April 26, 2017

Seeing Life Through the Eyes of Grief, Year 1

It's been almost 14 months since my sweet Kevin breathed his last here on this little planet and was welcomed into the loving arms of his Savior. We've survived day by day, most of the time. Many mornings it's hard to get up and get going. Most days include tears somewhere in the day, mine or my kid's. We keep moving. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. But Kevin is missed. The lack of his presence is always felt. We have joy and laughter and sweet memories. We have fear and confusion and lists of things we'll have to experience without him. Ethan won't know a graduation with his father present. Sophie won't get to have a daddy with her for a daddy/daughter dance. They won't have the joy of Kevin teaching them guitar. The list could go on and on.

And while grief is always there, lingering at the edge of every memory, every experience, every first and second, there really has been much more to our lives in this last year. Admittedly, I often have a hard time seeing the good moments. The new memories. The victories. If I don't remain intentional about naming the gifts and the #graceinthegray, the harder it is to spot them when the Lord sends them my way. I know without a doubt that if I hadn't already been naming all the grace before our world fell apart, there's no way I'd be able to to name it now, when life feels hard and numb. So tonight (because it's after 10 pm as I write this), I am just going to list some of the things I've seen and lived in this first year. And choose to thank God for each one of them. Even if they were hard. Or sad. Or awkward. Or joyous. Regardless of whether they brought tears or laughter.

God always provides just what we need when we need it. Whether it's money or food or a Route 44 Cherry Limeade, the Lord will provide! He has provided clothes for us, people to watch my kids once a week, friends who let me be real and vulnerable at all times, and people to work on my house. He has provided money to pay bills, a part-time job I can do from anywhere with an internet connection, a career for Kevin that is now providing funds for us to live each month, and a family that doesn't care about the physical distance between us when we need them to be here. There have been people step up to help pay bills, who send gift cards for our favorite places, who speak such loving, hope-filled words o the days I need them most. You would not believe how well people have stepped up to love on my children and ensure that every one of their hard days have at least a glimmer of sunshine. God is so good!

It is imperative to spend time in God's word, even when nothing in you wants to pick it up off the nightstand. His word is living and active. Really. It is. No matter your circumstance, He's got a precious truth (probably many of them) for You in those pages. But you'll never know if you don't read it. Don't know where to start? Read through the Psalms or pick one of the Gospels. Just start. Somewhere. Anywhere. Even on the days when all I could muster the energy to do was read one small chapter, I was always amazed to find the hope and comfort and beauty He has waiting for me, even in those few little words my brain can focus on and read. While you're reading it, write down what sticks out to you. Note the date, write the words, and keep it so you can look back and see the work the Lord has done in your heart as you grow and learn and become more like Him. Write the scriptures that really speak to you on index cards and post them all over your house. Put them on your mirror and your dresser and on your door and in your car. Carry them in your pocket and in your purse.

It is only the Spirit's self-control in me that keeps me from being totally bankrupt. Until grief landed on my doorstep, I didn't realize that my way of dealing with stress and anxiety and grief, etc is to buy something. Most of the time it's inexpensive books from Amazon. I can't tell you how many times I've thought that I just want a new van or new furniture or just new everything. A new, fresh start to go with this new life of grief. But, then the Spirit whispers the truth to me that things and stuff do not make a life. They don't fill a hole. They don't close a gap. They don't bring hope or healing. Only God can do that. There's nothing wrong with having stuff, unless you have stuff just for the sake of having stuff. And that's what my impulse is. None of the new that I want to have is needed or really even helpful. It would just be new and something I could control. Because grief feels a lot like constantly being out of control. And I don't like feeling out of control. I am thankful for the truthful whispers of the Holy Spirit and his fruit of self-control when I need it most.

It is really hard not to look ahead and see all the things that will be different without Kevin here with us. Especially when it involves my kids. When grief hits hardest, satan uses those moments to make the list in my head of all the things my kids will have to do without a dad. The years of watching others have those moments that they just don't get. When I give in to that list, fear and anger and hurt and jealousy take over and satan wins the battle. BUT GOD is bigger than the fear. Bigger than the anger. Bigger than the hurt. Bigger than the jealousy. It's moments like these that make time in the Word so important. It's in these moments the Lord fills my mind with the scriptures I've memorized so the truth can drown out the lies. It's in these moments that the precious family and friends He's given me prove their love; they let me pour out the hurt and pain and they pour in the truth and promises of a God far greater than the enemy trying to steal, kill, and destroy.

He can pull you through the day, even when you don't want to get out of bed. When you cry to Him, He answers. Most mornings I have to spend a good 30-60 minutes asking God for the strength to get up and get moving. And He's given me that strength every time. And you know what else, we've survived the hardest year of school, yet. Most days I am convinced that it was a waste of a year and they would have been better off doing anything else. That is just another lie from the enemy. While we may not have covered as much as I was hoping or we may not remember everything we studied, the Lord gives me sweet glimpses each day of how smart and sweet and wonderful these kids are and I am so blessed to get to be here with them for every one of their moments. And you now what else, Sophie and I both learned fractions this year. I'd love to say we conquered them, but that would most certainly be an overstatement, but we only have a few lessons left and we can get all the problems done correctly on each worksheet. Sometimes it's with tears and weeping and gnashing of teeth, but we've done it. I did not think that would be possible. Though Ethan complains and rolls his eyes every day when it comes to school, he can use any food to show simple fractions and simple multiplication. With little instruction from me he adds with carrying and writes in cursive and reads above grade level. Don't get me wrong, I am still ready for summer and little to no school for awhile, but I am also looking forward to next year with new curriculum, new books, and what I hope will be a renewed spirit after a summer break. In January, I didn't think this would be possible. This semester has been a struggle in pretty much every way every day, BUT GOD. He has worked a miracle for sure!

God redeems even our worst and hardest moments. I'll be honest, I don't have a scripture verse to back this up; that doesn't mean there isn't one, just that I don't know where it is. But, as I look back over the last year, I can say with 100% honesty, God is redeeming every hard moment. Every hard year. He is restoring the years the locusts have stolen. And he's doing it in ways I never would have dreamed or imagined. He is opening doors to speak openly and honestly about our pain with people I never would have thought would care. He has placed individuals in my path that have been strengthened and encouraged by Kevin's fight and struggle, even though it didn't end the way I had hoped. When I look at this story and see the abrupt end at the hand of a life-stealing drug straight from the hand of the father of lies, I struggle to see how it could encourage anyone. Speak life to anyone. Help anyone. BUT GOD. BUT GOD. That's really all there is to say there!

He truly is the God who sees. He sees your pain. Your tears. Your fear. Your confusion. Your desire to keep following Him when nothing in you can even keep going. We first see God called by the title "the God who sees" when He sees poor Hagar, unwanted and unloved other wife of Abraham, crying all alone when she realizes she's unloved. He saw her tears. He saw her desire for acceptance. He saw her every need. And he loved her and met her right there in the midst of her ugly crying and screaming and hurt. The Lord didn't berate her or yell at her, but spoke sweetly to her in the midst of her pain. I think of Leah, too, who so desperately wanted to be loved and accepted by Isaac, but it just would never be. The Lord saw her pain as she was pushed aside and treated as less than. But God saw her. Saw her hurt and pain. And He loved her. I hope you know, regardless of your circumstance or pain or hurt or loss, GOD SEES. I know this because scripture promises He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So the God who saw Hagar, sees you. The God who saw Leah, sees you. Throw your hurt and your pain at Him. He can take it. He's a big God. Dig into the book of Psalms and see how beautifully David and others poured out their hearts and God somehow still brought praise and joy from their lips. He'll do it for you, too!

Oh, Lord, train my eyes to stay fixed on You, regardless of what's happening in my life. Fill my heart and mouth with Your praise at all times. Remind me of each of these truths each time the enemy attempts to fill my mind with his lies. Lord, thank You for being in control of all things at all times. Thank You for seeing my pain and knowing and providing everything the kids and I need. Thank You for the grace and mercy you pour over me each day. Give me the eyes to see the grace and the words to name it. Replace the list of things we're missing with the list of graces You've given. Guard my heart and mind as satan throws his fiery darts of grief and doubt and fear my way. Oh, Father, move. Mold me to be more like You each day. Give me an obedient heart that overflows with love for You and others.

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