Nostalgic November

It’s been a trying last few weeks as I’ve been traveling a lot. I just finished up a spectacular elk hunt enjoying the solace of nature and returned home, reconnecting with the world.   While spending time hunting, on the job and with family, it has been exhausting to say the least.  Being pulled in many directions, I’ve found that I’ve not had the time to write or share posts, nor have any time to myself during these days but then realized that this is life. It doesn’t adhere to my anticipated plan. It doesn’t fit in the cookie cutter mold. There are sharp turns, steep hills, and at times I find myself going in reverse.   What in the world?  I’ve learned I’ve no choice but to embrace it.

With the recent passing of my beloved uncle and declining health of my father, the emotional roller coaster welcomes me. I’ve enjoyed reminiscing, laughing and crying, as the pendulum of feelings swings widely. Grieving our loved ones is so hard, whether their passing was expected or not, there is no easy way to say goodbye.

However, since Lydia passed away, and years progressed, I’ve been fine-tuned to seeking life’s blessings during hardships. Despite difficult circumstances, I know the darkest days will pass and the sun will shine again, all in its own time.

But that doesn’t make it any easier.  Life is so fragile and love is so powerful.  Fresh events of loss bring to the surface the true meaning of life. It makes us ponder why we are even here. What is our purpose? Why do some live longer than others? Why does life have to hurt so much?  How are we equipped to handle it all?

How fast these years pass.  It seems like only a few short years ago I was in college as a young, naïve lady who set out to conquer the world.  Fast forward 20+ years and here I am today, wiser beyond my years, living through the unimaginable.  So strange. No exactly the life I had planned for myself.

I still cannot believe its November already. This month is one that carries high emotional charges as Lydia’s birthday lands on or near Thanksgiving each year.  No matter how many years have passed, we bereaved parents will always have heavy hearts and endless tears during birthdays and holidays. Yes, even after ten years. Yikes!  It still is so hard for me to fathom that much time has passed since my darling daughter was here.

During November every year, I find myself craving connection with God, needing to read scripture to remind myself that an eternity awaits.  I find myself visiting the cemetery more often, finding comfort in the solace and presence of her grave.  I find myself fantasizing of those early years with her and imagining who she’d be today.  You will find endless drops of pure love descending down my cheeks at random moments, evidence of the hearts incredible strength and timeless devotion.

Much time is spent on wondering, fantasizing, and dreaming of those heavenly reunions- no pain, no sorrow, only pure joy and restoration. Talk about glory days! What a gift.

In the end, today is all we are ever really promised.  Remember, when fear knocks on your door, answer with faith.

On the journey with you~

P.S. Stay tuned. Lots of excitement brewing here and two special announcements coming this month!

 

 

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How I Heard God on a Sunday Morning

Do you every wonder if God is there? If He really hears what’s in your heart?  I just had to share this morning how God was speaking to me.

My first clue was the dream I had last night.  It was the most amazing.  So here it is……I found it easier to write it in form of a letter to Lydia.

 

I found you singing in your room with your pink microphone, ever so softly and sweetly, of course you were dressed in pigtails and mismatched clothes.

“Lydia?” I said in disbelief. “Is it you?” You glanced at me with that sweet little smile and those piercing blue eyes. It really was you.

With tears streaming down my cheeks, I ran and picked you up in my arms squeezing you so tightly.  You were beautiful.  I got to hear your voice. Something I was so afraid of forgetting.   Blonde hair and pigtails, you looked just like before. Soft skin, adorable giggles.  Your Strawberry Shortcake pillow was there too, laying in my closet, just the like the matching blanket I have on the bed.

You never left the bedroom, so I rushed out to get your brother so he could see you once again, hoping you wouldn’t leave. Grabbing him by the hand, we ran back to you. As we entered the room, you smiled so big and continued singing, with your great grandma sitting next to you. You were both smiling and laughing-clearly full of joy. Oh I love you so much sweet pea.  And then, I kept hearing.   “I am alive. Just believe.  I’m always here.”

Whoa.

What gift God gave me this Sunday morning. It had been forever since I had a dream of Lydia. Seriously, it must have been well over a year. Was it real? I didn’t want to forget. I tried desperately to go back to sleep to find her again. Regrettably, I was awake and there was no going back.

Why does it always happened like this?  He allows us little glimpses and then we are forced back to reality.

Once awake, I let it all soak in. Feeling content, I glanced over at my phone and a new notification popped up, telling me of a new memory today of portraits over the years.  It’s a slideshow the phone somehow puts together and notified me of this morning.  Strangely, I don’t recall receiving one of these before.  As I pushed play, photos of my second daughter in the past years rotated.  My heart warmed with gratitude as I watched photos of my precious Sadie, the rainbow little girl He had given me.

Looking at the pictures, I became overwhelmed with love and thankfulness. God has given me another chance to love a different daughter. What a gift.  It’s as if I was subtlety being told that it’s okay.  Lydia is at peace and okay, but here on earth I have this wonderful other daughter to love and grow with.  Incredible really.

Blessed and grateful I am this morning. And then…..

Something prodded me to check my email for the daily bible verse. I get them in abundance in my email, but rarely read them every day.  Today was different, and I knew I must open it.

Staring at me was the verse John 7:37-

Eagerly, I turned to my bible and there it was.

37: On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”   38: He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Amazing.  It was the promise of the Holy Spirit in today’s scripture.  Reminding me, and I’m reminding you…that we must Go to HIM,…Not anyone else, but Go to Him and we will be satisfied…He will meet our needs like nothing else.

When we are thirsty, when we get that crave for coffee, energy drinks, soda, alcohol or even bottled water, we lunge for the superficial instant gratification.  We too often reach for these temporary physical quenchers, yet they do nothing for our spiritual thirst.   We can search and search trying to satisfy our inner needs, yet, in all reality, to improve the quality of our lives, we must be still and seek Him.  Quit the façade.  Quit diluting and distracting ourselves with people and activities as we perfect the art of avoidance so we don’t have to feel the pain and sadness life can bring.

We must dust off those bibles that sit near our beds unopened for months.  We must be vulnerable, exposing out hurting hearts and imperfections to Him, as only He can bring healing and wholeness to our lives, filling the emptiness in our souls.

The key word is come. We must come to him and He will meet us there. He will be there waiting. Meet him, seek him and he will quench our thirst. We need to acknowledge our need for Christ, extinguishing all self-reliance by opening our hearts to the Holy Spirit, welcoming peace and love on an entire new level.

Be reminded, He suffered and died for us. He is alive and with us in every moment. He knows and understands our weaknesses.  When we are feeling down, when our souls need replenished, just go to Him and he will satisfy our aching hearts.

Talk about powerful. He was speaking to me in so many ways this morning, it was wild.

The promise of the Holy Spirit…

Isaiah 58:11  

And the lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.

As our faith strengthens and we grow closer to God, our eyes will be opened to His blessings. Some days I’m too self-absorbed to notice, but today it was vivid and clear.  I knew I must share these little glimpses of God.   May you all find God’s presence with you this week.

While We’re Waiting

Psalm 27:14  Wait patiently for the Lord, be brave and courageous.  

One wouldn’t think that after ten years, a parent whose child has died, would need to take a “retreat,” now would they?

After all, it’s been ten years right? Time to get over it and move on, and quit dwelling in the past?

Easy to say, however, when your child dies, life is forever changed. And I mean forever.  Not just for a few days, weeks, or years, but for the entire rest of your life.

You live differently.  July will mark ten years since our Lydia went to heaven. And yes, we absolutely still think about her every day.  As we reminisce, tears may fall as we wonder what she would look like, how she would interact with her siblings, wonder if she would still love music, dance and the outdoors like she always did.

A couple of months ago, I was on a work trip sitting in my hotel room alone, when I began doing research for a book I’m working on.  It wasn’t long before I came across a faith filled retreat for bereaved parents. Instantly, it piqued my interest.  I went to the website and felt and immediate connection.

It was a Christian based organization based in the Midwest, offering much-needed retreats for parents just like me. Have you heard of  While We’re Waiting?  Sighing, I shrugged my shoulders realizing that traveling to the Midwest was not an option for me.

As I continued reading on, what did I see? That they were having their first couples retreat in my home state, just a few hours away.  Seriously?!  Without hesitation I emailed them, claimed the last opening and signed up for this soul quenching event.

Personally, I had been searching for a bereaved parents retreat in the Pacific Northwest where I live, however, came up with nothing. Contemplating starting my own somewhere, let’s just say I was beyond thrilled to find this. Thank you God!

So a few weeks ago, Jake and I snuck away and had the honor of attending this healing retreat for bereaved parents, something we had never done before, yet something I always wanted to do.

As some of you may be aware, I love to help others through grief and am a huge advocate of connecting with others who have been there as well as expressing how God has carried me through this horrific journey.  Faith is without a doubt, the secret sauce, after the death of a child.  We cannot do this alone.

A little nervous and apprehensive, I hadn’t shared our story or daughter in this type of environment before.  Strangely, I found myself to be completely excited as I anticipated the weekend to come.

We dropped off our children at their uncle’s house for a few days and headed down the highway.

Nestled in the mountains, we turned onto the gravel driveway and followed the signs until we reached the lodge. Cars lined the perimeter as we searched for a parking spot.  Clearly we were the last ones to arrive.  I was eager to meet everyone and could feel my heart beating rapidly as we approached the front door.

As we walked in, everyone was seated at the dinner tables, conversing and getting acquainted.  We received a loving warm welcome and quickly found our seats. The vibe in the room was relaxed and inviting.  I didn’t feel the need to explain my life or circumstances, and just enjoyed a casual meal with new friends.

Uniting in fellowship and sharing with a bunch of strangers. Hmm. Some may think that sounds kind of weird and uncomfortable.  Let me tell you, it was the best.  Parents from different cities and states meeting for the first time. Parents that have endured the same pain and sorrow we have.

New friends and relationships formed.  Our eyes met, our souls connected. A time of quiet solace and reflection.  All coming together talking and sharing our joys and sorrows about the day and difficult path we have been on since our children went to heaven.

After we lose a child, we become weak and connecting with others provides that kind of heart salve that mends the soul.

We shed tears, without judgement, in a place where you obtain a sense of belonging. Our children’s photos decorated the mantle as we enjoyed a time of comradery with those who have walked this seemingly unbearable new life.

It was a place where you needn’t speak a word yet have an immediate connection with other parents the moment your eyes make contact.  Oddly, it brings comfort to your heart to be surrounded by other parents who know the extreme depths of your pain.  They understand. They get it. They know what it’s like to hear those words, “your child has died.”

They appreciate the arduous and terrifying journey each of us has been on.  This retreat emanated the infections persona of faith and presence of Christ, while keeping us refreshed and renewed, filling us with hope and healing.

An essential reprieve, a place to share our experiences, rollercoaster of emotions and how we have tackled those demons of hopelessness.  A place where the hand of God was profoundly evident and hymns of praise were sung with confidence.

It was a place where we comfortably share our sweet Lydia, not having to justify or explain our journey. A special time devoted to our healing and our precious daughter.

While We’re Waiting is an extraordinary group of people who have been led by God to help others experiencing child loss.  They have created refuges for parents to come and unite, receive the word of God while offering hope and encouragement.  It’s a place where life is real, and pain is palpable, yet hope and faith dominate.

The strength of a grieving parent is immeasurable. Through child loss, our faith is tested and we can be transformed into super heroes without even being aware.  We live like no one else. Our hearts are open wide, lined with compassion and our differences are washed away.

Yes, even ten years out, bereaved parents still need to recharge.  I had a burning internal desire to be able to share my daughter and my story, while connecting with others that understand.  Let us not underestimate the power of connections.   We are indefinitely changed and equipped with the armor of God to sustain and protect us, free from the shackles of grief and sorrow.

What a blessing this was.  I am so thankful to be able to meet these amazing parents and know their children.

Whether you are a newly bereaved parent or you are a parent years out from your loss, I absolutely recommended attending a While We’re Waiting Retreat or contributing to their ministry.  Go check out their website and see how they are making an impact on grieving hearts. Find them at https://www.whilewerewaiting.org/home.html

 

 

Photo by Anisur Rahman on Unsplash