance of daily covering my family with prayer,
  • My younger brother Seagh and I would not have bridged the gap that had formed over the previous years,
  • Seagh and I would not have “solved the world’s problems” as we did every few days or so,
  • We all would have missed the precious family time we shared for the last time, before Seagh died (four months after that visit),
  • Sister would never have gotten over urging me not to come.

Ordinarily I would have resented Sister telling me not to come, rejecting my offer, and stayed home. But knowing she was overwhelmed, frightened and concerned about my situation too, I ignored that particular request.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.” Galatians 5:16 (NLT)

Seeing more of the big picture takes practice – daily. Personally, daily Bible study and prayer helps me meet each day with solid footing and broader, clearer vision. Alright, alright; I manage to deliberately step into my days more effectively prepared about Four days out of seven. Even so, the consistent practice makes for a good way to live.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)

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