Monthly Archives: March 2012

Face to Face With Grief

I’ve discovered that I tend to want to find an escape when faced with uncomfortable emotions like grief or frustration. Or maybe it goes so far as to be any time I feel completely out of control of what is going on around me. My means of escape are harmless in and of themselves: shopping (well, that may not be completely harmless….); going out with a friend; going out to do something – anything; meeting with my pastor; or even just our normal scheduled activities; and I even escape with comfort foods.

Why do I do that? I know it’s probably a pretty normal response to difficult situations and emotions, but I “know better”. I’m supposed to know that escaping won’t solve anything, and that the answer to my grief cannot be found in any person or thing or activity. I know Jesus is the only Person who completely understands, and He is the only One who is truly “acquainted with (my) sorrows”.

Perhaps I’m not so much escaping as I am simply looking for something to soften the harsh reality of my grief – a pillow on which to lay my broken heart until it feels better. My routines – especially the ones that involve church – can be a pseudo-comfort. I’ve been expecting my friends to assuage my sorrow to some extent, and part of me has been terrified that they would forget. I’ve been fighting to keep Rusty’s memory alive in everyone’s hearts – or was it just my heartache I wanted them to remember?

Last week, the anniversary of Rusty’s death, made me realize all this, because I didn’t have a way to escape. It was Spring Break, every midweek activity was cancelled at both of the churches I am involved with (I’ll explain how I came to be involved with 2 churches in a different post.) My worship pastor, who has been my grief counselor in many ways this past year, was out of town with his family. My pastor was out of commission due to an injury requiring surgery. My friends were busy enjoying their own Spring Break activities. Every means I would normally use to escape was unavailable to me last week.

So it was just me and God. I wish I could tell you what a wonderful week of sweet, comforting, healing communion I enjoyed with the Lord. But I can’t. For some reason, I was holding Him at arms’ length. I knew He was there, and I was even talking to Him some, but I did not throw myself into His arms like I could have. I didn’t spend my evenings, after everyone was in bed, pouring my heart out to Him. Why? Why do I do that? Am I afraid? If so, of what?? Am I angry? Yes, that’s very possible.

But the Lord is good. He is faithful and long-suffering. He still upheld me because of the prayers of my friends. He has been there in this whole, long, excruciating season of my soul. He met me at church on Sunday. First, while I was working in the nursery, He had a nice lady who only knew the gist of what had happened, asked me for all the details. I could  have politely declined to answer, but I didn’t. I think the Lord wanted my heart to be exposed, because every single song during the service met me right where I was. It was as if the whole service had been planned for me. I know it wasn’t, except for in God’s plan. It was hard, and I cried a lot, but it was healing.

So I learned that I need to put my arms down, and stop trying to find something or someone else to “fix me”. I need to not be afraid to come face to face with my grief. For when I do, I’ll probably find myself face to face with God, who alone can comfort and heal.

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Categories: brothers, choices, church, grief, lessons, Uncategorized, worship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blessings in the Storm

The Lord has been showing/reminding me of how much He had His hand on everything that happened this week a year ago. It is such a blessed reassurance that Rusty’s death was part of His sovereign plan, and He did everything to prepare us for it.

First of all, He had been telling me since September of 2010 that a storm was coming to my family that was unlike anything we’ve ever been through. Around the beginning of 2o11, I felt like the Lord was preparing me for a family member’s death. I even already had it in my head of who I would call first and who I would ask them to call; what I would need to do; etc. And the night Rusty died, I didn’t have to think about it, which is good since I couldn’t think. There’s a lot more that God did in the months before Rusty died to prepare me. I never dreamed it would be his death that I was preparing for, and certainly did not feel prepared for it, but in hindsight, I am so thankful that the Lord apparently WAS doing a work in my heart. I’ll never know how I would have handled it without that, and I’m glad for that.

The night he died, two of my favorite people in the world came out to my mom’s house to be with us – my pastor, Harry Walls, and my worship pastor, Kevin Moore. I couldn’t believe they BOTH came out, and I was SO thankful to see them there. Kevin was an invaluable support and help for me throughout that week as I did most of the funeral service planning, and he went with Darrell (my other brother) and me when we had to tell Dad what happened. Kevin is normally out of town with his family on Spring Break. He is this year. But for whatever reason, he was in town and available for us. God did that. Pastor Harry is also unavailable this week because he had to have surgery. What if that had happened a year ago? God made sure both of them were there for us that night and that week. He didn’t have to do that, but I am so glad He did. How would I have made it through that awful week without them?

Then there’s the circumstances around Rusty’s death itself. As hard and traumatic as it was, it was as gentle as it possibly could have been. I can see now how God had His hand on every aspect of what He allowed to happen that day. For instance, there was only one spot where one could stand and see Rusty from the yard, and Mom’s neighbor just happened to come over and visit her, stood in that spot, and saw him. Mom didn’t have to find him alone. He allowed someone – a nurse, no less – to be with her – someone who was used to emergency situations and knew what to do.

So even in the worst storm of our lives, God is there. He never fails. I can trust Him no matter what, even when it feels like my world turned upside-down.

 

 

Categories: brothers, death, God, grief, Rusty, storms, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Struggling Against Reality

Off and on, ever since Rusty died (Thursday will mark one year, but he died on a Tuesday, so yesterday felt like “the day” – and the weather was perfect, just like it was that Tuesday, but I digress…), I keep struggling with the reality of what has happened. At times, it still feels so surreal. I keep thinking that maybe this was just a bad dream; or it can’t be as bad as I’m making it out to be, surely I’m just blowing this out of proportion; Rusty’s not really dead – he can’t be – that just doesn’t make sense; etc. Is it normal to still struggle with the reality of a traumatic loss after a year? I don’t know. I just know that it’s where I’ve found myself the last week or so. I don’t have any of those thoughts consciously, but somewhere in my subconscious, those questions or thoughts are there.

Maybe it’s because I’m trying to make sense of the loss of connection from my brother. A friend prayed for me last night and asked God to somehow give me a new connection to Rusty. I had not heard anyone pray that before, and it struck me that that might be why I’ve been feeling this way – I’m trying to come to terms with this severed connection. Maybe it’s like someone who has an amputated limb, who still feels sensations in the missing limb. I’m still feeling sensations of connection from a relationship that isn’t there anymore – not on this earth, anyway, and my brain doesn’t know what to do with that, so it goes into a type of denial.

The truth is, I will always feel that loss on earth. One day, in Heaven, I’ll see my brother again and we’ll have a better connection and relationship than ever before. But is there a way to have a taste of it here and now? Is it enough to look to the future and the promise of beauty from ashes, and that Jesus will make all things new? I want to believe that we get to realize some of those promises here.  But if so, what does that look like? I’m not sure at the moment. I’ve not thought a lot about it until my friend prayed that last night. Maybe I’m not supposed to know. I tend to want to get ahead of God and make things happen on my own. If I don’t know how, I have no choice but to wait on God to do it.

Categories: death, grief, Heaven, Rusty, time, Uncategorized | Tags: | 2 Comments

An Evening With Anyone?

Today I had a friend post this question on Facebook: If you could spend the evening with anyone who has ever lived, who would it be? She took Jesus off the table, because most of her Christian friends would have responded with His name.

I’ve heard these questions before, and have almost always had a different response. I’m not one who has ever really idolized a particular celebrity. I think most celebrities are pretty ridiculous, really. There are some whom I admire for their genuine talent, but not enough to want to spend an evening with them.

However, there are some people who I do admire for their walk with the Lord and how they have used their gifts and talents – and their place in the public square – to glorify Him. One of those would be Steven Curtis Chapman and his whole family – especially since the death of their daughter, Maria. Another person, who is not as well known, but still in the public sphere, is David M. Sanborn – the actor who played Jesus for a few seasons at The Miracle Theater. I follow him on Facebook, and his posts almost always make me think, “This is what Jesus would say.”

I’m also blessed to have people in my life whom I look up to immensely – my pastor, Harry Walls; my worship pastor and mentor, Kevin Moore; my spiritual mom, Janis. And while they are in my life regularly, they’re always so busy that to have an evening to just sit down with them in my home would be quite the treat.

So once upon a time, I would have names any of those names to answer that question. But today, without hesitation, when I read it, I knew who it would be: my brother, Rusty. My answer sort of surprised me. I grew up with this guy. I spent every evening of my childhood, just about, with him.

But now I haven’t seen him in a year, and I won’t see him again until I leave this world. And I really, really miss him. I miss his exuberant laugh and brilliant smile. I miss his deep, smooth voice. I miss rubbing the top of his prickly mostly-shaven head. I even miss the smell of stale cigarette smoke that was on his clothes. (I was near someone the other night who smelled like that, and I could barely keep from crying.) So I would give almost anything to spend an evening with him again, especially if it could be in real time, so that he could tell me all about Heaven and what Jesus is like in person. (I dreamed he and I had a conversation just like that several months ago.)

Realizing that was my first answer – and my only answer – even after considering it for a few moments, made me realize how precious my family and loved ones are, and how I take them for granted. I should consider every evening that I get to sit down with my husband and children a grand privilege. Every time I get to talk to my other brother or sister-in-law on the phone, every time I see my mom or my dad; every time I speak to a friend….all of these are privileges that I am blessed with every day. And if it hadn’t been for Rusty’s death, and my friend’s question today, I might never have realized it.

So, who would you spend the evening with, out of anyone who has ever lived?

Categories: contentment, death, grief, Heaven, Jesus, lessons, thankful | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Beauty of the Shadow of the Cross

For a few years now, at the beginning of each year, I ask the Lord to show me a word or phrase that He wants to teach me about throughout the year. One year was: Order my steps. Last year it was: Release control to Him. That one was – and still is – very challenging for me.

This year’s idea is “get lost in the shadow of the cross”. The phrase comes from an old song by Steven Curtis Chapman called, “The Shadow of the Cross”. The chorus’ lyrics are these:

I want to get lost, in the shadow of the cross

To answer the call, surrender it all in the shadow

I want to live this day with a humble heart, that’s ready to pay

whatever the cost, to find myself lost in the shadow, the shadow of the cross.

I have to admit, there is nothing in my flesh or my will that wants to get lost in any shadow. I enjoy being in the spotlight – always have. And there isn’t anything wrong with that in itself. It’s the way God made me. There are things He has called me to that require being on stage, and so it’s a blessing that I enjoy it.  However, it’s all too tempting to either think that I “earned” the spotlight or deserve it for some reason (pride), or to try and promote myself to a platform/stage that isn’t God’s will for me.

So what does it mean to get lost in the shadow of the cross? Well, that’s part of the journey for this year, to learn what it really means. In general, I believe it means to live with the constant awareness of the sacrifice Jesus paid for me, and to live differently because of it. Practically, that means to choose humility, to die to pride, to be completely dependent on the One who died for me and rose again to make me a joint-heir with Him.

Still, the prospect was not a pleasant one. I’m a very visual person, and to me, the idea of getting lost in the shadow of the cross was of me being in the dark, with the somber image of the cross looming over me. I wanted to obey, though, because I love the Lord and know His will is always best for me. But this past weekend, the Lord showed me a glorious picture of what it really looks like to get lost in the shadow of the cross.

This picture was taken in the chapel at Perimeter Church in Atlanta, GA. The picture does not do the exquisite beauty of this window justice. For some reason, I was drawn to it. I had to go stand up there. (I’m so thankful my friend, Nisha, took this picture. I had no idea she had taken it until I saw it on Facebook.) Notice, I am completely over-shadowed. But that’s not what I saw from my perspective at all. All I saw was the brilliant light shining from the cross. And when I went and stood there   – getting lost in the shadow – I had my face raised to the brilliant light that was streaming through that cross. It was warm, bright, and beautiful. Something about it permeated into my very soul. I had no clue that I was engulfed in shadow from anyone else’s vantage point, nor did I care.

So that’s what it means to get lost in the shadow of the cross: to be drawn by the glorious beauty of Christ’s sacrificial love and absolute power that I can’t help but stand as close as I can to the cross – to identify with it and become one with it. When I do, when people look at me, they won’t see me, but the light, the power, and the glory of the  Cross of Christ. And perhaps, they too will be drawn to it. That is my heart’s desire.

 

Categories: devotional thought, Jesus, lessons, The Cross, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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