Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Back into a Routine?

I've really been wanting to post for a while, but have had a hard time knowing what to write about. It was so significant to me to read my mom's journals, so that post seemed so huge that I couldn't really think of anything worth writing about since then. I decided it's better to write about not much than not write at all.

Josh and I have been back in Kentucky for a couple weeks now, back to work and school. It's amazing how different our lives feel. I struggled at first going to work and acting "normal" around everyone -- since I felt anything but normal. I confess, I half expected most people to treat me differently -- that is, treat me really kindly -- because here I am, a pregnant girl whose mom just died. I was nearly in tears when I took a snapshot of my mom to CVS to make a double of it and the photo-department woman was rather curt and unhelpful, going to charge me $10 to make a copy. I feel like saying "please me nice to me! I'm sad right now because my mom is gone!" The Lord has been good to guard my heart from falling into true self-pity. It's hard to totally know my own self, but I think I am mostly just grieving, and half wishing everyone else was grieving along with me.

So at first I struggled getting into a routine, but now I see how having a scheduled life, really is, as Jodi Ware says, "a gift from the Lord." It helps you to go forward and "do the next thing". I have never before lived through grief, and I certainly have never lost anyone close to me, so it is all a journey of learning a new normal: getting up in the morning and remembering that I lost my mom, having my family on my mind through out the day, praying for their souls, and my own, to be guarded from depressed or guilty thoughts, having waves of sadness wash over me when I see grandmothers with new babies (actually pretty common around here), or a really specific memory occurs to me. I feel like I have grown and changed so much in the past month, that I hardly feel the same, so making a new normal feels pretty abnormal.

But the truth is this: there is a sort of sweetness in knowing Christ NOW, in the midst of my pain, that I had never known before. It comes to me when I weep, or fall into deep contemplation -- the sweetness of sharing in "the fellowship of His suffering". Elisabeth Elliot says that it's not that Christ died so that we might suffer, but that because of his death, our sufferings have a purpose -- that we can share an intimate knowledge of Him in the fellowship of His suffering. I can honestly say that from my own experience, I do sense that Christ has drawn me into a closer relationship, making Him more dear to me than ever.

These days the song "Great is Thy Faithfulness" has become my favorite: "Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided." I trust you, Lord, to provide new mercy and grace for each day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My Mom's Quiet Time

Mom's funeral was beautiful. It was a lovely, solemn, precious day. We were so blessed to have over 500 people at her visitation and funeral, including many family members from both my dad's and mom's sides of the family. How sweet to have them all gathered together! How precious to honor Mom and praise Jesus together!

One of the things that we have found precious is the journals and notebooks Mom has written in. We found prayers here and there in notebooks, and whole journals just for prayer, and taking notes in church and her devotions. It is humbling to see how much she prayed for her children (and what she prayed, of course, is even more humbling, because you see what she saw that perhaps you did not see back then). My sister Anna read from Mom's Bible at the funeral, and remarked on how much Mom wrote in it, and how special it was to have Mom's thoughts on the Word as a legacy to us.

For example, John 14 "Let not your hearts be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." Mom wrote next to this passage -- "To be comforted". What a gift God has given us through Mom's writings, speaking to us still.

In her quiet time this year, she wrote in August "I can walk before the Lord in the light of the living until God's plans for me are finished. My life won't end one minute before God wants it to." She had been reading Psalm 56 "In God I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me." What a treasure these words are to my soul!

In September she wrote "No matter how things look, God is in control". Writing this to assure her own soul, and speak truth to her own heart is priceless. It speaks to my heart now, telling me to trust in God's sovereignty.

On the Monday before she had her stroke she wrote "God knows and plans everything."

These writings are so sweet to my eyes, and honey to my heart. It is a peek into her very soul, showing the intimacy of her walk with Jesus. What a legacy for us! I considered not sharing them here in such a public way, because they are such a treasure, but I hoped by doing so, you would be encouraged to trust God and be comforted, in whatever affliction you are facing. I also hoped to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to deepen their walk with the Lord, spending time in His Word every day. And when you get the chance, write about it! My mom was not trying to write profound things for us to read; she was merely meditating on the passage. It certainly has spurred me on to pull my prayer journal more often, and I hope it does the same for you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Psalms and My Mom

My mom once told me her favorite book of the Bible was the Psalms, and I have to agree, it may be mine as well. Mom felt deeply and so she probably drew comfort from the depths and heights the Psalmist often plunges in his writing. There is no human experience David (and other psalm writers) did not experience.

How fitting, then, that the Psalms would be a primary comfort to my soul during the hardship we faced with Mom's stroke and death. Here are some of the Psalms that I read over and over during that time:

Psalm 139 -- From the moment Anna called me to tell me Mom had a stroke, the words of this Psalm jumped into my mind. I thought of her being flown in a helicopter alone to the next city, but my heart was comforted to read "Where shall I go from Your Spirit, or where shall I flee from Your presence?" Over and over I repeated this verse, thinking of the blessed presence of the Holy Spirit with my mother in the helicopter, moving from one hospital to another. As the night went on, I read verse 12 "even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you." The night seemed so dark. The doctors did not know what all was happening in my mother's brain, but that dark place was not hidden from God. Probably the verse that I clung to the most was verse 5 "You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me." To know that everything that was happening was hemmed in by our powerful, wise, loving and sovereign God was the ultimate comfort. I prayed this verse for my mother, and for all of us, that we could trust in His direction. As the days went on, I also drew strength from verse 16 "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them." Even though we were in an utter quandary as to whether my mom would live another day, I knew that her days were written for her, even before she was born.

Psalm 57 -- "Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in You my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. . . God will send out His steadfast love and His faithfulness!" I prayed this Psalm for my mom another night when the girls and I were visiting Mom in the SICU. Verse 4 reflected how my soul felt: "My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts."

Psalm 91 -- "He shall dwell under the Shadow of the Almighty." That phrase is so beautiful and comforting. Many people read us this psalm in the hospital during those days.

There are so many more, but I hope these words will be an encouragement to you, too!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

My Mom

When I posted my last, I had no idea that a "crazy week" would stretch into 3 and beyond. Even now, I can't quite grasp all that has taken place in my life over the past 2 weeks -- the lessons I've learned, the Scripture I've read, the tears I've shed. I couldn't begin to put it all into one blog post, so this may be the first of many on the subject.

My mom passed away this morning.

Even as I type that, though I've seen what I've seen, it still does not seem possible.

It was very sudden. On February 21st, Josh and I settled into our new apartment, and I talked to my mom on the phone. She asked about the baby, our new apartment, and asked me if I wanted some things she'd found when cleaning out my sister's room. We did not talk too long, because my dad and sisters were waiting for her to go out to eat. The last thing she said to me was "I love you, honey. I'll call you tomorrow."

At the restaurant, she began to have signs of a stroke, much like the TIA she'd had 4 years ago -- not remembering names and specific things. Later that evening at the emergency room, she had a massive stroke. My sister called me a little after midnight that night to tell me that things were really bad, and Josh and I left for Illinois right away. Though mom lived for the next 2 weeks, and underwent a serious operation, she never awoke from her coma, and never saw us or spoke to us in the time that has gone by.

We sat in the hospital all day every day during that time. For the first week, she was in SICU, and we could only visit 2 at a time (though sometimes there were 4 or so of us). My sisters and I polished her nails and toenails, and gave her lipstick. We all talked and prayed, and sang and read Scripture to her. Then last Sunday she was moved into her own room, and hospice care, and we all could gather there together, where we spent the last week by her side.

She had such pretty warm hands, with the nails painted so nicely. I held one for hours and hours every day this week. I miss it already.

What can you say about your mom? We (her 6 kids) all had a great relationship with her. She was loved by hundreds of children in the nursery ministry where she served for years, not to mention their parents. We've seen and talked to hundreds of her friends during these weeks. I can't begin to recount the memories, the things that were special about her. If you knew her, you certainly have memories of her yourself. Feel free to post them here for me, it is such a comfort to think of all the people who loved her.

I never spent a moment during these weeks in which I did not feel the Lord's gentle care for me. He seemed very close, the Spirit's ministry of comfort very real. Oh, there were, and still are, moments of aching loss and overwhelming heartache, but my Gentle Shepherd has cared for me and lead me through these days. I know that sometimes when people go through suffering, the most difficult aspect is that they do not feel the closeness of the Lord, so I am so grateful that I did. "I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name" as the hymn says. Jesus is the dearest and sweetest name I know, more than ever.