Monday, July 14, 2014

God's Way of Pouring Out His Grace

As time moves on, I sometimes tend to lean towards the idea that people have forgotten.

Life has moved on. That's what it does. It keeps moving.

When loss comes, our lives feel shattered and we don't know how we will ever move forward. We realize quickly that nothing will be the same. Most of all, there comes a time when people stop speaking his name.

The first year, Joshua was remembered in a way that left me speechless. People from all over remembered him. They lit candles in memory of him, they sent cards. They said and wrote his name to me. Those who got to know him in real life, reached out to me and encouraged me to remember his life and what a blessing it was instead of focusing on his death. All of the words of encouragement, love, and remembrance brought peace. My baby was remembered.

Then there was year 2. Some relationships fell apart, while others began to blossom. Joshua was remembered again, but not by as many as the first year. I know it's wrong to expect people to remember, but it hurts when they remembered the first year and not the second. It was a painful reminder that life goes on.

The 3rd year was even less. And I noticed. I noticed the ones who were intimately involved in Joshua's life and our life, who didn't even acknowledge the day. Close family and friends who didn't remember. It hurt. A lot.

But what can I expect? Life just goes on. It just does.

I let it go, knowing that I can't expect others to feel the loss like I do. I let it go, praying that God would help heal my broken and bitter heart. I let it go, just trusting that God continued to have a purpose in Joshua's life and my brokenness, and that he would reveal it to me when it was His will to do so.

Next month is year four. I am expecting the number of phone notifications to be even smaller this year. I am expecting the sting of others forgetting or not realizing the importance of acknowledging the days- even if they aren't involved in our lives anymore.  Life just goes on, I can't blame others. I just can't. But it does hurt.

But this is where God has poured out his graciousness on me. This year is different.

God has shown me, in specific people, that Joshua's purpose on Earth was fulfilled.

Just a few weeks ago, a woman reached out to me. She said that because of Joshua's life and my words telling his story, that she accepted Christ as her savior just after Joshua died. Not only that, but shortly after she received the gift of salvation, her husband and 3 sons did also. Now, don't get me wrong- I take no credit for their salvation. I did nothing to bring them to it, but God worked in their hearts through Joshua's life. What an honor. What an amazing purpose to his life. God is so very good and so very gracious.

And over the past 3 days, I have had 4 separate emails/facebook messages from completely random people (that I would never expect to hear from) telling me that they remember Joshua. They have shared how Joshua's life has impacted their own, and I have been beyond blessed to know that my sweet baby boy has been remembered.

Tonight, I am in awe of God. I am in awe of a God who knows me so well and provides for my every need. I am in awe of a God who prompts others to share their memories with me. I am in awe of a God who is the creator of the universe, yet provides a way for my heart to heal through others.

I am so undeserving of his grace, yet he lavishes it upon me.

For those of you who remember, thank you. Thank you for blessing me in such a mighty way. Thank you for keeping Joshua alive in your heart and giving meaning to his life. Please don't ever hesitate to say his name to me or Shane. We love to know that he is remembered. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Heart Ugliness

This is a post in which I am going to make myself vulnerable. I have never shied from the truth of grief, healing, and faith, and I am not going to start shying away from it now. 

I have a friend who is going through a pretty difficult time. I am going to leave the specifics out because the issue I'm talking about is not an issue with her. It's an issue of my heart.

As I've grown in my love for God over the past few years, God has revealed parts of my life that need refining. The situation with my friend is showing me where I need some refining. It's showing me how ugly my heart really is.

My friend is in a situation that in a small way, is something I have also faced. It is something that I, of all people, should feel compassion for. It is something I should rejoice with the triumphs, and cry out to God in the valleys.

But I can't.

The last update I received about my friend's situation said something along the lines of, "God heard my prayers and he answered them. It's because I spoke Jesus's name over the situation that we received healing."

Where was my healing? Where was Joshua's healing? Why weren't my prayers answered?

Before I get into it, I know that my friend is wrong. I know that God answered the prayers with a "yes" because it was within His will to do so. I know he heard my prayers just as much as he heard my friend's prayers. I know His will was a "no" and "not yet" for me. I know his sovereignty is always right, and I ultimately trust it.

But my heart screams out in bitterness. And I don't want to let it go.

I am so bitter that my friend's situation seems to be resolving and has been moving towards healing. I am so bitter that God has allowed her to live in the bliss of believing that her prayers were answered by God in the way that she wanted them to go because he listened to her and accepted her request. I am bitter that she is allowed to continue believing that God can be manipulated by our prayers like so many Christians believe. I guess maybe I'm just bitter that I was taken to the pit of despair while some are left to live in ignorance. Isn't ignorance supposed to be bliss?

So where does that leave me? It leaves me looking at my heart. It's an ugly heart with ugly things hidden in the crevices and dark corners. It's an ugly heart that shows its true nature of who I am, and my desperate need for a savior. It's an ugly heart that is undeserving of the friends that I have when I feel the way I do. Who wants a friend that can't rejoice and weep with them?!

So why can't I let it go? Why can't I just bask in God's goodness and grace? Why do I allow my bitterness to fester and point it toward others who "got their way?" I don't really want my friends to suffer like I did, do I? (of course not!!!!)

It's a heart issue, with the roots seeded in my continued anger towards God for not allowing me to have my way.

They are roots that are deeply seeded and give me a sense of control in my life. They are roots from the evil one telling me that I know better than God. Lies!!!! All of those things are LIES!!!!

God's answer of "no" in my life has brought me to a deeper understanding of who he is and how desperately I need a savior. If he answered my prayers the way I wanted him to 4 years ago, I would never be able to understand and love him in the ways that I do now. I wouldn't be able to dig deeper into his word- I wouldn't have seen the need. I would have never been able to know God's love for me in the way that I do.

So why can't I fill the crevices of my heart with compassion, love, joy, and faith? Why does my heart continue to cry out in anguish over what I lost? Why do the seeds of bitterness continue to take root and spread like poison?

I have been praying the past few days about how to handle the situation. I need to just let it go and allow God to do what He needs to do without trying to get in the way. I need to trust in His sovereignty over my life and the lives of the people I love. I need to start praying that God will continue to reveal  his grace to me and allow it to over take and kill the ugliness in my heart.

I know He's not finished with me. I know he will continue to refine me- I just need to stop fighting it. God, help the ugliness hidden in my heart.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Tough Grief Day

I don't write about losing my dad much.

I don't really talk about it much either.

Losing him was different than losing Joshua.

I knew and loved him for 27 years of my live. He was my security, my friend, and my advisor.

But I wasn't the only one affected by his death. (I wasn't with Joshua either, but he was my son, so I can share what I want about losing him.) So, I try to be careful and respectful of what I write about losing him. I never want to make his death about me, it was not.

Honestly, losing my dad was, for lack of a better word,  "easier" than losing Joshua. I don't know if it was the fact that I was still so tattered and torn front he grief of Joshua that I just simply couldn't process losing my dad also, or if it was because he was my dad and as all children do, we  expect to say good bye to parents at some point.  I'm not saying it was easy to lose him, or that I wanted him to die at such a young age, but his loss was different.

It seems that holidays are harder for me with his loss than it is with Joshua's loss. My family was really close with my mom and dad. They moved to our small town from the Chicago area just to be near us. They adored my kids and helped whenever they could. My dad taught them how to garden, drove them on the tractor lawn mower, and let them climb on his head. He was a gentle giant and my kids adored him.

But now he's gone, and we are left 2 1/2 hours away from most of our family. My mom lives a good 45 minutes from us now, also making it hard to see her at a moment's notice.

The holidays get me. Shane works crazy retail hours. It's a great job: good pay with decent benefits, not to mention that he loves what he does. It allows me to stay home with our children. But it doesn't allow for holidays with the family. And that makes it hard.

I used to pack the kids up and go hang out with my parents when Shane was working. That is no longer an option. So the task of parenting is usually left up to me alone. I don't mind it, but sometimes I just want to do something other than hang out at home. I want to be with family without having to drive clear across the state to see them.

I miss my dad. I miss seeing his adoration for my children. I miss spending fun summer evenings over at their house. I miss getting my hands dirty in the garden with him and hearing the same stupid jokes over and over. I miss the quick side hug he would give when we were getting ready to leave- even though we were just going home a few blocks away, and would likely see I'm again the next day. I miss his gentle encouragement, telling me that I am a good mom and doing a good work with my kids, reminding me that motherhood and having small children is hard. I miss his gentle giant presence.

Today I'm struggling with the loss of his presence. The tears are welling up and threatening to overflow today. It just takes a simple thought of him and they stream down my face.

Tomorrow will be better, but today, I'm struggling.

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