Stretching my faith

Where is the joy?

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On June 16th, 2012, I wrote this:

Dear Mom and Dad,

The mornings are the hardest.

Every morning as we wake up, we are reminded again that you are gone. The realization of losing you is paralyzing and it feels like our lives will forever be filled with sadness.  I wonder where the joy is.

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5”

Despite the sorrow and despite the heartache, I know that joy will come.  I know because it’s a promise from God’s Word. And right now that’s all we have.  All we have is our memories of you and of the faith that you lived. You lived the promises of God’s Word and you would continually remind us of God’s love and of the joy that we can find only through Him.

We looked through your purse today Mom. It was good. And it was horrible. Jim found a note that you had written:

“God who began will finish. My daughter made a remark on her blog the other day. She said something about how she has a penchant for not finishing things. I never really considered that as a trait of hers, but what I found odd, was the next day the Lord led me to these verses in His Word.  “God who began this good work in me WILL finish it.” Period. What good work will that be? I’m not doing anything for Him right now. But I think I’m getting “works” mixed up with His good work. HE SAID HE WILL FINISH!”

Mom, you wrote this last fall and it now brings us great comfort.  The only thing that can bring us joy now is to cling to the love of God and to remember that good work that He has done and is doing in you and Dad’s life. We know that one morning, probably a very long time from now, we will wake up and find joy in the morning. Find joy in the love of our Savior and of the legacy you both have left for us.

It’s amazing how grief and joy can live intertwined in our lives after experiencing a loss. God did not leave us on that day and neither did His joy. But I think sometimes we can miss joy.

On Monday we went fishing and it wasn’t the best weather so we were the only ones there. Until two older people came over to where we were. They had their two grandchildren with them and as I saw them, the first thing I thought was, “why.” That should be mom and dad with Angel and Caleb.

But if I would have allowed myself to sit in that thought, I would have missed the joy of seeing Angel and Caleb fish and swim in the freezing cold lake and bury themselves in sand. I would have missed the joy of sitting in peaceful silence on the side of the lake with Pat. It is not easy, choosing joy, but it is something I know I can do with God’s help.

As I look back over the past six years, there has been a lot of grief, but there has been so much joy too! Even days after we found them, there was joy in the celebration of their life and encouragement and love from family and friends.

There is joy in seeing Angel and Caleb grow up and being able to tell them all about their Papa and Grandma Susie. There is joy in seeing my dad in Caleb. There is joy in laughing at the memories of mom and dad. There is joy in making new memories with my siblings and baby blue eyes Cleo. There is joy in the anticipation of our first grand-baby.

There is joy in knowing that mom and dad are with Jesus.

I wonder if part of the meaning of Psalm 30:5 is that in this life there will be weeping. So much weeping and pain and questions and grief. But in the morning – when we leave this world and join Jesus in heaven – there will be nothing but joy!

Oh, I can’t wait. What a wonderful promise to cling to!  And so that is what I will do. When I don’t see or feel the joy I will trust in God’s word and know that my joy is in Jesus and the many gifts He has given to us.


Friends in low places

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Just like Garth Brooks, I’ve got friends in low places.

I’ve always struggled with friends. Well, not always. I think it started after I left my first husband and abandoned my faith. Through all of that I also turned my back on my closest friends. So it’s been a struggle to allow myself to be a friend and accept friendship. I think I’ve been afraid that I would fail again or hurt them.

Thankfully, over time, God has healed that part of my heart and has brought kindred spirits into my life. Friends who have walked with me through the lowest of lows.

Yesterday I was looking back through Facebook and blog comments from June 12, 2012. And the 13th and 14th and so on. I came across a post on the 13th where I asked if anyone could take the kids for a couple hours. The offers were endless and we were given some time to try to sort through everything. One of my friends who had the kids for a couple hours sent me these pictures:

Oh it made my heart happy to remember how well my kids were cared for on one of the toughest days of our lives. And how all of us have continued to be cared for.

And seriously, how were my babies so little!?

Over the past six years, I have been so blessed to have friends and family who have encouraged us and prayed for us and allowed us to heal through with the pain and grief we experienced and continue to experience.

Friends who text or call for no reason other than to say hi and that they are praying. Friends who allow us to be truly real and honest about our struggles…and love us just the same. Friends who send gifts for no reason, just to let us know that we are not alone. Friends who we can laugh with and cry with. Friends who don’t accept “I’m fine” as an answer to the question of how we are doing. Friends who when I try to cancel plans because I’d rather just stay home alone, tell me too bad, you aren’t staying home alone (not in those exact words, but close 🙂 ).

Friends who are the hands of feet of Jesus, even when I am at my lowest and not the best friend in return.

I am also reminded that as loved and cared for as we have been these past six years, there is only one friend who is my rock. Only one friend who will never fail me or leave me. Only one friend who brings complete healing and peace. Oh what a friend we have in Jesus!

Maybe you read this and think, “I don’t have a friend like that.” Let me encourage you first, that yes, you do have a friend in Jesus! He loves you!

But also I want to encourage you to be that friend that someone needs right now. Regardless of what you receive in return, be the hands and feet of Jesus. Maybe you don’t even know this someone that well but that’s ok – love them, pray for them, ask them how you can help. Jesus wants to use you and through your love and friendship, Jesus can change someone’s life!

Thank you Jesus for the friends you have put in my life. And thank you Jesus that I can lay my burdens down at your feet and forever and ever your heart is my home.

God of even this day

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This day. Six years ago.

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012.

I never could have imagined a heartbreak so painful or a grief so profound. The questions. The worry. And when the answers came, they of course, weren’t the answers we wanted or prayed for.

But God was still there. Even on that day.

He’s been there every day since.

2,190 days.

Every day I’ve doubted. Every day I’ve cried out in anger and confusion. Every day my heart has ached to see mom and dad one more time. Every day we’ve laughed at a memory. Every day we’ve made new memories. Every single day.

He’s been there through the joy and the sorrow. Through the healing and the pain. The seasons change and time goes on. And He’s still the God of every day.

Do you have a day? A day you dread. A day that brings painful memories. A day that reminds you of failure.

God is the God of even that day.

On this day, June 12th, I look to Him. My tears of grief are mixed with tears of joy knowing that I can put my hope and trust in the God who walks with me each and every day.

All the feelings

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The last time I actually wrote something on here, other than sharing about my devotional book, was September 2016. So I’m not sure I know how to do this anymore. But for the past few months I’ve sensed I should start writing again.

June always brings about an torrential downpour of feelings. Ug, the feelings. This year appears to be more difficult for some reason – six years since Mom and Dad left us with no warning and no goodbye. Not a magic number I don’t think, but the days match the dates this year – June 9th was a Saturday, etc. – so maybe that is why.

We’ve had five large totes filled with mom and dad’s pictures and everything they ever collected about us kids.

Every single report card. Every single sports event program. Every single newspaper article with our name. And I’m not talking, “Missy Hellman scored 25 points to lead the Pheasants to a win.” Because ya, that never happened. I’m talking “Missy Hellman, 0-3, 0 points, 4 fouls…” Highlighted in bright yellow.

A few weeks ago I decided to start sorting through the totes. It’s only been six years – it’s about time, huh!  But UG, the feelings. Some days it’s fine and I laugh and laugh and laugh. Some days it’s torture and I last about 10 minutes. My brother Jim is coming out for a visit in July so I’m determined to get through everything by then so I can gift ALL. THE. STUFF. to my siblings.

I feel we’ve come a long way as far as taking pictures are concerned. I have three garbage bags full of pictures that are just scenery. No one in the picture. A tree. A hill. A sunset. Ok, I have kept some of the sunset pictures. Mom loved her sunsets. There is a downside to the digital pictures we have now in that we don’t ever get any of them printed. But let me tell you, having doubles and triples of every single picture! WHY!? It was just what you did I guess.

The best part about sorting through the pictures is experiencing Angel experience the pictures. I handed her my brother Tracy’s senior picture portfolio. She opened and yelled, “HELLO MULLET!” Haha it was so funny. He did have an awesome mullet.

Haha. Good thing Tracy doesn’t read my blog.

I’m not gonna lie, the past six years have been hard.  I’m not the same person I was before Mom and Dad died. I’m also not the same person I was right after they died or a year after or three years after. Grief is a crazy thing – it ebbs and flows and changes you and changes you some more. I’m so thankful for the relationship I have with my brothers and sisters. It’s been difficult for all of us – all in different ways – but through it all I think Mom and Dad would be proud of how we have supported and loved each other.

It was fun coming across these pictures:

The original – 1980ish

Every time I come across a picture of Jim as a baby/little kid, I have to do a double take – he looks so much like Caleb.

And the retake in the exact same spot – no idea what year this was, mid 90’s I think.

UG, the feelings. Love my family so much – those with us still and those in heaven.

This week and next I’ll be sharing more feelings and memories and sorry in advance for that but maybe after that I’ll get back to normal stuff on my blog.

Normal stuff like this treasure: