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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Shadows and Light

Bad news or tragedy brings the question to mind, is God really good?  That question has been raised by me and many people over the months since Scott’s death.  How could God do this?  Why take Scott and leave my grandmothers who are both in their 90’s and have lived full lives?  This is a conversation that my mom and I have had a few times in the last couple of days –in talking about recent health crisis for friends and family.  About a month ago I began reading a book entitled, “You’ll Get Through This”  by Max Lucado.  I read a few chapters and then put it down for a couple of weeks until tonight.  It really spoke to my heart and I want to share a short excerpt from the book.

“Our choice comes down to this:  trust God or turn away.  He will cross the line.  He will shatter our expectations.  And we will be left to make a decision.  . . .Is God good when the outcome is not? . . . God owes us no more explanation than this.  Besides, if he gave one, what makes us think we would understand it?  Might the problem be less God’s plan and more our limited perspective?  Suppose the wife of George Frideric Handel came upon a page of her husband’s famous oratorio Messiah.  The entire work was more than two hundred pages long.  Imagine that she discovered one page on the kitchen table.  On it her husband had written only one measure in a minor key, one that didn’t work on its own.  Suppose she, armed with the fragment of dissonance, marched into his studio and said,’This music makes no sense.  You are a lousy composer.’  What would he think?  Perhaps something similar to what God thinks when we do the same.  We point to our minor key—our sick child, crutches, or famine – and say, ‘This makes no sense!’ Yet out of all his creation how much have we seen?  And of all his work how much do we understand?  Only a sliver.  A doorway peephole.  Is it possible that some explanation for suffering exists of which we know nothing at all? What if God’s answer to the question of suffering requires more megabytes than our puny minds have been given?”

This brings to mind a conversation I had with a friend about a year ago, in discussing our individual personal griefs.  We were discussing the many questions that we will have for God about the why of each of our situations.  It was then that it hit me, when I get to heaven I don’t think I will have questions for God because from there I will be able to see God’s entire masterpiece and it will make sense.  In photography, light is the most important thing.  In the months since I have begun playing around with photography I have learned that light is the key to getting the best pictures.  Yet, when you look at the best photos, the shadows set off the light and bring the most beauty to the photo.  From our earthly and tiny perspective, often all we see are the shadows in the rough times.  I can certainly attest to this.  That gorgeous sunset or sunrise is only made more beautiful and more dramatic by the light playing off of the shadows.  We miss the beauty created and highlighted by the shadows if all we focus on is the shadows.  It is so easy to only see the shadows and say God cannot be good if he allows this.  Yet this shadow only highlights God’s light and wonder in the masterpiece he wants to make of our lives. 

I can say, despite the grief and loss I have experienced, . . . GOD IS GOOD.


God is good, ALL. THE. TIME.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fifteen

Fifteen.  Fifteen years.  Thursday would have been our fifteenth wedding anniversary.  Last year’s wedding anniversary was probably the hardest “first” that I faced and probably the only “first” that was even harder than I had anticipated.  I treasure all of the memories that we have had, but each wedding anniversary is a reminder of the future memories and special moments lost.  They are a reminder of joys and regrets.  It is amazing how much insight and wisdom we have in looking back.  I always thought that we had time to “get it right.”  But without warning or preparation, that time to “get it right” was gone.   We definitely did not have a perfect marriage – there were areas that were great and areas that needed improvement, as I’m sure any married couple could say.  Yet, we were working on those things that needed improvement.  When I look back I see my stubbornness.  Too often our areas that needed improvement, in my mind, became a battle to be won rather than a team effort to put forth our best.  

Right now at church I am involved in a Connections Group exploring God’s divine design for women.  It has been challenging and convicting at the core.  It has caused me reflect on our marriage through the lense of God’s divine design. I think we had a pretty good marriage, with our ups and downs over the years.  Yet I can see so many ways that I undermined or usurped Scott’s role as a man in God’s divine design.  Honestly, I can see so many ways that changes in me and my need for control and need to be right would have made significant positive changes in our marriage.   I have had so much time to reflect on our marriage – on what was good and what needed work – more time than I probably reflected on our marriage in the whole  thirteen plus years we were married before Scott’s death.   


I don’t focus only on the regrets, but strive to learn from the regrets and hold on to the wonderful memories.  I treasure the memories of the fun and special times that we had together and the love that we had for each other.  It brings tears to my eyes when I celebrate Jaelyn’s accomplishments, when I see Scott in her eyes, and hear him in her sense of humor.  I love hearing memories shared from Scott’s friends and family – mostly filled with laughter since that was how he liked to live life.   Stories told through laughter since nothing in Scott’s life ever went according to plan – and every “change” in that plan was more humorous in each telling – especially if Scott was the one doing the telling!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Adjusting Focus

In the last couple of weeks I have been seeing a true shift in my purpose and direction.  The past year and a half have been focused primarily on grieving our loss of Scott and finding a way to move forward.  Part of my focus during that time was on helping Jaelyn grieve.  In the past few weeks I have really felt God pulling me toward a different focus in my devotional time and in my thought processes.  For anyone following my Facebook posts recently, you have already had a pretty big glimpse into how God is speaking to me.

Sometime before Christmas I was looking for new devotional books for my quiet times.  At that time I picked up two devotional books and another book.  The book I felt the most led to pick up was a woman’s devotional.  It really met me where I was at that moment in some of the grief steps I was facing.  Yet after about a month to six weeks, I began struggling to find a personal connection in the daily readings.  It took me a few weeks of this struggle before I gave myself permission to set it aside and pick up the other devotional and book.


This devotional is “Wisdom for Mothers Devotional Journal” and the other book is “The Love Dare for Parents.”  I have shared a few excerpts in my Facebook posts from “The Love Dare for Parents” that have really struck home with me.  Between these two books, I feel like God is really doing a remodel on me as a parent.  Being a single parent has been extremely overwhelming at times and exhausting.  I have felt like I am parenting by the skin of my teeth.  These books and the thoughts that God is highlighting for me are making me more conscious of my reactions to Jaelyn and being more intentional in my interactions and reactions to her.  As I have seen God changing my interactions and reactions to Jaelyn, I have seen some of the challenges in her behavior significantly decreasing and changing.  This has really convicted me as a parent.  How many times have I vented and complained about the challenges of parenting without considering how my own actions, reactions, and attitudes have contributed to those challenges?   This is not to say that all of our children’s behaviors are a direct result or reaction to our own actions, reactions, and attitudes.  But how much more successful can I be as a parent if I am demonstrating the very actions, reactions, and attitudes that I want to see in my child and that God shows me as His child?

http://smile.amazon.com/Love-Dare-Parents-Stephen-Kendrick-ebook/dp/B00D7FLHOS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394415224&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Love+Dare+for+Parents

Monday, February 17, 2014

Seeing His Footsteps In The Sand

Saturday, as I was thinking about Valentine’s Day, I was trying to remember if I wrote a post last year for Valentine’s Day – my first since Scott’s death.  I began looking back and re-reading posts that I wrote in the first six months after his death.  Wow – as emotional as it was to look back, it was so encouraging.  To see how far I have come in this seemingly never ending journey was so encouraging.  I remember how dark and deep the hole of grief seemed in those first days and months.  This journey is so slow that it is difficult to see the progress as you go.  I would strongly encourage anyone in this journey to find some way of documenting it, whether it is writing, photos, drawing, or simply phrases noted on a calendar.  


It was such a blessing to see the lessons God has taught me, the ways He has blessed me, and His perfect timing in words of encouragement and grace from friends, family, and sometimes strangers.  It is such a clear documentation of His footsteps in the sand when He carried me.    Quite frankly, I needed this wake-up call, as on Valentine’s Day I was pretty much having a pity party for myself.  I know I’m not the only one who is a single mother, widow, or alone on Valentine’s Day.  Scott was never one to do anything huge or extravagant for Valentine’s Day and that didn’t really bother me – love isn’t just for one special day.  Yet, this year every time I thought about Valentine’s Day, it just made me feel down.  I was missing Scott and just plain missing having that special someone in my life.   Reading the word picture of my journey and the documentation of our love and God’s blessings, especially over the past year and a half, brought me out of my pity party and reminded me of how much God has given me and how much He loves me.  He has surrounded me with loving and caring friends and family.  He has provided for our every need and then some, allowing us to be a blessing by giving back.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Daddy's Veins

Sometimes I wish I thought like a nine year old.  It would certainly help me understand Jaelyn much better and avoid saying things that are interpreted differently in a nine year old’s mind than in an adult’s mind.

Last week we began the first of many trips to a cardiologist’s office.  Because of Scott’s death, unexpectedly, at such a young age due to undiagnosed heart issues, her pediatrician wanted her to be screened before her 10th birthday.  The pediatrician and I wanted to be at least a year and a half to two years out from Scott’s death for Jaelyn’s sake emotionally.   Recently there were some tests in the family that caused us to decide to do it now rather than later, just for peace of mind. 

Once the referral was made to a cardiologist, things began happening so quickly that my head was spinning.   I began having little conversations with Jaelyn, explaining what was going to be happening and trying to explain, simply, what had caused her daddy’s death.  Her greatest anxiety was the cholesterol testing as she is scared to death of needles and a simple flu shot is very traumatic for her.  With lots of prayers and bravery on her part, and my parents’ calm presence, Jaelyn was able to get through the cholesterol testing quickly and with minimal reaction (for her) on her part. We all were thanking God that Jaelyn had been blessed with her daddy’s easy to find veins and not my difficult to find, often hiding veins.

 I then moved to preparing her for the cardiology screening, which I thought would be talking only.  Fortunately I did talk about tests that might be requested and what those would look like.  When we arrived for the cardiology screening we found out that this appointment would include an EKG and an Echocardiogram.  Though noticeably anxious, Jaelyn did fabulous!  The echocardiogram technician really touched my heart when she told Jaelyn that she had a beautiful heart.  It was a blessing to receive the results of these tests and the cholesterol testing before we left the office.  The cardiologist also requested a holter monitor for 24 hours.  Jaelyn wasn’t so sure about that, but once it was on, she adapted quickly and wasn’t self-conscious about it at all.  We are still waiting on the results from that.  If those results are normal, Jaelyn will do yearly screenings for the next 4-5 years, as those are the years when things can change the most and the most quickly.


So, all of that background is to lead up to our conversation during family devotions the other night.  I think we were talking about our prayer request list when Jaelyn asked me about us saying that she has her daddy’s veins.  During the course of our conversation I realized that my explanation of Scott’s death through Coronary Artery Disease and our praise of her having her daddy’s veins was confusing to her as in her mind there is a direct connection between Scott’s Coronary Artery Disease and having her daddy’s veins.  Wow, talk about feeling awful for not realizing where her mind would go with the compliment for having her daddy’s veins.  We had a long conversation as I attempted to explain the difference and that even if she ended up having the same condition as her daddy, that death and significant health issues can be prevented with treatment – simply because of diagnosis.  I believe that she is trying to get her mind around the fact that Scott’s death could have been prevented with simple tests that he hadn’t had (at least we can’t find any evidence that he ever had a cholesterol test).    I did have to chuckle as the medical part of our conversation didn’t last long as she got “grossed out.”  She definitely takes after her daddy in that regard.  Scott would pass out or get lightheaded at the sight of needles and couldn’t stand the sight or talk of blood in a medical sense (he could watch action movies without a problem).  Maybe this is why God blessed both of them with good veins – He knew they couldn’t handle it otherwise!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Big and Bold with Childlike Faith

Over the last week, God has brought prayer to my mind again and again.  Last week I was praying for a specific health situation with a family member.  All my prayers were that the health issue would be identified and would be treatable.  Yet when the answers came from those health tests, God chose to answer in a way I didn’t think was possible – all the tests were normal and there was nothing to be concerned about. 

Then, sitting in church on Sunday, absorbing Pastor Daryl’s message about prayer, it was hard to contain myself.  The thoughts bursting through my head in response to Pastor Daryl’s message and illustrations were hard to keep up with, specifically the encouragement to pray big and bold prayers.  What we think of as big and bold, God can and will outdo.  Yet we are always surprised when He does do it.  It is too easy to put God in a box, forgetting that He is the God of the universe and He CAN AND WILL DO even the impossible. 

Just last week, during family devotions, Jaelyn and I started keeping a prayer notebook.   Just two days after starting the prayer notebook we were able to mark our first prayer as ANSWERED – the prayer for the health situation with a family member.  Each night after reading our devotions I ask her if there are any prayer requests that she thinks we need to add to the list.  Tonight Jaelyn added one to the list that I was thinking shouldn’t be on the list – it seemed frivolous and selfish, of something that she wanted for herself. 


Yet I caught myself, thinking about big and bold prayers.  Who am I to say that what she wants to pray for is wrong? I’m not sure that there are too many prayers that God would classify as wrong – the only type I can think of might be praying for someone’s death or harm to come to someone.   I am grateful that she wants to pray and I am thankful and blessed to witness the growth in her prayers in the short time we have been doing family devotions together.  Too often I think that I think things are too trivial or selfish to pray for.  I find it much easier to pray for others than for myself.  Yet, how often has God changed my prayers over time from self-focused to focused on His will.  That journey from self to Him has been a rich learning experience.  I don’t want to do anything that will take that journey and that learning experience away from Jaelyn.  I love her child-like approach in prayer – anything that she would ask me for is something that she sees as important to ask God for in prayer.  Instead of teaching her about prayer and God, Jaelyn is teaching me, without even realizing it.   I want my prayers to be like hers – Big and Bold with Childlike Faith.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"But what I did know put all that I didn't know into its place"


When I began reading my devotional tonight, it struck me right away.  The title was “The Powerful Hope In Peace”.  The author began sharing the story of the day she received her cancer diagnosis.  After leaving the doctor’s office with her husband, with many unknowns and uncertainties ahead of her, she broke down and cried.  After about fifteen minutes, as she began pulling herself together for the drive home, she describes the peace that settled over her:

“But what I did know put all that I didn’t know into its place.  I knew that God was on His throne.  I knew that He was still good and I was still loved.  I knew that Jesus took care of death for me a long time ago on an old rugged cross.  And I knew that He was with me every step of the way.”  -- Leighann McCoy

 

I cannot tell you how many times I have re-read the line, “But what I did know put all that I didn’t know into its place.”  What a powerful and simple thought!  While I had my moments of despair (and still do) after Scott’s death, I don’t think I ever lost sight of hope.  While I wouldn’t have used these exact words and I know I didn’t recognize it as such, I certainly feel like I had  (and still have) a hope, faith, and trust that God was going to take care of us and is continuing to take care of us.  I’m not sure that I can explain just how strongly this phrase has hit me.  I really believe that it needs to be my theme, my motto for my life.  No matter what comes my way – “But what I do know puts all that I don’t know into its place.”  What I do know is what matters in the end. 

 

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  – Philippians 4:4-7