RECOVERY

Today the World Became a Lesser Place

But it didn’t happen without a fight.

I didn’t know Brenda very well. I saw her only three times in my life, twice at church and once at her father’s funeral. But if you ask me how I can speak with authority on this, I have an easy answer. She was LOVED by so many people that I love.

It took quite a while for the cancer to take her body. It never beat her spirit. She fought a hard fight, and she did it her own way.

She was a warrior.

When you’re a kid and you have the whole world in front of you, death seems so impossible! If it’s even a thought in our minds, it’s fleeting. And even then, it’s about something besides US, like maybe a frog that that got run over and fried on the pavement. Never a human, never ourselves. We’re damn near invincible, or at least that’s what our hearts would have us believe.

I can imagine Brenda skipping down the sidewalk, blowing bubbles with gum that cost a nickel at the little mom and pop store up the road. Cancer never entered her mind. She believed in love, life, laughter, and possibilities. The very idea that she would one day leave her own children motherless wasn’t even a tiny consideration.

Photo by Anita Austvika on Unsplash

Yet now there is this gaping hole where Brenda used to be.

Even though she was equipped with guts and strength and FAITH so strong, there finally came a moment when she didn’t have enough of herself left to stand and fight the war that was waged against her body. She accepted the freedom that eternity offered. Her heart was right. Her mind was good. It was her body that failed her.

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Even though everyone fought to keep her here, when it got closer to the end and pain wracked her small, exhausted body, her family prayed she’d just let go and stop the fight. She wasn’t going to win it. There was obviously a plan bigger than ours. A kingdom stood ready. Her king was waiting elsewhere.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the value in the glass you’re looking through.

In fact, it would make more sense to hurl it to the floor and watch it shatter. To rail at God and ask Him, “Why?” This was no ordinary life you took this time, God! This one was full of hope, promise, and joy. She was a MOTHER, a DAUGHTER, a SISTER! She TRUSTED you! Her whole FAMILY believes in YOU.

I hear the faint sound of wind blowing. Beyond that, there’s only silence.

And Jesus walked on water.

He healed the sick, made the blind see, and turned water into wine. Yet Brenda slipped away from here.

UNHEALED.  

People do, you know.

They die.

And I know that even though the world is a lesser place, Brenda is free.

And if she ever skipped, she’s skipping now. If she blew bubbles, she’s blowing the biggest one ever! I also know she could probably catch that frog that’s hopping by if she wanted to. She’s safe now. It doesn’t hurt. CANCER didn’t win.

Photo by Andressa Voltolini on Unsplash

I just don’t know how to say all that to the ones I love, who loved her so much. They will grieve—pain is part of life in this broken world. It’s all just temporary.

Death will come for us too—then life and eternity!

I can hear my own footsteps as I walk through my silent house. I think about life, cancer, and death. My heart hurts, and there’s a lump in my throat. All the words I could say keep running through my head.

The last time I felt like this, I thought I was dead.

Today the world became a lesser place, and there was nothing we could do to stop it.

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RECOVERY

We’ve Taught Our Kids to be Angry

I realize that I don’t stand in the majority on some of my views, and if my popularity depends on my jumping on someone else’s wagon, I’ll be the kid sitting alone at the lunchroom table. That’s okay with me. I don’t always think like everyone else thinks. 

The truth is that I care about people, and I care about personal responsibility. We went wrong somewhere down the line. I don’t know if it’s too late to straighten it out, but I’d like to find out.

We’ve taught our kids to be angry, but we haven’t taught them to be strong.

We’ve taught them to be entitled, but we didn’t teach them how to do without! Because let’s face it, we either don’t know or don’t remember how to do without, and all that this world has become in terms of modern conveniences has spoiled us to the point where we don’t know what it’s like to suffer even a little bit.

Hot? Turn the air conditioner on. Don’t want to climb stairs? Take the elevator. Who circles the parking lot for 10 minutes to find a spot up close, so you don’t have to walk 50 feet? Who doesn’t? And we teach our kids this stuff.

Everything is automated; instant. Then we wonder why there’s all this complaining, all this offense! It’s as if we have set the world on tilt by forgetting to teach that WITH HARD WORK COMES REWARD, even if it’s just the satisfaction of a job well done.

Things, like freedom, should not come so easily to us as individuals that we forget that they hold value, and that someone is still sacrificing for our basic rights and privileges.

We have failed as parents, as a society, and as a nation. The stark reality is that it’s very possible that our country will be devastated before our citizens–our children, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and grandchildren–can be saved.

Instead of admitting where we’re at fault, and starting the process of putting this nation back together again, we are constantly pointing the finger at each other and pulling out this or that old hurt that we could have been past if the pot was not continuously stirred by a reckless media who feels no shame at endangering the lives of countless Americans, because it garners them the Almighty Dollar.

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Yep, we are being sold out for money. That’s what the truth is, from no matter which direction you come at it. You can always follow the money to find the source of the evil, and the MSM is making bank. Follow that money trail. It doesn’t take five minutes to figure out where it leads.

However, before we start THAT finger pointing, we must realize that we are the ones who feed off of that negativity–actually seek it out from day to day on social media and news networks who used to strive to print the truth but who now seem to paint the internet with false information in a gleeful and completely irresponsible way, to turn American opinion towards whatever issue benefits them the most.

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Attention is given to issues best left in the past while our citizens are dying in their cars every day, often with their children strapped in the backseat with a pretty pink or purple stuffed animal for a companion, from opioid addiction. Meth use is running rampant in our country and instead of an all-out war on that evil, we focus our attention on battles that have already rightly been fought for and won, as if we need to travel back in time and do it all again.

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While we are talking about drugs and money, it wouldn’t hurt to give some thought to that connection either. Do you think it’s an accident that America is in an addiction crisis? Come on, now. It’s time to wake up and smell the crack pipe! It may be painful to think that we may be pawns in a game that’s being played out behind the scenes, but the truth hurts. That’s something to be angry about!

I’m a woman, and I’m white, and I’ve been told all my life that my opinion doesn’t matter. There are countless others who, like me, have had their voices silenced and their ideas shot down. Maybe their gender is different, or their color is not the same—or perhaps the idea they’re presenting is even less conceivable than my ideas have been.

I wonder where this nation would be today if every voice was at least considered before being disregarded? Every idea is not grand, but every opinion is not wrong just because it is voiced by someone other than you!

I’ve made many mistakes in my life. I’ve done things that were shameful and that I regret. I hope that I have learned from those things and will not repeat those mistakes.

As a nation, we have the same opportunity. I can’t push God on you, although I can pray for you to turn to Him! I don’t have a voice that will reach your moral consciousness.

I’m not even interested or able to be political. I’m just thinking that if I can see all of this, I can’t be the only one. Even if everything I say isn’t agreed with, if you read this to the end then you have given me my voice.

Now use yours! And not just your voice. Stop worrying about being offended and start being concerned with what our children and grandchildren will be facing when we are gone! Because right now? It ain’t looking pretty.

Here’s a place to start: EQUIP YOUR CHILDREN! Begin by arming them with the truth as soon as they are old enough to hear it. Don’t let them grow up blind to what’s really going on. You aren’t protecting them. You’re killing them.

You can’t be scared all your life! It’s time to fight or die. We need to stand up and take our nation back. We need to fight the right fight. You may THINK that we need to prosecute all the drug addicts, and perhaps we do, but there’s way more to it than that. We need to stop the influx of drugs into our country.

We need to stop the pharmaceutical companies from making a profit off the deaths of our citizens. We’ve got to quit fighting battles that were won long ago. Quit letting the media that is controlled by big money feed us divisive information with intent to destroy. Listen to each other! Care for each other. Let God come back into our homes, and our schools.

Don’t buy everything the MSM tries to sell you! Do some research. Find out the truth. Teach your children how to do that. Teach them the rights that this country was built on, and how to live responsible lives. Show them how to stand up for themselves and others.

Our children’s lives and futures depend on us. It’s time we teach them to be strong, to be fierce, and to be equipped! I get that you think that you are protecting them, but you’re not. It’s time to tell them the truth. If you don’t, you’ll protect them to death.

RECOVERY

12 SURPRISING THINGS GRIEF WILL TEACH YOU THAT YOU ACTUALLY NEED TO KNOW

(With One Bonus Lesson at the End)

Joy and grief grow in the same garden.

My first introduction to death was at the tender age of 18. This was before I knew the first thing about living, so I sure didn’t know how to process the fact that people could just stop doing it. Especially important people, like my Daddy.

He was bigger than life to me, and his life seemed way more important to me than mine. I threw myself face down on the floor and began my first attempt to barter with God.  Apparently, God wasn’t interested in reversing the process and taking me in Daddy’s place because I’m still here, and writing about it after all these years.

God has a way of giving us just what we need to survive at the time, and sometimes scarcely more than that. Somehow, I managed to get up off the floor and scrape together just enough of whatever it is that it takes to survive.

I had to make a lot of hard decisions that I wasn’t ready for back then. It was like going from zero to sixty—I grew up fast. I didn’t have much choice.

The tragedies in my life have continued. I have not only buried my father; I have also buried three sons. Two of them were infants, one was almost 17 years old.

I am forever changed. Some days I find the courage to talk about it and some days I don’t. It would be easy to wallow on the hard days, but today I choose to honor life by talking about what grief has taught me, in the hopes that it will help someone else when they go through the darkness.

THE TAKEAWAY                                   

  1. PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THINGS.

This seems like a no-brainer. I can’t elaborate too much on the obvious, but if I have learned anything it’s to put the people you love and your relationships above material possessions and the pursuit of them. The Bible, in Mark 8:36, asks, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Don’t sell out your family for money or recognition. Don’t trade your time with them for anything that seems glittery and beautiful. You can’t get the moments that you lost back again. You can’t even get the moments that you spent back again, but at least you have the memories of those. Let your memories be full of laughter and joy when you can, but also go through the hard stuff with the ones you love. The darkest night spent with someone you care for is better than the brightest morning alone with your things.

2. WE ARE NOT IMMORTAL.

Surprise! Life here on this earth does not last forever. We die. Our forever is not going to be spent here in these bodies, doing this stuff. There’s really no need to save the best for last! Don’t keep your ideas to yourself. Use them! Get out your best dishes, wear your best clothes. Have dessert first if you feel like it (I don’t recommend this all the time though. It’s not that great for your waistline).

3. TAKE YOUR MOMENTS WHEN YOU CAN GET THEM.

Embrace the precious times of your life. You don’t know what the future holds! The Bible talks about this too (a very wise book), when it says in James 4:13 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.”

Love on your family. Stare at your children. Watch them breathe. Take a moment to revel in their smiles. Say all those words you’ve been holding back. Just in case this is all you will ever have; make it the best moment it can possibly be!

4. IT’S OKAY TO LIVE AGAIN.

You are not betraying anyone by going on with your life. Continuing to breathe is not a curse, and you have no reason to feel guilty for it. God has appointed each of us a time to be born and a time to die (Yep, that’s from the Bible too).

If you are reading this, it wasn’t your time to die. It’s hard and it hurts and it’s unfair and all of that. But it’s the truth. Oh, and you aren’t God. It wasn’t your choice. You can let go of that now.

Keep breathing. Keep going. Keep trying. Make it a great life! Do you know what the absolute best thing is that you can do for the ones who have stopped living? For you to keep on living, and to lead a victorious life.

5. LAUGHTER REALLY IS GOOD FOR HEALING.

Don’t feel guilty for finding enjoyment in your life. Let the joy come back. It doesn’t mean there isn’t still heartbreak. It doesn’t mean you have forgotten. Joy and pain can inhabit the same house. Let them.

6. GOD KNOWS YOU’RE MAD AT HIM.

He can take it. This is His world. Nothing happens without His knowledge and permission.

It’s a hard pill to swallow. Everyone dies–also hard to get down, especially when that someone is your child or parent, spouse or sibling. Or grandparent.

You are insignificant to God because He allowed it to happen to you. It also is not a small thing that He gave His Son to die, knowing that He would ultimately beat death. I mean, that was the point.

He kicked death’s ass so I could see my kids again someday. Yeah, I was mad at Him for a long time. Sometimes I still am. Then, I remember the cross, and I get through. I know where my hope is.

7. WE AREN’T MEANT TO DO THIS ALONE.

Don’t isolate and expect to get through it all on your own. There’s no need in it. If you don’t have friends or family who will walk through your grief with you, find a recovery group.

There are moments when you need to shout, cry, fall apart, and vent. You might just want to share some funny old memories. Maybe you don’t know what to do with your anger and unforgiveness. That’s what these groups are for. People are better than things and substances for helping you to get through. They need you too.

8. LIFE IS A MIRACLE.

Do you know why you are still here? Neither do I. It’s a miracle. Treat each breath as the gift that it is. Embrace the fact that you are alive and go dance in the rain.

9. ALL WE LEAVE BEHIND IS WHAT WE GIVE TO OTHERS.

No accomplishment, no amount of money, no possession will matter after you are gone. When people think of you, let it be because they remember what an impact for good you made on their lives.

Stand up for what is right. Fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Love everyone the same. Don’t discriminate because of color, social status, or wealth. Give everything you can give to other people. You can’t take one thing with you where you’re going anyway (no matter which direction that is).

10. IT’S OKAY TO CRY.

You can grieve for as long as you need to grieve. I believe that there are some losses that you will always grieve for on this earth. The loss of a child is one of those. If you need to cry, don’t let anyone tell you that you should be “over it.” Your grief is your grief. Feel it and live your life anyway.

11. YOU DON’T HAVE TO SPEND YOUR LIFE TRYING TO MAKE THEIRS MEAN SOMETHING.

Their life was not in vain, and neither was their death. It has already taught you so much! You have precious memories to hold forever. Their lives already had meaning, and they always will.

Don’t spend your whole life setting up foundations in their name, donating to causes in their name, furiously trying to immortalize them. Let them rest in peace.

You don’t have to make their life mean something. The best thing that you can do to honor them is to make your own life mean something! Work on that. Take responsibility for you. Get better so you can help other people.

12. THE NEXT “YOU” WILL BE DIFFERENT.

This journey that you are walking through grief will change you. That’s okay. You might think that you were meant to be that other person who was never touched by loss.

Things would have turned out another way. Perhaps you can make a case for that, but I doubt it. Life, death, and God did not steal anything from you. Remember that everyone’s time is appointed to them! That means that you are meant to be the person touched by loss. The question is “why”?

Use the things you have learned to help other people. Sure, you are different, but you’re not lesser than. You have a world of experience now that was very hard-earned. Don’t let it go to waste. Use it for good. When the opportunity comes, take it.

Bonus: SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO SWIM THROUGH THE RIVER

There are times in your life when you need medication to get you through the hard stuff. There’s no shame in taking it when you do. Other times we try to self-medicate by using all kinds of things–alcohol, narcotics, sex, food, distractions–just about anything you can think of that we believe will take our minds off the hurt.

They all work for a little while. The problem is, when you step back from all you have done to numb the pain or forget the hurt, it’s still there. Not only do you find the loss and grief is still right where you left it, but you have often piled a load of guilt and remorse on top of it through behaviors and addictions that you wish you could change.

It’s hard to turn your life around when you find yourself in a situation like that, but it can be done. You have to make the decision to embrace the joy and faith that are still in your life and turn around and swim through the river. Sometimes that’s the only way to survive, and then you can turn around and help others across too.

These are some of the surprising things that grief will teach you that you actually need to know. Somewhere down the road, you will have the chance to share them with someone else in a way that helps their heart. Doing it will help your own.

just a doll that looks like Samuel…

RIP Samuel Allen Dowden, born dead, July 17th, 1998

Happy 21st

Here’s a link to this post in Medium if you’d like to pop over and see it! There are lots of other things to read from other writers as well that I think you would enjoy and benefit from:

https://medium.com/@allisondivinebridges/12-surprising-things-grief-will-teach-you-that-you-actually-need-to-know-2f62f64430fe?sk=c59e4995417409aa533fb3ae5dd2a05d

grief, RECOVERY

CAPACITY

Sometimes we’d rather believe the worst possible lie than face the truth.

The thing about the world is, you can’t change it. No matter how much you want to. It doesn’t matter how much you wish it were different—or easier—or less frightening and ugly. You just can’t change it. It’s like an out of control freight train on a track that heads straight to hell.

To love, to live, to forget, to pretend, to dream, and to die—human beings have so damned much capacity, even in a world that we can’t do anything about.

Sometimes I wonder if we actually have the capacity to draw the line between what is real and what never was—to distinguish between real life and fantasy or even dreams as we hold on for dear life, speeding through space, darkness, and time.

  • Do we ever really know what reality we’re living, or what even constitutes reality?
  • What is it about the truth that makes us lie so desperately to ourselves?
  • What keeps us yearning and trying so hard to reach for something more than the actuality that we face?
  • Why do we constantly strive to get to a place—any place—that is different than the one we are currently in?

I have a lot of questions like these, and by rights, I should have. I can’t think of too many people who should ask them more than I should. Because I’m dead. Lifeless.

All this time—all this time! I believed that I existed! That I woke up unprovoked one morning and found your cold and stiff body. As horrifying as that was, I could make some sick and twisted sense from it.

The very idea that you had left me had my mind reeling in shock—oh, but hadn’t you prepped me for this very moment by asking me in advance to forgive you? “Will you forgive me, Mother?” you said. “Will you ever forgive me?” And in my innocence, I answered you with a mother’s true love and said, “You’re my child, I’ll forgive you anything!”

Mikey, fishing

I, in my small mindedness, had the audacity (or you could even say, the CAPACITY) to believe that was true! That I would forgive you for anything! I wasn’t thinking about the comment you had made earlier in the week, when you said that you’d often thought about sneaking into my room at night to kill me. I knew you were just talking—of course you were! You’d never do such a thing. But you did, didn’t you, Son?

Never would I have believed that you would follow through on your casually spoken words! No one could have ever made me believe that you would be a threat to me! I brought you into this world—I did! As your mother, I loved you so much more than anyone else (past or present) that you might purposely or accidentally encounter. I’m your Mama—you didn’t mean it! You could not have, because that would mean that you were someone that I didn’t know—had never known—and that just is not possible. You’re my baby. I love you more than my own life.

I wish that clarity could have come in some other less unforgiving way, that on the day that I was destined to find the truth there would be a laughing acceptance and the flippant toss of the head and “I knew it all along,” spilling out of my mouth.

Oh, if only I wasn’t standing here invisible, looking at you, and what you have become in this world and screaming, “NO, NO, NO, NO!!” This is my BABY!! It cannot be the way it is and yet—my mind knows now, and I do not have the ability to make it any other way. You have done what you threatened to do—in fact—you reached that goal long ago. I thought I found you dead, instead they found me.

How can the dead refuse to be dead and even insist that there is life and recovery and all the things that most human beings strive for after a loss so complete? How did I get to this place where I thought that the worst that could happen had already done so? Capacity. I lost the capacity to snatch the truth out of the swirling particles of reality and fear in front of me. When you are dead, you cannot know the truth.

Proof of Life

What about those babies that I love so well? They scream my name and run into my arms when they see me! They grab my leg when I try to walk and say, “I don’t ever want to let you go!”

Proof of Life

None of this seems odd to me. I have been there! I have! I have lived! You did not kill me! You could not have! You are my Son! I cried for you, for years on end—how can the dead just not stay dead and slip into the infinity that we claimed would be consumed with our love for each other?

Even more—how can I not now find that my greatest wish has come true—that YOU are alive?? Because if I am the one who died—then YOU LIVE!! You live! My baby lives! I know this must be true in the same moment that I realize that I am not alive, and do not live, and indeed, have not for many years.

Can the dead be crazy like the living? Does the mind just continue to fabricate an existence to protect us from the things we cannot face? But—maybe I am wrong! I must have found some OTHER way to die—some accident that no one saw coming and never thought to warn me about—That has to be true. I could NOT have died BY YOUR HAND! Not the hand of my Son—the hand that was once so tiny and fragile and the only thing of you that I could hold when you first made your entrance into this world.

The Truth

The truth is such an elusive (and in some cases, abusive) creature. We can tell ourselves anything—we all have the capacity to believe our own lies and act on them. Somehow though, if our foundation is steady, we make our way back to the truth eventually. Whether we like it or not.

I did, indeed, die by your hand. I died a million times inside, remembering what you said, and knowing you could never take it back. I died when I found you asleep forever, lying as if you might get up any minute and argue with me about who was going to cook supper or wash dishes.

I died as they tore your body away from your Mama’s hands and loaded you up to take you away from me forever. I died with the flood of memories which took me back to every single thing that I had ever done to hurt your heart—each time I yelled at you—when I snatched your cap off your head because it annoyed me—when I gave it back to you because it annoyed someone else.

Mikey, with his cap pulled over his face

You Killed Me

I died when I realized that I could never make it right. I died when I remembered telling you that I would forgive you anything and realizing that it was not true. I died a million times and in a million ways and it was by your hand—because it was your hand that held the pills. Your hand that lifted them to your mouth to swallow them. YOU killed ME in that moment, more effectively than if you had actually snuck in my room and cut my throat.

I have so many memories of you, my son. So that one statement that you made to me in that one moment shouldn’t weigh so heavily on my heart—and if you were here now, laughing with me over something silly that you said almost 13 years ago—it wouldn’t be significant at all.

The World is a Heartless Place by Mikey Black

Instead, you are not here, and I am alone in my room, my pen moving across this page so fast that I can barely read the words while my mind tries to make up ANY scenario that keeps you breathing on this earth—EVEN IF IT MEANS THAT I AM NOT.

The Capacity to Love

Because Mikey—I love you. Whether you are dead or I am dead, that does not change. I love you even though you killed me by killing yourself.  Even though it wasn’t an intentional act on your part, it forever changed things. Still, it did not even remotely touch the fact that I LOVE YOU. I loved you then, I love you now, and I will love you forever. God gave us the capacity to do ONE thing eternally—to LOVE.

He also gave us the capacity to forgive, and I forgive you—on most days. I forgive you for killing us both that day, and for not killing us both that day. Regardless, I know that God has resurrected us both, but not in the same way. You are in your place that God had ready for you, but I am here in this one—struggling to overcome and live a life of purpose. You left this world, Son, but not in vain. Because God always has a plan. He alone has the capacity to turn destruction into beauty.

LOVE YOU AN INFINITY OF INFINITIES

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound–that saved a wretch like me…

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease,

I shall possess within the veil, A life of joy and peace.”   John Newton

If you’d like to see this story on Medium, go here!

ENCOURAGEMENT, MOTIVATIONAL, RECOVERY

Don’t Give Up On Yourself

Quitting On Monday

I think that the easiest day to lose hope is Monday. When the week starts, it should be full of great possibilities, but the reality is that Monday is the day the cold hard truth usually slaps us in the face. It’s the day we are forced to stop pretending that everything is great. We often need to go back to work and leave our dreams behind again. It gets hard.

It isn’t just work though. The whole world will come against you sooner or later. Maybe it will set up a pattern all your life. Things and people that you count on will be snatched away from you. Just when you feel the most secure, something will happen that will set your world on tilt.

Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

Quitting On Tuesday

Maybe it’s Tuesday that makes you want to quit on yourself the most. The struggle to get through Monday has taken its toll, and you just don’t have anything left. Hard things happen, and you don’t feel like you are equipped to deal with them anymore, if you ever were.

At first, when the hard things happen, you may want to give up on God. It’s easy to throw the blame on the Almighty. He is ultimately in charge. But, when you think about it, you realize that God hasn’t failed you in any way. You may begin to ask yourself if you have failed God.

Being Angry With God

It’s hard to always stay positive in a negative world.  I get that. I really do. I’ve had my share (and more) of tragic circumstances. I have not handled much of it very well. I did not turn to God in my pain and loss like I should have. I turned away and blamed Him instead. At least I did for a while.

It was when I was the angriest at Him that I realized that I still believed in Him. Of course, believing isn’t enough. I also had to get to a place where I remembered that He was good and that He loved me. I had to realize that He still had a plan for my life, even though my own plans had crashed and burned. Coming to that point was the hardest after I buried my 16-year-old son. This kind of loss makes you question all that you have ever believed.

Perfectly Imperfect

During my trek through the chaos and confusion of the worst of my grief, I learned to see the world in a different way. What was ordinary to me before became extreme. Casual beauty became exquisite when I realized how temporary it all is. I learned to focus on the smiles of my children and to take in every breath that they breathe. I learned that the imperfections that I once saw as flaws are what makes something beautiful and unique. The world irrevocably changed for me, but it wasn’t all good.

What Our Children Face

I looked at our world and what we have made of it. Sin and ugliness have run rampant through our societies. The children that we bring into the world are forced to grow up in fear of what tomorrow will bring. If they are living unaware of the potential danger of the future, then they are ill-equipped to face it. On the other hand, to tell them what it may be like is a betrayal of their innocence. How do we know what to do? How do we tell them that the walls protecting them are made of glass?

The problems we face seem to be insurmountable at times. Human trafficking, the threat of war, and the divisiveness of our country due to political affiliation, religion, race, and economics to name a few. We get mixed messages from the media and don’t fully understand what the truth is and how to teach it to our children. Like my Mama always said, “Babies don’t come with blueprints stamped on their butts.” Do we protect them with the truth, or protect them from the truth? I don’t know.

Who Failed Who?

All I know is that God didn’t fail us. That leaves the obvious answer. If He didn’t fail us…. We failed Him. With that realization, hopelessness can start to creep up on you.

Depression. Anxiety. Feelings of worthlessness and fear. The idea that you can never get it right because you never have before. The overwhelming sensation that you are about to drown in your sorrow, anger, and helplessness.

I’ve been there more than once. If you have ever felt like that, you aren’t alone. Don’t give up on yourself.

A Life of Abundance

Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came so that we would have abundant life. An abundant life is a life full of meaning and joy. That is the kind of life that God intends for you to have. He didn’t say that you can only have this kind of life if you deserve it and never do anything wrong. He didn’t say that you’ve got to operate in a realm above the human realm to create and achieve this life for yourself. He simply said that He came so that you could have it.  

Your abundance is found in God through Jesus Christ. No matter what the world throws at you. No matter what Monday brings. It doesn’t even matter if you need to leave your own dreams behind. Whatever heartbreak you have faced has not changed the truth. Grief and loss can’t take away what Jesus came to give you. Your abundant life is in Him. Not in yourself! Not in your circumstances. Not in your loved ones, your dreams, your hopes. Abundant life is also not lost in the outcome of a failed plan or dream. What an eye-opening thing to finally learn!

The Freedom to Keep Trying

This doesn’t mean that you should quit trying to achieve anything on your own. It means just the opposite! Now you are free to pursue your hopes and dreams without the fear of failure because your worthiness and your abundance was never meant to be found in any of your personal accomplishments anyway. You are free to love with all your heart because death can’t steal your hope! You can dance in the rain because no storm can wash away the sacrifice already made for you.

Your Focus

Take your focus off yourself. That’s not what your life is supposed to be about. All you could ever hope to be can be found in your relationship with God. Yes, I said it. It’s not about you. You may be dangerously close to quitting on yourself. Don’t do that. The problem is relational. Pursue a relationship with God if you want to add meaning to your life.

 Matthew 6:33 says to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” If our focus is on Him, where it should be, and off ourselves, our lives will be full, and everything will fall into place just the way it’s supposed to. If our focus is on ourselves, we will always experience chaos and a feeling of off-centeredness because we were created for Him and by Him, and not to be self-serving.

The Truth

I believe that this is the truth that we should teach our children. If we want to equip them to be warriors in whatever battle comes their way, we must first introduce them to the source of their hope and life. We need to teach them as we learn ourselves that our identity should be first understood as a “child of God.” Whatever is next is not only secondary, but it’s also temporary.

Here’s what I believe to be the truth: the things you do for yourself on this earth are going to die with you anyway. The only things that you leave behind are what you do for other people.

The Prize

Knowing that my abundance is in Him is just the catalyst that I need to keep going, to keep plugging away and staying in the race even when it feels like I’m defeated. I can never be defeated if I’m running the right race—the one for His kingdom and in His design. It’s easy to fall back into the temptation of seeking to define my worth by earthly standards and how I feel, but the actual cold reality is none of that matters. The only thing that matters is that I keep my eyes on the prize.

This is the link to this post on Medium.

A railroad crossing with a stop sign on a misty morning.
RECOVERY

The Train Is Coming

Today I was reminded that I am not the only one who grieves.

I read a social media post today, written by someone I’ve known a very long time. Like me, he has buried three sons, two as infants, one at 12 years old. The older child got killed in a tragic train accident.

There was no way anyone could have stopped the train or pushed him out of the way. It wasn’t an accident anyone could’ve predicted.

Sometimes awful things happen, and we can’t make sense of them because we live in a broken world.

My friend said he felt like a failure. I tried to muster up the words to cause him to see himself as I see him. At the same time, I understand from my very soul exactly how that feels.

Even though he was in no way to blame, he is a Daddy. A Daddy always feels responsible for his child, as does a Mama.

I say “Daddy” and “Mama” because that’s what we call our parents here in the South, and that’s what our children call us. We love our babies, and all their lives we believe it’s our responsibility to keep them safe.

If something goes wrong, as parents, we blame ourselves.

We strive to protect them with our lives. God forbid that anything should happen to them! But something did happen to our kids.

The FAILURE TO PROTECT

That’s what I call it relating to me. Of course, I don’t see it the same way when I look at others. It doesn’t matter if this is rational or not. When your child dies, rationality flies out the window, and only flies back in once in a while.

I wrote out a little bit of my story one October, and here that is:

It had rained so much that week that we were stuck at the house and I had just had surgery, so I wasn’t doing much anyway. We got tired of watching the trash float by so my husband set up a stuffed bear in the yard, and we sat on the front porch and took turns shooting his eyes out.

It’s astonishing where the mind will take you when it needs some stimulation! Mikey walked back and forth, cooking steaks on the grill and shaking his head, muttering to himself about who was really crazy–us or him.

He stopped a few times to take his own shot at the bear, sometimes laughing and sometimes just handing the gun back with no expression after he made the “kill.” 

Those were the best steaks I had ever had, and ever WILL have now. Mikey had a secret ingredient he used in everything he cooked. I was pretty startled when I found out what that secret was.

It didn’t always work out for the best, but it made a steak that day that my mouth still waters for—as do my eyes.


It’s hard to believe how much detail I can remember from that week and how little I remember from the next couple of years!

We missed one Dr.’s appointment because of the rain, so we combined our appointments that day and went together. After I got out of my appointment, Mikey wanted to shop for a guitar.

I didn’t have the money to buy one, but we decided to look anyway. We found a music store and right away Mikey spotted the Warlock. The cashier said that for that day only, they’d let us put it on layaway for $20. 

I’d started out with money, but we had eaten, then I’d bought Mikey a couple of green drinks—something energetic I think. I had $18 and he wanted the guitar so much that I went to my truck and scraped up all my “gummy money” and gave the sticky mess to the sales girl.

She was very gracious about it and laughed with me as we counted it together. I’m pretty sure that Mikey was both embarrassed and relieved. He was so EXCITED about that guitar that I had to choke my tears back, because he hated it when I cried. 

The next day I went to get Mikey’s prescriptions filled, and this time he stayed home. He was agitated and angry and when I got home, we argued. Later he came into the house and lied down on the couch, because he just couldn’t keep his eyes open.

A lot more happened that day and that week that I have shared at times with others. What I remember right now is the way it got cold overnight—much like the way it felt this morning when I woke up. Because it’s THAT week, and tomorrow is THAT day.

I got up that morning to get myself a blanket, and so I got Mikey one too. I’d checked on him all night long, but when I threw the blanket over him, I accidentally brushed his back with my hand—and the horror that would become my life started when I realized that he was dead.

I couldn’t scream him awake, couldn’t shake him awake, couldn’t join him in that place to simply ask him how he could leave ME like that! 

I cried and cursed and screamed to GOD that I had PRAYED, I had STAYED, I had done EVERYTHING that I thought He was asking me to do, so then “WHY did He take my CHILD—my —BABY, one of the reasons that I existed and found the courage to let my feet hit the floor each morning??” 

Sometimes there is no answer for things. I still don’t know, although God and I have made our peace and I do know that Mikey is safe in His Hands where we all long to be.

But…I am only human, and at times I forget the GOODNESS of God, and only remember that He ALONE had the power to save Mikey yet chose not to do so. That’s when He reminds me that HE DID.

Mikey was rescued from a world that he did not belong in, and taken to God’s Kingdom, where he never has to worry about being labeled this or that and can just be “Mikey.” 

I love my son, and I miss him, and no day goes by that I don’t still say a prayer for him. So now, as always, I whisper, “God, please take care of Nic, Tiff, and Mikey and keep them safe,” and He whispers back that He is….

So that’s my struggle, at least my biggest one.

It’s my own heartbreak that leads me to finally reach out to others in their own desperate loss.

To embrace the semi-colon.

To say that we will live to fight another day. To cry with those in the depths of their own sorrow. And to notice those who, like Mikey once told me, are out there and just like him. The people on the outside–the fringes– the remnants–the ones left behind.

It might be the guy sitting on the side of the road with a dog and a sign. It could be the lady standing in line at Walmart with hollow eyes, the desperate addict with nowhere to turn, or the homeless and jobless person who everyone has given up on. It’s always either someone seeking something but not knowing what it is, or someone who has long since given up the search but is still here.

I want to reach them because I know what some people didn’t know and couldn’t know–THE TRAIN IS COMING.

The train is coming, and I have the responsibility to push as many people as I can out of the way before it gets here.

Wouldn’t you do that if you could?

I know someone who would have, but never got the chance. Today I am asking God to give that Daddy and Mama comfort and the peace of knowing that there is nothing bigger than God.

Not even that train.

KCS Railroad Track Jefferson TX
photography by abridges

Medium

It's Your Turn to Shine
ENCOURAGEMENT

When You Can’t Find Your Motivation (and How I Don’t Have the Answers)

It's Your Turn to Shine
Get Your Shine On

I absolutely get discouraged. Looking back over this journey we’ve taken over the last year, it would be easy to overlook all of our accomplishments and just focus on the failures. Today has been one of those days when it has been hard to stay on the positive side of things.

Yep, it’s more than discouraging sometimes. Looking back can be downright debilitating. If you focus on your missteps, or what you perceive them to be, you may find yourself motionless–staring at the wall in kind of a blurred-out unresponsive daze. Letting go of where you thought you were going to end up is so hard! Giving over to what is real rather than what you were expecting can break your heart if you let it. I can’t fix any of that.

What I can do, is look at the big picture. I know that each attempt to do something new comes with mistakes, if that’s what you want to call them. What I have learned is that a lot can be gained in finding out what not to do! Somewhere along the way, if you are paying attention, you can get some doses of clarity and start to put together a plan that is different than the original, but not lesser than. You may find that it was the plan you should have had all along!

A lot of the ideas that we had in the beginning were great, and we will save them to use them again later. Some of them will go in the trash can. I am glad to be done with them. Here are some bits and pieces that I have gathered along the way:

I’ve learned that I love taking broken things and showing other people how they are actually beautiful. I realize that I really want to spend time writing my book, designing and promoting my encouragement cards, making random things, painting lighthouses, and helping other people like me figure out exactly what they are meant to do so they can do it too! God gave each one of us a certain set of gifts and talents, and I believe that He gave us a love to do whatever it is we are called to do…..You can tell what your calling is by the way time passes for you. If you are working on something without noticing that 8 hours have gone by, that’s a good indicator that you are on the right track! Constantly watching the clock means that you probably need to find something new to do with your time.

I know that I have a lot to give and teach other people. I’m excited about getting the chance to do that. I’m eager to finish my book, if only for the ones who know about it now and are waiting to see how it all turns out! Oh and the cards are such an amazing blessing! I am so super-excited about having the time to develop and market these! They are turning out so wonderfully and they say things that people so badly need to hear. Things like, “Man, today sucked but we got through it,” and stuff like that. I don’t know about you, but I need to know that other people feel that same way sometimes. Like maybe today.