Yesterday morning, Mike asked me when I was going to have the trash can the tornado ripped apart picked up. I made the call a second time. It isn’t easy to arrange a pick up for when you are home and they won’t forget. I realized, too that it’s the trash can Joel took the trash out to.. the trash can Joel went and found after the tornadoes.. the trash can Joel duct taped together.. the trash can Joel brought into the garage on Wednesday nights.
It’s hard. Should I even allow myself go down that thought path? I
didn’t yesterday morning and here I am now at almost 3 AM. Maybe it’s
better just to do the hard thing and allow myself to grieve even over the
trash can that is so easily replaced.
|Joel going to fish a trash can out of the April 2011 mess.|
I had books (Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman, Heaven, and If God is Good by Randy Acorn) on hold at the library yesterday, so I went to pick them up on the way home from the chiropractor. The best route was the route Joel took the day that he totaled his car. I decided to take it.. to re-live it.. to face it. It was hard before Joel went home; harder now. I am so thankful that the city put in a much needed red light in response to Joel’s accident.
On the way home from the library, I chose another hard path; through the neighborhood just north of ours where I taught our three youngest how to drive just two years ago. We spent so much time in that blue van. Judi tipped one of the mail boxes on one trial run. I learned a lot about self denial and control in that neighborhood. I continue choosing to make myself do hard things, hoping that they will become easier with practice.
Mike planned this year’s vacations around Josh’s school schedule. We had originally thought we would spread Joel’s ashes in the Smoky Mountains during Spring Break, but Josh was unable get off from his new stocking job at Walmart and we decided we just weren’t ready.. weren’t sure it was the right thing to do, so we’re waiting for wisdom, peace and more grace.
and James had the beginning of the week off so we took them and a few
of Judi’s friends up to Pigeon Forge to stay in a cabin. It was a hard trip not
only because of our original plan but also because Mike and I had spent the
beginning of Joel’s last week on earth in Pigeon Forge. We were glad
to have the girls there as an extra distraction.
|The girls on the cabin stairs. Miranda on top, Rebekah, Judi and Nichole.|
Spring Break, Mike’s birthday and Passover all fell on the same week this year. I spent some time meditating on Jesus our Passover Lamb as I do each year while preparing to share the meaning of Passover in light of Jesus’ sacrifice. That Monday night was our first Passover without Joel.
explained to Judi’s friends that Passover is a Jewish day of
thanksgiving to God for their deliverance from slavery and bondage, and
that Jesus is God’s own dear Lamb sacrificed for our sins so that we
could be invited to join His family and enjoy deliverance from slavery
and bondage to sin.
|Our Passover Table in Florida.|
In the midst of my thoughts on Jesus’ and Joel’s deaths I found myself living with no will to live. I had just spent the week before coming to terms with the fact that it might be 60 years before I see Joel again. I had to accept that I could be in this for the long haul. Remembering the events leading up to Good Friday, the week of Jesus’
death, and His sacrifice as I was reliving the week of Joel’s death in Pigeon Forge was
not something I had planned. I needed the will to keep on living.
I began praying over and over, “Lord, if you are going to continue to leave me here to live, please, give me the ‘will and the do’ for it.”
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
Finally, the Holy Spirit reminded me how God had instructed me to think of Joel when I was struggling early on. He had said, “Think of Joel as having pushed ahead of you in the race.. and crossing the finish line in front of you.”
Meditating on this thought worked quickly to renew my mind; gave me hope and light. It gives me joy to think of myself in a race with Joel, to think of Joel at the finish line waiting for me. It reminds me to keep my eyes on Jesus, resurrected and beautiful, Lamb on the throne, and it gives me the courage I need to run with perseverance.
|Favorite picture of Joel in the Smokys.|
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
I remembered last night that Joel was several years old before he could pronounce his name properly. For the longest time, he would say his name was “Goel” with a hard “g” sound .. trying to get the “J” sound out right.
Then I realized, that his early mispronunciation was actually a real word with meaning: “Goal.” I will forever remember Joel and goal together now.. as I run my race, reaching towards my goal.
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the
test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has
promised to those who love him.” James 1:12
The long trip back Wednesday afternoon to our present home without Joel was still very difficult and filled with tears, but thinking of Joel at the end of his race in his true home did add hope and joy to my deep sorrow. Maybe our next Passover will be in the New Jerusalem.
I’ve had a difficult time expressing how I am doing lately. Words won’t come.. only tears.. To keep my head from exploding, I journal.. sometimes hours a day. Here is my most recent entry:
Sunday March 17th..
Last week, three months since Joel went home, I was struggling with the fact that murder had entered my “world;” that the evil of this world had been allowed to take my son away from me and I am still here.
|Me with my new car. So blessed. We (our family) bought 6 cars in 2011. Long story.|
I am having a difficult time wrapping my brain around living in such luxury and comfort as our daily American lives allow; living in such a dichotomy of good and evil. How do the two co-exist? Pain and comfort. Sorrow and joy. Good and evil.
Sometimes, I forget how to breathe.
In the midst of my anguish over losing Joel, I’ve been able to see God’s mercy. I am thankful that He protected us from loosing three of our children that night. Thankful that he allowed Josh to be a witness (he’s glad he was there).. while protecting the rest of our eyes from such horror… especially Judi’s.
This week I’ve struggled with the truth of God’s Word. I know His Word is true and His promises are “Yes, and Amen in Jesus” just like I know that His salvation is eternal.. not just until the next time I sin. He died for all my sins: past, present and future. They were all future when He died for me. This knowledge frees me from the bondage of condemnation; frees me to live free from the power of sin. I’ve lived by it most of my life.
I am fully trusting in His forgiveness and salvation.. But promises? I want to stand.. but I don’t know where or how anymore. Promises of healing? Many never receive until Heaven. Promises of a hope and a future? Are those for in Heaven too?
Romans 11:33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!
I am afraid even to write/think these words.. they are so selfish.. so many suffer so much all over the world. Please, Lord, forgive me. I say this with fear and humility. Where is Joel’s protection from harm? His hope and future.. but in Heaven?
Do I dare to hope again that Your promises will be true.. here.. for anyone else? Thank You, Lord, for the promise of Heaven… where You will wipe away all our tears and death will die. I look forward to the day when You will put Jesus’ last enemy under His feet.
|Joel so proud of his first car. Proud to be learning how to drive stick.|
|All the boys cars in the drive way. Mom’s and Dad’s in the garage.|
I understood that one day a car accident might take one of my children.. 16 months before Joel went home, He walked away from an accent where a large truck t-boned the car he’d owned only 10 days. The shock almost killed me. For weeks, I couldn’t speak of it. But murder.. a gun? I’ve lost all sense of security.
|Joel the day after his wreck. I was so glad he was alive. No one could believe he walked away. He said he was sore; felt like he’d been playing football.|
A thought I couldn’t allow myself to think last week was of the possibility that a trial could make Joel’s murder appear as just another tragedy; only bring attention to the evil in this world; actually glorify the devil. Isn’t that what most murders do? I so want God to be glorified in his death as He was in his life. What can I do but trust God? I obviously can not control what does or doesn’t happen in this world.
|Joel was captivated by storms; displays of God’s awesome power.|
|He took these photos. Spring of 2011.|
The sad thought that did run from the bitterness of my soul over and over through my heart and mind all last week was, “I don’t want to live here. I don’t want to live in such an evil world.” It was my way of praying, “Father, if there is any other way.. let this cup pass from me.”
Toward the end of the week, I began praying that God would help me to submit and humbly accept and live where He has placed me.
I am coming out of the shock and disbelief.
Moving into a wilderness of temptation.
Temptation to give up the good fight.
Praying for humility and grace.
Committing my heart..
To trust in God.
Standing firm in the belief of His goodness;
Of His good heart towards me..
Dwelling in the land..
This wilderness of pain and suffering.
This evil world.
Feeding on His faithfulness..
While afraid.. confused..
Not knowing which of His promises are for me.
Are for here..
Which are left..
Safe to stand on
When so many seem to have crumbled beneath my feet.
My hope is found in Christ alone.
Psalm 37:3 Trust in the LORD and do good. Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.
Up until July of last year, I had been faithfully fighting/believing for my complete healing from my surgeries and other ailments. I grew weary of holding out for healing.. of praying.. 18 months of asking/believing intensely and specifically about the breast cancer.. years for other stuff.
I finally came to the point of “God heal me if and when you want to. I have asked enough. I have to move onto other things.” Praying that prayer freed me to receive the emotional healing I didn’t realize I needed. The emotional healing I so very much needed in preparation for Joel’s death. Now I need so much more.
My heart is broken.. crushed.
Numbness wearing off..
Coming to the end of one survival mode
Moving into another..
I am just beginning to feel the pain and loss.
Resting in “It’s God’s plan.. not mine.”
His timing.. there is no rushing through the trial.
I have to let it do it’s work in me.
It’s His strength that will carry me through.
He will complete the good work in me.
I will do the good works He’s laid out for me
As He enables me to do them.
Right now my work is to trust and believe..
To seek His face..
To allow Him to work in me..
To obey as He leads..
To do what I see the Father doing.
The Lord spoke to me from Philippians 2:14 early this morning:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
With instructions to, “Try to learn to be content.”
I was so glad to hear His voice that I didn’t mind at all that He was asking me to be content.. content to live in a world where my dearly beloved son, Joel, was allowed to be murdered; in this world of terrible evil and great blessing.
James 1:2-6 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.
It’s something I believe I can learn.. mostly because He asked.. and I know He enables us to do the things He asks of us. I am so thankful for His instructions. I am counting on Him for them.. for a way out of this vast, dark wilderness… for something to stand on.
Psalm 16:7 I will bless the LORD, who has given me counsel. Yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons.
I have a long journey ahead. I am taking my journey one step at a time as the Lord gives me strength; feeding on and trusting in His faithfulness to love and carry me through.
I am sharing it so honestly here partly for selfish reasons: for in the
past, it has freed me to keep moving forward in my journey… to
receive much needed healing, but I hope that it some how ministers to you, also.
Thank you for your prayers; especially for strength and God’s glory.
yellowing up when we had lots of rain every day. See?
Had lots of lady bugs in the spring, but think I needed
The birds decided that my tomatoes were ready to harvest before I did.
They been pooping on my watermelons too.
I was going to wait one more day to harvest..
but I guess they were ripe enough.
I just had to shoo them away again.
Time to make a scarecrow.
to help keep the dirt from falling into the water reservoir.
You can see it in the picture above.
They are watertight planters with a water
I have a bunch and it’s not good for much else.
We didn’t realize it until much later, but we think the storm killed our tree. We found damage low on the trunk.. we think that it must have been blown to the ground then popped back up.
We started from scratch looking for the best tree for our yard. Based on the direction of the wind and the location of our tree and our house we decided that we didn’t want too big of a tree. 🙂
If you want to buy plants in Huntsville, we discovered that Bennett Nurseries is the place to go. They have free BBQ, drinks, live music and a miniature train. It’s like going to a picnic.
A very nice man there spent a lot of time with us showing us and educating us on different trees. We learned that the fact that if you dig a whole in our yard it will fill up with water might not have been too great for our tree either. He suggested several trees that would do well there and took the time to show us grown ones in the nursery.
We took this picture before Judi left as a last ditch effort to get a family photo.
Sun’s in our eyes.. can you tell? 🙂
We normally take family photos in October.
It turned too cold too quick and we never got a good one.
I wanted to thank everyone for their prayers.
They plus the nice distractions God and Mike arranged for this weekend
are definitely helping. I am doing very well. Slept 8 hrs. last night.
Just the fact that I had to pack and clean and that my mom is coming would have
normally made me crazy, but I have a mightier God-peace about the surgery, tomorrow.
I am so thankful for my life and all God has blessed me with and
so glad that He has promised to be with us in the storms,
and that He works everything together for our good.
I have a couple of extra prayer requests:
My mom and Judi are on their way. Made it to AR … and discovered that something is wrong with their brakes. Pray they’ll have wisdom on where to take it and favor to get it fixed quickly, and enjoy the unexpected delay.
When I went to my last Thursday to my first pre-op appointment, we were told that the cat-scan showed two spots on my liver. They don’t think it’s related to the breast cancer, but they were too small to tell anything and want to check it again in 6 months. It was a little hard to take in, but Mike and I both are feeling from God that it’s nothing to worry about.. never hurts to take it to Him in prayer.
My confessions for today:
By your grace I am able to glory in times of trouble, knowing that they develop perseverance, and character and a joyful, confident hope that does not disappoint because of the love that You have poured out in my heart through Your Holy Spirit. Romans 5:3-5
As I get to know Christ, who called me to and by Your glory and goodness, Your divine power gives me everything I need for life, making a glorious display of Your virtue in me. 2 Peter 1:3