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When You’re Stuck, Like Me

When You're Stuck, Like MeThis article was first published at Your Tewksbury Today, where I wrote in real time as I processed the loss of my father during Advent 2015. While this was two months ago, to the day, I feel it is important to revisit it; it is part of an ongoing series I am writing on grief. Sometimes it is a stuck place, and we need a little help to get unstuck, but it’s not just grief that leaves us feeling this way. We can land with legs up in the air, unable to find our ground during any kind of loss: relationship disappointment, abandonment, betrayal, a crushed dream, etc.

I hope you find something in it to bring you or someone you know peace and comfort as you/he/she experience/s the inevitable: mourning what was and adjusting to the new normal.

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I was stuck—a stuck mouse to a glue trap in my grief. Arms and legs flailing in perpetual motion but no ability to move forward. My sweet father lingered in a place where peace was promised ahead, but he had to cross the precipice by himself, and there was nothing I could do about it. The push-pull of those last days brought such conflicting feelings that penetrated my very marrow. Waking or sleeping, all I could do was picture the glory ahead and a sweet man with fingers gently reaching up to wait for the hand of Christ.

When I look at my youngest son’s limbs, hands, and feet, freckled and long, I see my father. The auburn wisps around his face? Another genetic transfer. For years, when we lived in the Marshall Islands, we would send his hair clippings to Dad to show him that beautiful autumn fire that successfully lived on in the gene pool.

Last week I found myself holding my breath just looking at my son. I was grateful my father was so evident in his appearance. I walked around half-completing tasks, afraid to be in public when the phone would ring, immobilized in my favorite IKEA chair with both dogs on my lap, and unable to fully clear a table, finish a load of laundry, or make a meal. Time. Stood. Still. I was waiting for the crossover with a grief that engulfed me for what would be—a fearful anticipation of life without Dad. I could not move on.

What about you? Have you found yourself stuck in grief, fear, disappointment, shame, or disillusionment? Read the rest of this entry »

 

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The Last Goodbye

The Last GoodbyeEspressos of Faith is excited to have Tammie Wommack back in our continued series on “Stories of Hope, Healing, and Courage.” Tammie has joined us several times to share her journey from the incredible pain of losing her son Joshua to finding moments of hope, healing, and even joy again.

What I love about my friend Tammie is that she is not afraid to be raw and real. She wants to take parents who have lost a child through the real phases of healing, letting them know that their experiences/feelings are normal, they aren’t alone, and peace can be found despite the ongoing ache left when a child is no longer here. I have been on the other end of this—the desperation of depression—and because her story ran parallel to my own and I knew her when her loss was new and raw and I was lost and broken, I believe she can truly minister to those left behind grieving with her beautiful words of encouragement. Our stories coincided in 2008 in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and through God’s grace and despite moving away to different locations, we are still heart-connected.

Please share this with anyone you know who needs her words as a soothing balm, and feel free to leave a comment for Tammie. She would love to connect with you. She is making a deliberate choice to live in intentional ministry. Please feel free to reference her other articles at the end of this blog as well as the resources (suicide hotline) listed there.

And now, here’s Tammie…. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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What Are You Being Prepared For?

EstablishedFootsteps-2If you’re anything like me, you may start thinking about a grocery list for Easter dinner on Maundy Thursday, get in your car to brave the shopping crowds Friday, and possibly finish putting your menu together, setting out the ham Saturday night. (Since I think about coffee almost every waking minute, it completely amazes me that I often have to run out to buy something coffee-related the night before a holiday.)

Suffice it to say: I’m not always prepared. For a Sunday School lesson? Yes. The black suit and shirt that needs laundering for a high school band concert in three hours? No.

But, what if, just what if, I’m the one being prepared for something? Am I always aware of a loving God setting my footsteps? 

Proverbs 16:9, ESV, King Solomon speaking

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. 

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Why Grieving Mothers Find Comfort in a Tattoo

Why Grieving Mothers Find Comfort in a Tattoo
I am so thrilled to be able to once again feature my sweet friend Tammie here at Espressos of Faith. Tammie’s life first touched mine when we both resided on the tiny island of Kwajalein in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. During that time, Tammie and her husband Rick experienced unfathomable loss, and ever since, their lives have been on an amazing trajectory to healing, hope, and even joy again! Life will never be the same, and Tammie is extremely honest about their painful journey; she readily admits that some days are extremely difficult. But she has found purpose again, and her heart beats to bring healing to other grieving parents. She wants to share how she and her husband are finding their way again. In the process, Tammie and Rick made a choice to forfeit regular income and steady jobs to travel around the country volunteering, giving back to others in celebration of the life of their son. As passionate as they are about suicide prevention, they are equally driven to love those left behind as they open up their lives to us, sharing their source of love, comfort, hope, and promise.

Without further introduction, here’s Tammie…

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For those who are asking if that is really my tattoo: Yes, it’s true.

“What are you thinking? You are not the kind of person who would get a tattoo.”

“You have to be kidding! That is not your style.”

“You know what people think about tattoos? You will be judged as soon as they see it.”

“Well, if it will make you happy, then do it—but I would never do it.”

These are some of the responses I received when I shared my desire to get a tattoo as a tribute to my son Joshua. They were all very kind in the way that they said it, and I truly knew that they were trying to comprehend something that was just outside all of our comfort zones.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Boxing Kangaroos and Other Signs of Hypervigilance

Boxing Kangaroos and Other Signs of Hypervigilance

Lately, I have had my hands and schedule way too full. Our daily schedule involves speaking with at least two doctors/specialists a day, multiple evaluations, massive amounts of paperwork, class observations (volunteering is a great way to keep an eye on your own kid), interacting with teaching staff, and constantly considering how to adjust sleep, vitamin intake, dietary choices, and schedule to maximize the best functioning for just one of my three children. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a tricky thing in the middle of growth spurts, metabolic changes, classroom setting, sleep patterns, and any stress in the house. I can’t say I have anything figured out yet, but I am learning to be proactive, attentive, and flexible.

In the middle of the crazy merry-go-round we are riding, my son was doing a school research project. For his poster, he had to choose a continent and an animal that lives there to blend the concepts of habitat and geography, with some zoology thrown in for good measure. Since we had visited Australia a few years ago when we lived in the Marshall Islands, he chose a kangaroo so he could happily declare how he had pet one!

Well, actually, he went to feed it and accidentally stepped on its toes (yes, they have toes!).

Know the feeling? When you go to help someone, but you unintentionally end up making it worse or, at the very least, have your intentions misunderstood?

Well, I happened to be in the school library during one of the days the students were working on their continent/animal posters, and I caught Little Man, 9 years old, fascinated with several pictures in the book. He was so captivated, in fact, that I had to keep redirecting him to stay on task. But if I hadn’t stopped telling him to “stay focused,” “answer the right question,” and “finish up,” I would have missed what had him so enthralled: two kangaroos boxing each other. That’s right— boxing. They actually support their entire bodies on their tails while they aim two feet at their opponents at one time. (It’s true. I saw footage here.) That was Little Man’s fun fact of the day.

But it stuck with me beyond that. I couldn’t shake the image of those intense marsupials getting a swing in here and a swift, two-legged kick in there. (Apparently, their legs go together and can’t kick independently. Who knew?)

And it’s what I felt our family had been doing for so long.

We were boxing kangaroos!

Sometimes, we would sit on our tails trying to hold everything else up while we kick-boxed and punched at everything around us.

Often, we would stop in the middle of something else we were doing and drop everything to go a couple rounds with the current battle or struggle that threatened to rob us of peace.

Know what I meanEver been there?

But, as it turns out, I don’t have to take a swing at all strife everywhere all of the time. I don’t have to do amazing balancing acts on my tail and whack at everything offering me the slightest look of menace or provocation, no matter what the challenge is before me.

Why?

Because the Lord my God goes with me. He fights for me. I can rest in that. I can ask Him to take it and then show my trust by being still and waiting for Him to act on my behalf, as He promises to those who believe in Him. I might not be fighting Moses’s Egyptians, but the mountains ahead of me need moving. I cannot do it only in my own strength.

And really, once we grasp that concept, it’s such a huge relief, isn’t it?

Deuteronomy 31:6, English Standard Version (ESV), Moses narrating
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Exodus 14:13-14, ESV, Moses narrating
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Isaiah 45:2, ESV, God speaking through Isaiah the Prophet
“I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron…”

He goes before me and levels the exalted places.

What now? He’s going to “break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron.”

Well, it sounds a lot to me like I don’t have to put up my dukes after all and break out in a sweat over everything that comes across my path. I can be diligent, and I certainly don’t want to be complacent, but it sounds like I can put my trust in God, a mighty and very capable warrior. When I believe and trust Him, He promises to remain close, go before me and with me, and remove obstacles from my path.

He says: “Fear not.”

If I really place my trust in Him, it also sounds like I can stop boxing kangaroos.

How about you?

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More on hypervigilance can be found here.

*This blog is also featured at Your Tewksbury Today.

**It can also be found at Grace & Truth Link-Up, Mom 2 Mom Link-Up #23, Pick Your Pin Tuesdays, and Simplified Life.

 

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The Pirate Who Saves Good People

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My husband Salad Boy and I were both at my youngest son’s pediatric appointment today. We were there for a med check, but we were also there to discuss bringing yet another specialist into the already large group of professional hands tending to his care. While there, we got to fill out a Vanderbilt form and ask about an insurance-imposed change on some asthma management medication. Oh my, what we parents can squeeze into our 15 minutes with the pediatrician!

While there, this lovely man, who has seen us through eight years of all kinds of things, reminded Little Man how he used to refer to himself not by name, but as: “The Pirate Who Saves Good People.

We pretty much revisit this little memory every time we see this doctor. He continues to tell us each time how much it struck him that a then-three year old would define himself that way.

Today, it struck me afresh as well. I thought about it the entire two-laned, windy, 30-minute ride home.

At eight years of age now, Little Man may have rolled his eyes at that past reference, but inside, I saw a twinkle of something familiar, something beckoning forth a younger time. I saw him remember, and that was a beautiful thing.

I am going to take a minute to bless that. To consider it a dream inside his heart that may take slightly different shape over the years. But I believe it’s a tiny glimpse of how he sees himself.

I remember the fascination with pirates. We had just left residence on Kwajalein Island, Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands, when he started to find the world of pirates so interesting. At the time, I didn’t make the direct connection to seaside life. But I think he was hanging onto something by wanting to fill his fantasy world with eye-patched, peg-legged, scruffy-bearded characters. I have to admit that I indulged this. I bought pirate wall border, sheets, and a matching throw rug. I bought every Playmobil and Imaginext pirate toy I could find. He loved the role play, and he really got into character. I’m pretty sure preschool teachers continue to remember this. When asked his name in the grocery store, he would reply with his name and, without skipping a beat, quickly add that he was The Pirate Who Saves Good People.

Now I know he was holding onto a little piece of the island that he mourned, because looking back, that was one of his depressive episodes. He used to come home from preschool right after our move to the States and lay his head on my lap and weep. I thought he was just adjusting, but five months went by like that. Five months watching a curly redhead sob for his old home.

So, if pirates were a world he could get lost in, I was all for it. When we’re three years old and we grieve, Mommas indulge a little imagination to soothe the loss.

But getting back to his title…what a great identity to take on! It was an early indication of his thoughts about himself, and I want to go back to that place for a minute—because in that place is an innocent heart who wants to protect good people, who sees himself as a warrior, who feels like he has something to offer, who has a role he wants to play.

And I won’t be at all surprised one day if whatever he ends up doing in life goes back to that early theme of protection, empathy, justice, safety, and rescue.

My point is this:

Where can we go back to that simple childhood role-play and see what surfaced early on that matches the dream God has put into our hearts?

Where can we bless it?

What about our kids?

Or people we know who seem a bit lost at the moment?

How can we look for traces of where a holy God was whispering dreams into our hearts before we even knew how to recognize it?

I think we get a little tossed about in life, a little seasick now and again. We get jumbled on the ride from there to here and here to there, and we forget how simple those early moments were when innocence was all we had, and we were free to hear what God was telling us about ourselves.

I want to listen more again. I want to climb up onto the lap of Jesus. I want to remember those early dreams and redirect my sails.

In some ways, I think He wants us all to be Pirates Who Save Good People, although that may look differently according to how it’s lived out.

Ephesians 2:10, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

But He will honor us coming to Him as purely and trusting as a child because He promises this.

Matthew 18:1-6, Apostle Matthew narrating, ESV
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Mark 9:36-37, Apostle John-Mark narrating, ESV
And he [Jesus] took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them,“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

Matthew 19:13-15, Apostle Matthew narrating, ESV
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.

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A great book for trying to identify the dream God has given us is The Dream Giver: Following Your God-Given Destiny by Bruce Wilkinson. A sweet friend gave this to me as I was rounding out the edges of finally becoming an author. It’s an easy read and sweet story to help us go back to the place where He first put the dream into our hearts.

 

 

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Turning in This Rickety Chariot

This verse has gone through my head over and over again all week. I couldn’t completely understand if God was trying to tell me something, but I would speak it when I heard it in my head. It kept coming back to me. I found it a comfort in the middle of so many things, and today, I found it a source of hope and strength as I waited for news of whether or not my father’s cancer had been completely removed, or if it had launched a stealth mission to land somewhere else.

Psalm 20:7, David speaking
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

I also considered it an excellent reminder as news came in that we are not finished pursuing specialists for one of our children, that what we thought was okay is really not fully okay, and we take yet another big step toward wellness and wholeness.

And as I wrap up publication of Not Just on Sundays, with all of the unforeseen delays, obstacles, and new rabbit holes to go down—no matter the margin I left myself—trusting in the name of the Lord our God sounded pretty good to me. Because trusting in anything manmade or even human doesn’t really get us anywhere.

Not when the stakes are big.

What do you trust in? Have you asked yourself that lately?

I thought I trusted in Jesus, but somedays I realize I’m trying to ride that chariot again. And you know what? It has wooden wheels. It doesn’t stand up against the fires that burn in life. A chariot is fine for running short distances, but it sure doesn’t get me safely through a long, uphill battle. Have you also found that to be true?

My husband and I recently had a conversation about how independent we each are and how we each project to others a strength that isn’t actually always there—but it somehow conveys that it is. This came up because we were talking about how we’ve never lived near family or had grandparents local enough to babysit or give us a break. We have lived as far away as the Marshall Islands, and we’ve always had to go it alone—just the two of us—since Month 4 of marriage. That’s two decades of “it’s up to only us.” Our only “village” at times was our church in each location and our community (at one point, graduate school community and at other times, our military community). With him traveling often for his work, I frequently shoulder running the house and family, and I’m completely unqualified most days, so I regularly cry out to God. It’s not something we set out to do—be away from family—but it has definitely limited our ability to take the marriage on vacation from the kids. There is no rescue when we need to flee. We just don’t flee. When hard things hit, we get through them: graduate housing (and funds) running out, an infant in the NICU, depression, as some examples. We also draw deeper into friendships because there’s something about proximity that helps us feel less alone, more supported.

But we fail each other. We can’t carry everything. Between us there aren’t enough resources, intellect, strength, or answers to go further than a chariot can take us. We trust each other, but we can’t trust in each other.

And isn’t this true of any relationship, really? A beloved sibling, a dear friend, an inspiring mentor?

I had to ask myself lately: “Bonnie, are you trusting in Bonnie? In another person? In a circumstance? Are you taking a chariot ride?” And I was. I was riding around and around on wooden wheels connected to a wearied horse.

Sometimes it’s not until we fall completely over, exhausted, depleted, and withered, that we realize this whole time we could have stopped spinning wheels like Samson, my Shih Tzu, and saved ourselves a lot of emotional and physical energy by going straight to God. I have to place my trust there. When I don’t, my chariot gets rickety, falls over, pops iron nails, and busts a rail or two. And so much repair is needed when I could have skipped that whole routine and just given something to Him in prayer, laid it at His feet, snuggled into His promises.

And you know what else going directly to Him does? It relieves others of our unfair expectations on what they can(‘t) humanly do, preserves relationships, and teaches us so much about how destructive self-reliance can be. God answers—sometimes quickly and sometimes not—but we have to get out of the mindset of a drive-through God. It’s about relationship, not dispensing answers at us like a slot machine.

When we stop taking that long, bumpy ride on the chariot going nowhere, we will see how incredibly blessed we are to have a God Who knows our name, hears our prayers, and wants to delight us with a response.

The learning curve can be rough for me at times, but when I remember to live this way—willing to be patient and not take my own control—you know what happens? Peace reigns, and I finally get somewhere much further in my prayers walking alongside Jesus, barefoot on the road, than I do trying to fast-track the journey in a rusty, splintered chariot.

How about you?

Do you feel like there are some chariots in your life that you can leave at the side of the road and just grab the hand of Jesus for a nice, long walk?

I promise the adventure will be life-changing and completely awesome. You’ll eventually forget all about your chariot because you will have traded it in for something so much better—something life-giving.

Tell Him you want to trust Him, and go for that walk. See what happens.

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Copyright: V. Gilbert and Arlisle F. Beers
Used with permission by http://www.visualbiblealive.com/religiouspictures/Chariots.html

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2014 in Renewing Our Minds

 

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