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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Worry and Anxiety



Although I believe in God and have faith in His Word, one of the things I have struggled with spiritually since Scott’s death is worry and anxiety.  In talking with others who have experienced tragedy in their lives, I have come to realize that this is a common problem.  Because I have experience unexpected tragedy in my brother Jason’s accident and then death 12 years later, as well as Scott’s unexpected death, my mind is hyper-aware of the fact that life is not in my control and something can happen at any moment to tear away someone that I love dearly.  Sometimes the anxiety and worry hit for no apparent reason and my imagination can run rampant.  Other times I find myself worrying about the future.  Sometimes it takes a long time for me to hear God reminding me to trust Him, that He is in control.

In recent days, God has brought it to my attention that this is an ongoing issue for me.  I have spent much time thinking and praying about it.  So often a simplistic answer is offered – just think about something else, think about something positive, or simply – stop worrying.  Those of you who have been there know that the only simple answer is God, but in saying that I realize that the process of trusting God is not easy and it is not a “cure.”  Simply by saying that I trust God does not erase my worry and anxiety.  I believe it is a journey – a journey of continuing to draw closer to God, continuing on a daily – or hourly or minute by minute – basis to deliberately put it back in God’s hands, praying for His wisdom and guidance, and trusting that He will help you move forward on this journey.  (Just for clarification, I believe that medications and counseling are God’s provision if needed and not a sign of weakness.)

Has my worry and anxiety disappeared?  No, but I am hearing God’s voice more quickly reminding me to pause, pray, and put it in God’s hands.  Sometimes a quick prayer is enough to bring peace and other times it is ongoing prayer that gradually brings peace.  I need to remember not to give up and not to get discouraged when I do worry or get anxious, but to continually return to God in prayer.  I’m thankful that God will never give up on me and will continue to work in me.

“We have a Savior who has never once failed us.  He never will fail us.  He has loved and led and guarded us all these years.”  -- Amy Carmichael

Philippians 4:6-7

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Not Once

This morning I was reading in Romans.  Two words caught my attention – faith and believe.  I was caught by the fact that the words appeared to be used interchangeably in talking about coming to righteousness in Christ, yet I didn’t think that they meant the same thing.  After pulling out my dictionary to look both words up, I realized that their meaning is very similar.  Faith is the structure, believing is the action.  Faith is the physical bridge to God, believing is stepping out on that bridge and moving toward God, trusting the bridge (faith) to be true and solid. 

God’s faithfulness is beyond human comprehension.  We are incapable of faithfulness in every word, deed, and thought.  We do not deserve His faithfulness, yet in His mercy and grace He freely gives us what we do not deserve.

In thinking about our grief journey since Scott’s death, almost two years ago, I realized that I have had faith that God is true and would provide for us.  Only in moving forward am I demonstrating a belief that God is true and will provide for us.  And God has provided financially, emotionally, and spiritually.  He has brought people into my life at the right times to provide a word of encouragement, a spiritual reminder, and a blessing in a new friend.  He has provided the right teachers at the right times for Jaelyn and conversations at the right times with the right people with the right words.  God’s timing had always been right on time – never late and never early.  He has provided what we needed at exactly the right time.


I do not understand why Scott had to die so young and I may never know.  But, I do know that God has been faithful and blessed us beyond measure as we grieve the earthly loss of Scott and struggle to move forward.  He has provided us with strength to move forward when it seemed impossible.  He has brought  happiness and  joy back to our lives and our spirits over time, even when it seemed like that would never be possible again.  Every time I see Jaelyn laughing, relaxed, and having fun, I thank God with all my heart for His healing power and His faithfulness to us.  Not once has He failed us, not once has He left us alone, not once has He failed to provide for us, and not once has He failed to bless us.

Please take a moment to listen to the song below, it says it so clearly.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Down Days

Today is one of those down days.  It is beautiful outside, yet I lack the energy or the motivation to do something outside, much less inside.  I suppose that waking up with a severe headache certainly contributed to feeling down today.  Thankfully it has mostly subsided.  I find myself taking the time to think back over our vacation – this was the first one (other than trips to the cabin) since Scott’s death. 

We were so busy going and doing that I didn’t have much time to think about the moments that I marked in my memory, moments when Scott’s absence was so obvious and painful.  A majority of those moments were times of missing Scott for Jaelyn.  Playing tennis and pool with her -- both games that Scott was good at and I only know the basics -- and missing Scott’s patience in teaching her how to hold and improve her swing with a tennis racket or how to hold a pool cue and line up the ball to the pockets brought sadness to my heart.  I think the fact that our vacation was at Massanutten – a place where Scott and I have been quite a few times on vacation, both before and after Jaelyn’s birth – made it more difficult.  Maybe this is why I looked for things to do away from Massanutten’s grounds.  It was easier to do things with Jaelyn that we had not done before as a family, rather than to do the things that we had done with Scott in the past. 

During vacation, I thought a lot about all the changes in our lives and the Bradley family’s lives since we were last at Massanutten in March of 2011.  First of the major changes was my mother-in-law’s stroke, followed by Scott’s death just five months later, and our nephew leaving for college in Massachusetts just two days after Scott’s funeral.  So, with “all” the family at Massanutten, we were missing Nando and Abby (in Boston), and Scott, and trying to help my mother-in-law do as many of the things she enjoys doing as possible while being wheelchair bound.  We have adjusted and continue to move forward, but the pain of the loss and change still remains. 


Don’t get me wrong, we had a lot of fun on vacation and got to do a lot of different things – it wasn’t all sad moments.  I simply think that those sad moments are hitting me today.  I am thankful that the down days do not come frequently and, by the grace of God, I am able to rebound and pull myself out of those moments with God’s strength.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Father to the Fatherless

So, yesterday was Father’s Day.  As I’m sure you can imagine, this day brings such mixed emotions for Jaelyn and I.  I am beyond grateful for the wonderful father that I have.  He has been there for me whenever I have needed him.  He has never hesitated, even now, to let me know if he thought I needed correction or redirection.    Anytime I need or want help with a project, help with getting something repaired, need advice, or just need a hug, I know that he is there and will help or support me in any way that he can.

Yet, as you can imagine, I grieve for Jaelyn that her father is no longer here to fill that role for her.  Scott was a wonderful father to Jaelyn.  He loved to spend time with her, share his love of the outdoors and sports with her, and play with her.  This loss has been a huge loss for Jaelyn.  I see so clearly how she craves that father figure.   She may not consciously realize how much she craves it, but it is so obvious when you see her with the special men in her life. 

I am thankful that God has allowed and provided my dad with good health, that he lives close by, and that he has a close relationship with Jaelyn.  Time with Grandpa has become very special to her.  It is very clear when my dad is away on the days that Jaelyn is at their house, that his absence makes a huge difference in her attitude. She is more grumpy with everyone around her and clingy with me.   Dad has tried to do regular “date” nights with Jaelyn.  We haven’t used that title with her, but after watching her get ready for the second evening of just her and Grandpa doing something special, it was clear that this conveys the specialness of those times for her.   Jaelyn changed into a dress, did her hair special, and put on her Sunday sandals.  

Please, men, if you know of a fatherless child – whether by death or absence – don’t discount the importance you might have in that child’s life.   Women, if you know of a motherless child – again whether by death or absence – don’t discount the importance you might have in that child’s life.  God intended us to have a mother and a father for a reason.  Look around you, are there children without a mother or father?  How will these children grow up to understand God’s given roles for men and women and how each should be treated without role models to look up to?

Psalm 68:5

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Salsa

There are a lot of thought floating in my head this weekend, calling out to put on paper.  So, this is my second post today – rather than combine my convoluted thoughts into one post.

This weekend I had a picnic with friends at my house.  One of our friends asked me to make my salsa for the picnic.  There was such a mixture of feelings when I got his email with the request.   Scott asked me to make my salsa more than any other recipe or food item I have ever made for him.  I had not made it since before his death, until this weekend.  I wasn’t sure I would ever make it again – it is so connected with Scott in my mind.  Scott would always help me make it – chopping the onions for me since I can’t chop onions without crying my eyes out—and was always my taste tester. 

I took a short-cut when I made it this weekend and bought pre-cut onions and peppers at the store.  I truly thought that I would cry my way through making it.  I didn’t cry, but Scott was very present in my thoughts the whole time.  When I finished making it and it was time to taste test it (I don’t have an exact recipe and it is never the same twice), it was really hard taste testing without his opinion.  I finally just let it go and walked away before my emotions could overwhelm me.  It didn’t taste good to me at that time, but I think it was my memories and emotions getting in the way.


I have found myself wondering when the firsts will end.  It is exhausting at times anticipating or getting blindsided by the first time of doing or having something happen since his death.   It can often be a punch in the gut, especially when I am blindsided by it.  Just last Sunday, for the scholarship presentation, when Pastor Marc introduced me as Scott’s widow is a perfect example.  I don’t know why I didn’t think about how I would be introduced, but it was the first time, even twenty-two months after Scott’s death, that someone had introduced me as Scott’s widow.  I have filled out forms, checking the box widow, so it isn’t that I haven’t lived the word.  And honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted Pastor Marc to introduce me any other way, but it is still a shock to my system when little-big things happen like that.  

Strength

“Grief walked into your heart and created room for your soul to grow.  In that space, your soul has been, and is being, strengthened.”  -- “Second Firsts” by Christina Rasmussen

This quote is from a book on surviving and thriving after life-changing grief.  While this book is written from a psychological and scientific point of view, rather than a Biblical point of view, there are many points that are very much in line with the Biblical point of view.

 In the last six to eight weeks I have been thinking back over the past twenty two months since Scott’s death and the recent death of my grandma.  This quote is certainly true, although I have to admit that it jarred me a bit when I first read it.  I still struggle with the thought of good coming from a death, although the other side of that is we want something good to come out of a death as if to make the life worthwhile.  I think it is much easier for me to accept the thought of good coming out of Scott’s death for other people.  When I think about personal good coming out of Scott’s death, if feels as if I am benefitting from Scott’s death, which causes me to feel awful.  Yet I have grown as a person and in my relationship with God in struggling to find my way through all of it.


 I think of weightlifting – in order to build your muscles, you need to lift heavier and heavier weights.  Well, in grief, the weights that I have lifted have strengthened me.  I know that I have changed significantly in the process.  This blog is evidence of that.  I could not have imagined this ministry that God has placed into me nor could I have imagined how open and vulnerable He would ask me to be.  I have found strength, with God’s help, to continue to move forward and provide peace, security, and stability for Jaelyn.  There are still days when I stall in the process and even move backward, but there is still gradual and steady progress forward.  I’m beginning to have dreams for the future for myself, as well as both Jaelyn and I.  Dreams that may or may not ever come to pass, but if there is one thing I learned from Scott, is that it is important to dream.  Dreams open up your soul to the even bigger dreams that God may have in store.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

And the winner is . . . .

And the winner is. . . .  Emily Long. 

Emily Long is the very first recipient of the Scott Bradley “Life is an Adventure” scholarship.    It was such an honor and a blessing to present the scholarship this morning to Emily. After Pastor Marc shared a little bit about Emily, her character, and her faith with me this past week, it felt very fitting that she be the first recipient.  Emily volunteered her time to provide childcare at Scott’s funeral for family and friends traveling from out of the area.  She is set to attend Lancaster Bible College in the fall – my alma mater.

 In the four or five weeks since I agreed to be a part of the scholarship I have been agonizing over what to share this morning.   After many scribbling and crossing out of words and sentences, I finally had something in writing by Wednesday night this past week.  I put it aside and didn’t think about it again until last night.  After re-reading what I wrote, it left me with an unsettled feeling that it didn’t quite say what it needed to say.  After thinking about it overnight, while taking a shower this morning words and phrases began circling in my head.  As soon as I was out of the shower, I sat down and began putting those words onto paper.  The end result was quite different from my original thoughts and only had one sentence in common.   Here is what I shared with the graduates this morning:

“It is such a blessing and honor to be a part of continuing Scott’s legacy in the presentation of this scholarship.  In thinking about what to share this morning, I have written and re-written my thoughts many times.  I would like to share with you lessons that Scott learned in life and I have learned from his life and death.  Scott would want to tell you that life with God is a grand adventure.  Don’t be afraid to step outside of the box and try new things.  Always search out God and be open to whatever He is leading you to do.  Trust that God is using you to make a difference – even if you can’t see it in the moment.  Dream big, but be open to God’s even bigger dreams for your life.  Taking the next step with God can be fun and scary at the same time, but He will provide everything you need when you need it.  And most of all, have fun on the journey.”

It was a blessing to have Scott’s parents, sisters, brother-in-law, niece, and uncle come from Mechanicsburg, Shippensburg, and Meadville (5 ½ hours away) to be present for the presentation of the Scott Bradley “Life is an Adventure” scholarship, as well as my parents.  This scholarship is very meaningful to us in remembering Scott and carrying on his legacy.


And, yes I made it through without crying, stuttering, or tripping.  God truly calmed my nerves and I was not even nervous when I was up front.  Thank you everyone for the prayers for calmness and clarity of thought and voice.