Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Pain of Separation

So we made it through our first “holiday” since Rusty died. For me, it had it’s sad moments. It wasn’t as hard as it could have been simply because I don’t have a lot of recent memories of Rusty related to Easter. We just always ended up doing different things that day. However, there were several times, especially watching the kids hunt for eggs, that I got teary-eyed thinking how much he would have enjoyed watching them and how he would have added another whole level of fun. I kept hearing his voice run through my head, and picturing his awesome smile as if he had been there with us.

My mom had a much harder day. One reason is because at her church, they sang “Because He Lives”. That was the song God gave her when Rusty was born with a brain hemorrhage, and we sang it at his funeral. I cannot imagine how heart-breaking that was for her. Poor Momma.

Tonight, Mom, Hugh (my step-dad), and I went to Briarwood Presbyterian Church to watch their Easter performance of “Saviour”. It’s a modern oratorio (lots of music). They had a full choir and orchestra, and ballet dancers. It was beautiful! I cried during the first song, called, “My Heart Belongs to You”. It’s basically a love song between God and Adam. One of the lines that stood out to me is of “God” singing: The message of My song will always be true: My heart belongs to you.” By the end of the song, Adam is singing it in response back to God. It’s gorgeous. And it made me see God’s love for mankind in a fresh way. He created us so that He could give His heart to us. And then, when Adam and Eve chose sin, not only did we lose that intimate relationship with God, but He lost it with us. We always focus on what Man lost that day, but what about what God lost that day? He lost His love – the one He had given His heart to. That relationship was ripped away from Him, suddenly, violently – like losing someone to death.

You see, I’ve been listening to a lie recently. A lie that said that God doesn’t really know how I feel. He hasn’t really lost someone to death like I have. Yes, His Son suffered and died, and I know that was heart-wrenching, but He knew that in 3 days, He would be alive again. Part of what makes losing Rusty so hard is just that thought of all the time it will probably take before I see him again. That not knowing a time reference is so frustrating to me. And so I thought that God couldn’t relate to that part of grief – the seemingly endless longing. But that song tonight made me realize how wrong I was. When sin came, God experienced profound loss. Us. And even though He already had a plan in place to redeem us, He knew it would be millennia before that redemption would be fully realized and He would once again enjoy intimate, unbroken relationship with the ones He had created to give His heart to. How heartbroken He must have been. How much must He long for us even now? Yes, once we are saved we have a measure of relationship with Him, but it’s not like it was in the Garden – walking side by side; talking face to face.

Since Rusty died, I’ve been pondering the story of Lazarus. In one of the verses, it says Jesus was very troubled. (It’s a few verses before the famous “Jesus wept” verse.) I’ve always wondered why. I know people have taught that He was troubled because of how grieved Mary and Martha were, and I agree with that. But I’ve always thought there was more to it. Could it be that seeing them grieving the loss of their brother reminded Him of His own loss at the Fall? Could it be that He was very troubled because the God-head part of Him was missing us – grieving the loss of relationship He had so enjoyed in the Garden?

Part of me is having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that He really does love me that much. He is passionate for us, and He loves us with an everlasting love! And, the truth is, He knows EXACTLY how I feel. Because He has felt that same way. About me. And about you. He misses you, especially if you don’t know Jesus. He is grieving over your separation from Him. So many people have told me since Rusty died that they wish they could do something to help. Well, there is a way to help God. You can come to Him. Receive Him as your Savior and Lord. Begin the journey of being restored to that perfect relationship with Him. So that one day, we can once again walk with God in the cool of the day. And Rusty will be right there with us, too.

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The Day I Met Jesus

Today is a very special day to me, because one year ago today, I met Jesus. No, not in a salvation-experience kind of way, but in a face-to-face kind of way. And it changed my life.

One night in late March or early April of 2010, something prompted me to pray, “Jesus, I know I will see You and see Your face and feel Your arms around me one day. But if there is any way at all for me to feel your arms embrace me and to see Your face on this side of Heaven, then please let me!” As soon as I prayed it, I thought to myself that it was the most ridiculous thing to pray. I didn’t think I had any faith for that prayer to be answered, and I promptly forgot about it within a couple of days.

Fast forward from that point 3 weeks. I was on a vacation in Gatlinburg with just Preston. It was wonderful. One afternoon, we went to see “The Miracle” at the Miracle Theater in Pigeon Forge. It’s a live musical stage-production of the life of Christ – told in part from Lucifer’s (Satan’s) perspective. (That may sound hokey, but trust me, it’s not.) It was SO powerful. One of the things that struck me throughout the whole show was the guy who played Jesus seemed SO much like Jesus. It seemed to be more than just excellent acting. It was like an anointing was on him. The light and the love that radiated from that man was just…incredible! I kept thinking, “Man, I sure would like to meet him. Just to see what he’s like out of character.” Well, at the intermission, they announced that the cast would be in the lobby after the show. I was excited – and nervous for some reason.

So after the show, which was in and of itself such an inspiring and faith-building experience, Preston and I head out to the lobby to meet the cast. We met Judas, Nicodemus, the Pharisees, an angel, but then there was Jesus. There was a line to see him. I was the last one in the line. I was really nervous, so nervous that I almost decided not to meet him. And I wasn’t sure why I was so nervous. The elderly lady in front of me asked him how he played Jesus so well. He replied that he prayed every time that he could empty himself and let the Holy Spirit just completely fill him and flow out of him. She asked for a hug, which he gladly gave. It was a really sweet interaction to watch. When I saw her ask for a hug, though, I thought, “Ah! Maybe I could ask for a hug too! But do I have the nerve? I mean, I’m a complete stranger to this guy, and I’m not good at hugging the guys I do know in my life, much less strangers.” But, ultimately I knew that if I didn’t ask for the hug, I would regret it.

Then, it was my turn. He smiled and said hi, and I asked if I could please have a hug. He gave a gentle laugh and said sure. (all of this was so like Jesus.) He came around the little podium that they had him stand behind to sign CDs and things, and gave me a firm, but gentle hug. As his arms wrapped around me, and I felt his robe against my face, I remembered my “ridiculous” prayer from 3 weeks ago, and I knew that God was giving me my hearts’ desire. He was saying “yes” to my prayer in that very moment. As he released me, I looked up into his face, and told him about my prayer and how God had just used him to answer that prayer. He got tears in his eyes, smiled even bigger, and hugged me again – and held me for a few moments while he prayed for me! It was the most incredible experience of my life! There was no doubt in my mind that God had orchestrated that moment, and the Holy Spirit had so filled that man (David M. Sanborn. Google him), that he was like Jesus to me. It was a holy moment that changed me forever.

I left there shaking, crying, and laughing. I could not believe what had just happened. I had just seen Jesus. I was overwhelmed by the realization of how much God loved me to have done that for me. As an intercessor, I’m used to seeing Jesus move in response to prayers about other people. But to answer a prayer that was just for me was so intimate and so loving. So extravagant.

“Meeting Jesus” changed me. It made me see Jesus in a much more personal way. It made my prayer time with Him that much sweeter. He truly became my Companion as I desired to walk with Him. I started learning how to really die to myself, which included laying down some things that were very precious to me – like the prayer ministry I was leading for our worship ministry’s leadership. I also started recognizing Jesus in other people better. I can’t think of a better way to encourage someone than by telling them, “You remind me of Jesus.”

And of course, here we are a year later, and I’m dealing with my brother’s death through the truth that I have of how much Jesus loves me. Ironically, Rusty was one of the first people I told about my “meeting Jesus” experience. I had no idea that less than a year later, he would really be meeting Jesus. In fact, one night right after Rusty died, I was putting my daughter to bed, and she asked me to sing her favorite song, “Jesus Loves Me”. As I sang the chorus, I could feel Jesus’ arms wrapped around me once again, holding me, as if He were singing it over me. I recognize now that one of the reasons He gave me that moment, was to prepare me for this season of grief and loss. I cherish that precious truth that Jesus loves me, more than I can fathom. His grace IS sufficient for me. He is my All in all. He is my shield and my portion forever.

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I was talking to my Sunday School teacher today via email. (He’s one of the best SS teachers around.) He was letting me know he was praying for me and our family still. I’m betting he was a tad concerned for me because I was a mess at church yesterday. As we were discussing what grief is like, I had this analogy come to me that I thought was rather beautiful (if I do say so myself) and very accurate. And I thought, “Oh! I need to blog about this!”

Most of us have heard about the stages of grief. I think there’s denial, anger, depression…and I can’t remember the others. So far I’ve definitely experienced those three. I remember at the funeral I kept telling people, “This is wrong. We are not supposed to be here. My brother is NOT supposed to be in that casket.” The day after the funeral I went back to the grave and just stood there, staring at it, trying to make it sink in. But it wouldn’t. That’s denial. For me anyway.

The next day at church, anger hit me full force. I wasn’t mad at Rusty. I was mad at God, not so much for allowing Rusty to die, but for allowing all the other stuff to happen that made it that much harder. (We had a couple of people show up acting like complete idiots at the funeral, among other things.)I was angry for a lot of reasons. My pastor talked to me that morning, and I said everything one should probably not say to one’s pastor: “I’m angry at God; I’m angry at all the stupid people that come out of the woodwork during something like this; I don’t care if my anger hurts them. And, just to top it all off: I can’t pray.” He was very loving, but also helped me understand why you can’t stay in that place of anger. You have to choose to move from it.

Then there was depression. My least favorite stage. At least with anger you feel something. With depression, you just feel numb, listless, you don’t care about anything. In the past, I had to be on medicine for depression, and so I recognized that stage as soon as I got there. I didn’t care what I looked like. I didn’t care about getting the kids school work done. I just didn’t care about anything. And I couldn’t cry. That was the worst part. I wanted to cry, and I knew I needed to, but I couldn’t. It was like a dam was holding back the tears.

But what I’m discovering is that they’re not stages that are set in order. And just because I was angry 2 weeks ago doesn’t mean I’m done with it. In fact, yesterday I had to deal with anger all over again. Just because I seem to be doing well this week does not mean I’m on the uphill path from now on. No, what I have discovered is that grief comes in waves.

The initial wave hits you at the moment of impact. For me, the moment my mom’s words sunk in over the phone “Rusty’s dead.” was my moment of impact. For a moment, it loomed up in front of me, very large and terrifying, and then it crashed down over me and all around me, engulfing everything near and dear to me. In those first few days, that initial wave was all-consuming. I couldn’t find my footing in the aftermath of that wave. If it had not been for the support of our friends and church families in those first days, we would not have been able to keep our heads above water.

The waves right after that all hit you with a cold, sharp impact that can take your breath away. But then, the waters ebb. The waves seem to stop. You’re still standing in waist-deep water that you have to slog through, but at least you’re able to gain your footing. You can take a deep breath. Maybe you’re going to make it after all.

But now, 4 weeks later (gosh, can it really already be 4 weeks? How is that possible?), what I’m learning is that the waves still come. Sometimes they come one right after another. Sometimes they are spread out. Some of the waves are small and gently wash over you – you feel it’s presence, but it’s almost a comforting grief. (There’s an oxymoron. But really, if you’ve lost a loved one, in those moments of acceptance of what’s happened, you want to be sad. They are worth grieving over, and knowing that you’re still feeling that is, in a way, comforting. It’s sort of like a reassurance of the bond you had with them.)Other waves are strong and hit hard, knocking you off your feet all over again.

Anything can trigger these waves – whether it’s a memory of the one you’ve lost, or suddenly realizing a particular dream has died with that person, or even just a disappointment that has nothing at all to do with your loss. From last Thursday through Sunday, I was having a succession of those hard waves that knock you off your feet. By Sunday, I was a wreck and cried more that day than any other day since Rusty died, I think. Then today, just as suddenly, those waves have subsided, and I’m trying to slog through just the “regular” grief.

But here’s what I know. My Jesus has authority over these waves. He will not let them consume me when they wash over me. In fact, if I let Him, He may even teach me how to walk on them.

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I Can’t Fix This

It will be 3 weeks ago tomorrow that my youngest brother took his life. I’ve blogged about the details of that night, but haven’t been able to post it yet. I don’t know that I ever will. It was just good for me to get it out of my head and down on “paper”.

The week after it happened, I met with my worship pastor/friend to help sort through some of my emotions and thoughts. One of the things he pointed out was that I was struggling with the fact that I couldn’t control what happened, and I can’t control the grief process. He talked about how an intercessor can fall into the delusion that they can control things through their prayers, and I especially thought I could protect my family by praying for them. He was exactly right. And it made me mad. On some level, though, the truth of what he said sunk in, and I have been pondering it ever since.

I keep playing through my mind the phone call where Mom told me Rusty was dead. It took a minute for it to sink in, but then the wave of heartbreak and grief flooded over me. I knew there had been some initial thought that hit me just before that wave did. As I’ve sorted through everything as best as I can, I remember what that thought was. “I can’t fix this.” Usually, when any family member called with a crisis, I would immediately start trying to figure out how to fix it. And I usually had good solutions. But this time, there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix it. Rusty was gone. My mom was experiencing the worst pain any parent could experience. And all I could do was cry with her.

But in recent days, I’ve heard the most wonderful thought being spoken into my spirit: “I’ve already fixed this.” You see, Rusty’s suicide did not take God by surprise. And He truly had made every provision for it. In Sept of 2009, Rusty had prayed with my pastor to receive Jesus as his Savior. Jesus “fixed this” when He died for Rusty on the cross, and defeated death and the grave when He rose from the dead on the third day! Jesus is the solution to my brother’s death, and to our grief. And I can say with boldness: Death, where is your victory? Grave, where is your sting?

So, the fact is, I couldn’t fix this. I can’t fix this. But, the TRUTH is, I don’t have to, because God already did. Praise the Lord!!

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