How Can Suffering Possibly “Work” for You?

As a runner I often pray and meditate on scripture while running. One day a phrase from 2 Corinthians seemed to keep pace with each footfall:

“For our light affliction which is but for a moment …”

The passage intrigued me. To consider the loss of my twelve year old son, Andrew, to brain cancer, as light or momentary was inscrutable. There were mornings when I just wanted to escape from reality rather than face another day without the youngest member of our family.

As I ran I prayed. “God, how is it possible to look at suffering as light and momentary?” Continue reading

In The Midst of the Waves

Andrew

I can breathe again. Thank you for your kind words and prayers.

I ran last night. I ran fast and it felt good. After the first mile I pulled the elastic that held my hair and slipped it over my wrist. Immediately I felt the tension ease from my scalp. The breeze blew my hair over my shoulders. I thought about people who are hurting and want so badly for the tension and pain they face to be gone. To ease. To let up.

Andrew faces the wave.

I thought of someone I know who has faced many losses in her life and I have more compassion for her than ever before. She has made unwise decisions in her desperation for the emotional pain to ease. I understand her better now.

Yesterday I read Psalm 27 ~ Andrew’s psalm.
I thought how often I read those fourteen verses to Andrew, over Andrew and as a prayer for Andrew.

The 13th and 14th verses read:

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed

That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.


Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!”

Yesterday the ocean’s waves settled a bit. I was able to stand again and take a deep breath.

Today I will fix my hair. I will remove the weeks old polish from a gift certificate pedicure my good friend gave me. I will put some tea bags on my swollen eyes. I will bake some banana bread and some pumpkin spice muffins, too.

I will read 5 Psalms and a Proverb. I will be grateful for the gift of mothering Andrew for nearly 13 years. I will smile at the thought of seeing him again and kissing those “freckers.”

Andrew ~ summer ’09

People who have walked this same path tell me I am experiencing the normal process of grieving. An employee of Hospice, who also lost a son, told me it was two years before she felt like herself again.

I will do my best to live in my present and invest in my future. I will lay up my treasure in Heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys nor thieves break in and steal.

My husband and our boys, Avery & Andrew ~ summer ’09

I do not know how many more times the wave of intense emotional pain will knock me underwater. But I am determined to build myself up in the “meantimes” so that I know without fear of doubt that my life is preserved by the One who will never leave me. Just as I know He was in the middle of the storm with me last year, I know He is in the midst of the waves as well.

My niece, Hayley…I wrote the verse to accompany her joyous jump!
“She leaps in the sunset,
Water at her feet.
Arms in joyful pose,
Blessings are replete.”

Faith Under Water

This morning when I woke up and looked in the mirror, I didn’t look like me. I was me but it was definitely the rough, ragged, barely hanging on version of me. My hair was dirty. My eyes were terribly swollen and I was on day two of a migraine. I had not slept well in a few nights and I had not felt happiness in several days.

In this season of grief, it seems I get 2 – 3 weeks of feeling “just ok” and having some happy moments and even some laughs. Then a crashing wave of overwhelming emotion, sadness and depression knocks me to my knees and under the salty water I am turned and tossed, not able to identify which way is above the water.

I try very hard to get back up and gasp fresh air. But the force of the rolling ocean’s wave is brutal.
While underwater, I cry and pray and plead with the One who created the tides to bring me some relief. I sort by memory the scriptures which promise the ever present fellowship of the Lord and the peace He left us. I consider many times making a call for help here and a cry for help there for something that I cannot seem to give to myself. But I am afraid to divulge too much because I can’t control the response nor the outcome. And I know, too, that as ferocious as the wave is, the water will calm again. Finally the rolling wave will subside and I will stand upright again.

Yesterday I began to consider that the overwhelming wave that comes is sent as an attack by that old enemy and liar, the accuser.
I know that there is a process to grieving and yet I also know that I have been in the Refiner’s fire and God is engraving a message on my heart.
In the *message that I gave at the Ladies Tea in MD last month I spoke of three questions that I had asked of God in the nine months since Andrew’s Heavenly Homegoing.

1. If You are not who I thought You were, then who are You?

2. What do you want from me?

3. What can I expect from You?

So whether I face sunshine, rain or crashing waves, still my faith endures and by God’s grace, I will deliver His message of hope, healing and Heaven’s reward.

However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8

*If you are interested in a DVD of that message, let me know in a comment.

Recognize & Acknowledge

Sitting in  the choir loft Sunday morning, I was startled by a video. It highlighted our church’s mid-week boys’ class. It was the group that Andrew was a part of for a few years. He always liked the fishing, the shooting and campfire making the best. The book work, he endured. (That’s our boy!)
Over the next few minutes, I felt the cruelty of not having our boy.
Cancer stinks.
We don’t know why brain cancer attacked our boy. I don’t want any other child to go through it. I don’t want any other family to be in agony over a cancer diagnosis and death.
Sometimes when I see boys Andrew’s age, the pain is overwhelming. I wonder why our boy. We tried to do all the right things to protect him ~ spirit, soul and body.

Still, cancer came.

Sometimes when I am out running in my neighborhood I see a boy riding a bike whose hair is the color of honey, like Andrew’s.
Sometimes I close my eyes just a little and imagine it is Andrew for just a moment.
Sometimes I hear the familiar sound of skateboarding down our street and I miss hearing that right outside my door. I miss hearing Andrew skateboarding up our driveway, into the garage and coming in the side door with his hair plastered with sweat to his head.


Sometimes I see the friends he played with out playing now. It hurts. I often avoid the top of our street for that reason.


As the video played, I felt the heat rising in my body, tears welled up in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. My hands began to shake. I wanted to escape. But I knew it would cause distraction and I would just feel worse making a scene.
The lady to my left reached for her purse and withdrew a tissue. She pressed it into my hand and then she placed her hand on my knee.
Grief and overwhelming sadness was recognized.
I grabbed her hand as the video seemed interminable and held on for dear life.
Grief and overwhelming sadness acknowledged.


I often feel that people don’t know what to do with me anymore. And I wonder if it is more a reflection of my own discomfort. Should I try to explain how difficult it is being in church?
There are several reasons. Our family has discussed them. I think it would be very hard for someone to understand unless they have been in a very similiar situation.


It starts with driving to church. Instead of five of us in our van, there are four. Andrew always sat right behind me. Then there is the pew. Not five any longer, but four. We sat there believing and praying for a miracle as Andrew sat beside us. The elders of the church prayed for him and he was anointed with oil.


Our choir has begun rehearsing for Christmas and I remember that last December the five of us sat together and as the choir sang, Andrew leaned into me and whispered in my ear, “It’s not the same without you up there, Mom.”  That was only two weeks before he passed to Heaven.


Although doing life is sometimes difficult, we keep pressing forward. We do the hard things. I admit I do not always smile through it. But I do it. Can that be good enough sometimes?


I guess I’m sharing this to let you know that if you are in the presence of someone who is walking through a storm, in whatever phase that may be, you really don’t have to say much. Please don’t preach or tell them you know how they feel. Please don’t offer platitudes and be very careful about “sharing” Scripture.


Just recognize and acknowledge.
Eye contact. A hug. A pat on the back. A squeeze of the hand.
That is comfort.


As in our case of our loss of Andrew, I want people who know him to talk about him when it feels right. That makes us feel good!
Please don’t pretend he never existed. If you have a story to share, tell me. Maybe he came to your mind recently, tell me. Though we don’t have his physical presence at this time, he is still with us. He is always in our family of five.

Forever A Family of “5″

“It’s not the same without you down here, Andrew.”

October 2009 ~ at church

A couple of nights ago as we lay in bed, I told my husband, “I want Andrew back.”
He replied, “And he wants us home.”

Grateful

Sometimes no matter what my head knows and no matter how much I believe with all my heart that I will see Andrew again, the grief overwhelms me.
Certainly I do not grieve as those who have no hope, yet I do grieve as a mother who cannot see her young son. And for who knows how long.
I can have lots of good days and even good times when I think of Andrew and I can smile. Even though the “missing him” never lets up ~ it just doesn’t. How could it when I always miss him? It’s not like he’s gone off to college or gotten married and moved away. (Not at 12.) Then I could call him and look forward to holiday breaks. There are no more real conversations between us. Only the ones in my heart. And they are a poor substitute.

I had such a beautiful time in Maryland. Our friends there and the body of Christ (new friends) at the church treated us exceptionally well.
I had my daughter with me and that helped me quite a bit, too. Before leaving home, and at the last minute, I decided to take my pillow as a “carry on.” It was Andrew’s pillow and I have been using it for months. I debated on whether I should take his robe with me. I always sleep with it. I did take it; I stuffed it in the pillowcase.

When I was speaking in Maryland, especially on Sunday morning when I was not so much sharing my story but teaching, I had a moment in which I felt I had “come home.” It was like an inner sighing. I think that is what happens when we experience our spiritual gifting.

Tuesday on the flight home, the realization that I was returning home but there would not be Andrew there, washed over me. And the tears flowed. My daughter put her arm around me until I could control my tears.
Friday my husband had surgery to remove the rod from his leg and the last two pins (ski accident on 1/09). They called me back to the recovery room and it looked so much like an ER that my heart began to pound. And then I heard that awful beaping of the monitor. I remembered that sound and it brought back the anguish of Andrew’s pain.

Saturday I ran in the Miles For Hope (brain cancer research) 5k. I saw posters honoring the survivors or memorializing those who did not survive. From what I could tell they were all adults. I did not make a poster for Andrew. I just felt it was too soon. I didn’t want to “put him out there” in that way. And anyway we had the Team Andrew shirts. That felt right and it felt like enough for now.

Sunday I went to church with my oldest son. My daughter stayed home to assist her dad.
Through parts of the service I hung my head and hot tears landed on my linen skirt.
On the way home, we stopped at the gravesite and I dusted off the plastic name plate. It was broken in two places. (We have not yet ordered the permanent marker but feel that now is the time. It’s been hard to think about that.)

Yesterday the tears would simply not stop for long. I asked God to please help me.

“Help me feel better. What’s going on with me? Please help me.”

I took my camera outside and took three pictures that mirrored my feelings ~ the purple flower with its blooms drooping, the crepe myrtle devoid of her lacy, pink blooms, the fallen tree grown too big for its container. Through tears I took pictures.
I debated on whether I should share my feelings here.

Grateful ~ Thank you for sending encouragement my way. Thank you for praying for me.

I am very grateful for you.
This song is soothing to me.

Andrew at 9 years old.
I just wanted to share a picture with you that I’ve never posted. Isn’t my boy handsome? See that dimple on his right cheek? He has 3 freckles at the bottom curve of his left ear. They form a smile. I used to trace them and then kiss those freckles. Andrew and I called them “freckers.” And almost every day I would tell him, “It’s ‘kiss the freckers day’ and then you know what would happen. I often wonder what he will look like when finally I see him again in Heaven.
Grateful ~  “For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God..” Job 19:25-26
This scripture has been going through my mind lately.
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