Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mixed Emotions

I've been writing about grief a lot lately. Ironically, I've been grieving a lot today.

Grief can come on suddenly or seep into your soul gradually. The grief I'm experiencing has to do with life changes and milestones. You might wonder why one would grieve over either of these, but it is grief I feel nonetheless.

My husband became the pastor of a church last March. It has been our goal since we got married to ultimately be in a church in this capacity. We needed to experience it just like we needed the other past experiences we have had since getting married. A little over a year later, my husband resigned, and we are headed back to the ministry of teaching. This is a good thing, but once again, "hope deferred makes the heart sick." I'm excited about the future, there are some unknowns, but I grieve that things did not go as expected.

I also grieve because my son's 2nd birthday is this Saturday. With that, I'm sure you question my sanity. Why would I grieve over such a milestone? I guess I should say there are mixed emotions. I experienced the same emotions last year. My son is alive against the odds. He is happy and sometimes shows so much joy that you might think he could fly away with how much it fills him. The grief comes over the lack of development, over life not being for him like a normal 2 year old, over not being able to enjoy birthday cake or even care about it or his presents. I grieve for what isn't when I should be joying in what is.

Isn't that what steals our joy most often? It's the "what ifs" and the "if onlys" that steal our joy.

It is sad that birthdays for our kids are more often about how we feel than how they feel. I of course want him to enjoy his day, but is it about me or him? I am disappointed that things did not work out where we are, but why should I be when God's plans are greater than ours? The present worries and suffering are nothing compared to the joy that is awaiting us when He changes our vile bodies to be like His.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Your Grief and Others

When you are in the middle of grieving over your situation, it is easy not to consider how others are grieving. The situation might be closer to you, but many times others are grieving as well. As a parent of a child with illness or if a parent has lost a child, the grief is heavy. For those close to them such as the siblings or grandparents of the child, there is grief for them as well. It may not be the same as your grief, and they may not show it in the same way.

The grief that a sibling struggles with may not show at first. A child often does not know how to express grief. I remember in the 3rd grade losing a friend to Leukemia. For years I had the little grieving book that the school provided and the little book of pictures that all of us drew of our memories with the boy who had passed away. I feel like that probably helped me. My reaction could have been different. Some children express their grief with anger directed at their parents. Sometimes they may seem sad. Some children hold it inside.

 I caught of glimpse today of a reaction that may be the first sign of grief from my four year old towards his brother. We were tossing a stuffed animal to Trenton to interact with him. He started to get upset by it, and my oldest kept throwing it on him. We had to make him stop. He often struggles with obeying us, but I felt like his reaction to burst into tears saying, "someday I want to throw that," was actually his grief of not being able to play with his brother. I totally get it too. I'm sure it has been hard for him, and it will be hard for him through the years to not be able to interact with Trenton in the way so many other kids are able. We will just encourage him to do what he can.

Our own grief affects the siblings as well. I know that for me having a child with special needs has made me have a hard time with being overprotective. I was always a little bit with my oldest, but when Trenton was born, even though he lived and will probably live for many years, there was that fear of losing the child who didn't have problems. I've had to make myself pull back in that way and give my oldest to the Lord. Both of our boys are gifts from God for a reason.

I know it is also hard for the aunts/uncles and grandparents as well when there is a trial. They are a part of the situation, but they also are not in the midst of it every day. They try to understand what you need and what your child needs, but the situation is so different that it is difficult. The toys and even the clothes your child needs might be different. The way they are able to interact - if they are able to interact is different. They are grieving too.

As you grieve, it is personal, but remember the others who are involved in the situation. Remember that you are not the only one who lost something or have had deferred expectations. Others are grieving with you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Godliness in Your Grief

A misconception about grief that many people have had (including myself in the past) is that grief is not godly. When you first receive bad news, there is grief. I know for me, when I first heard that Trenton might have problems, I was frozen in fear, and I just needed a chance to pray and talk to God about it. Fear is not godly, but it is all about how you handle the fear. Seeking God and casting your cares and anxieties on Him is the right way to handle fear that comes with grief.

Some might feel that their grief is a private thing, and that is fine, but do not let it be private because you think it is a lack of faith or trust in God. It can become that, but grief itself is something that God understands. Christ grieved for his friend Lazarus even though He knew that He would be raising him from the dead. His grief may have been for the family of Lazarus as well, but he nonetheless grieved while trusting His Father and knowing that He would soon be making all well again. He grieved with hope. He grieved for His own pain, suffering, and separation prior to the cross while knowing that soon He would rise again and be with His Father. It is not ungodly to grieve. It is possible to hope in the grief.

I Thessalonians 4:13-14 discusses how we should think about the grief associated with the death of those we love, but it can be applied to all other types of grief:
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."

Grieving like a Christ means grieving with hope. We have the hope, that because Christ rose, our loved ones who were saved will also rise again and have new bodies. We have hope that no matter how much pain and suffering we have on earth, all will be well for eternity in heaven

We all have moments in our grief that might not look godly. We might ask "why" and question God and His plan. Those thoughts are normal fleshly responses to trials. God forgives us for these thoughts when we turn to Him in faith and hope. We may have to ask forgiveness over and over, but what matters is that we always return to the hope that we have in Him.

When you are grieving, you do not need to paste on a smile and say you are fine. It's okay to grieve. It's okay to share your struggles and how God is helping you. That is not ungodly. This response will likely draw those who have no hope to desire what you have.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Resurrection and Your Problems

There is a new focus in many Christian circles today on the Gospel in our every day life. In a children's book that my son owns, the focus is that every story speaks the name of Jesus. Throughout the book, each story ends by reminding us of God's ultimate plan - his ultimate gift.

Some people might not understand what the gospel actually is. The Bible says it, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:" (I Corinthians 15:3-5) The passage goes on today say that many people saw him after He came back to life. 

Many of us grew up understanding the gospel in order to be saved. We believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again, and we accepted Him as our Savior so that we could go to heaven someday. That is the main purpose of the gospel. He wants everyone to be saved and be in heaven someday. There is more to the gospel than just our salvation.

The gospel can have a great impact on our problems as well. As addressed above, it cures our first problem - sin. It can cure any other problem we face as well. 

Many people are under the wrongful impression that those who go through trials are being punished for sin. God does punish our sin when we are believers, but trials are more often for our growth than our punishment. Because we do live in a sinful world, however; the affects of sin will always be upon us as long as we are on earth. We will get sick, we will have children with medical or other special needs, and we will ultimately die. All of this is because of sin. 

Because of sin, we will all die unless Christ returns before we die. Death is a part of the Gospel. Jesus, God's Son, had to die. He was fully man and fully God, yet He obediently allowed Himself to be separated from God the Father. His death was the worst death- separation from God. He experienced this death, so that people could escape a similar separation from God in hell. Hell is a dark place full of fire and a death that never truly dies. The worst of this place is that there is an absence of God. Even though we live in a sinful world, God is still here in our midst. It is hard to imagine a place where God is absent. That is what death will be to those who do not accept that Christ died to take their place.

The third part of the gospel is life - the resurrection of Christ. This is the most exciting part of the gospel. This is the part where we go from death to everlasting life. Christ died for our sins, but He did not stay dead. His spirit did not just rise, His body came back to life, and He even showed himself to many people following His resurrection. If you do not believe that He rose again, then you have no hope. God is not dead. He is in heaven waiting for us. Without the resurrection, we have no hope of eternal life. God did what He said He would do, and He came back. He lives to make intercession for us with God.

So besides our problems being because we live in a sinful world, how does the gospel help us with our problems?

  • The gospel gives us hope. Someday, we and those we love who have trusted Christ will have perfect bodies. Our problems are not forever.
  • I love the song, "It is not death to die." It is so true for a Christian. Death for a Christian is still difficult just as it was hard for Christ and the people He loved when He died. His death was not eternal however. His resurrection is eternal, just like ours will be when we die knowing Christ. 
We truly can see the gospel spread throughout the Bible. We can see God's hand moving through the trials of His people and even through those who did not know Him. Because we can see His hand in those days, it makes it easier for us to see His hand in our own lives. His sovereignty can give us hope that as the gospel is complete throughout scripture, it will be complete in our own lives as well - ending with the resurrection of our own bodies to someday be with Him.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Sheer Joy of Knowing Nothing Else

As I knelt by Trenton and saw his smile of sheer joy, it struck me that this life is all he knows. Sometimes it is easy to feel sorry for kids who have gone through so much and we wonder how they often display such joy and happiness. It's because this is all that they know. The more we know, the harder life often is. That is not to say that I do not hope that Trenton's mind is normal and will someday do well in school and life. It is just that at this time, I love the joy that he has from the simple things. He is enthralled with the light from the window and the way his moving fingers make shadows. These things bring him joy. He has known pain and sadness more than most children his age, and he definitely cries about being made to do therapies, but when he is happy, he is truly happy.

As a parent with a child who has special needs, I know that my joy is so often lacking, because I let the hard days, comparisons, or daily stresses build, and I stop focusing on the the Lord in the struggles. Although I know about the trials of life and the pain. Although I know that there are unknowns and that Trenton has a long way to go, if my focus is on the Lord and off of the worries of life, then I can have the same joy as my son in his innocence.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Grieving Over Loss - Life and Expectations

Grief is a strange thing. It never really goes away but it matures. In the beginning, things might seem unreal. Perhaps you haven't truly accepted this new life you will be living. Perhaps you are in a fog.

When I talk about grief it might be different than your grief. My grief is not over loss of life. My grief is over lost expectations. That might sound shallow compared to a loss of life, but those who have a child with special needs or have gone through another trial related to hope being deferred in this way, understand that it truly does as the Psalmist said, "make the heart sick." (Proverbs 13:12)

The grief of being pregnant and finding out that your child has a medical condition that will render them disabled or severely developmentally delayed is difficult to experience. It is not for me to compare it to the loss of a loved one or child, because I only have my perspective on it. I do believe there is a grieving process involved in both cases.

For me, it all came gradually. It began with the initial thought that his brain and kidneys might have issues. Then it was his heart. Then he was born, and his heart was worse than originally thought, his brain was okay, and his kidneys were okay. His hearing wasn't. We were told he was blind as well. He couldn't swallow, so he needed to be tube fed. I dreaded the rounds at the hospital to the point of no longer wanting to be there for them. 6 weeks after he was born, we brought him home.

At that point, I don't think I had really grieved over my expectations. I think my grief built up over that first year. There were times when things were going okay. There were scares during the first year. I really tried to stay positive to people and not talk about the hard times. I came to a point though where I realized I needed to share. I needed an outlet, and that was when this blog began. Sometimes my grief is most prominent when I feel sleep-deprived. Sometimes it is when I go on Facebook and see kids his age and all the things they are doing. There are moments of grief, but then there are moments of joy. That's the way grief is. As it matures, there are more and more moments of thankfulness and joy that were not there in those first days. There is hope even in knowing he may never do what others can do. He can do what he can do.

God is very important for grief. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:3-6, "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. " I can't even imagine the grief of God as He sent His Son down to our filthy earth to be born but to ultimately die for our sins. He knows all about grief.

Through my grieving process, I have learned something important about God's grace and His mercy. I've talked about it in other posts, but it was mind-changing for me. In the early days of Trenton's abdominal migraines, they were a mystery. We couldn't figure out why he would be lethargic for a week at a time and vomit. We figured what most parents would figure that it was the flu or some other normal sickness. During those weeks we were beyond frustrated. I found myself often being angry with God and my grief was high. Before bed, I would beg for a full night of sleep without him gagging. The threat of aspiration was a major concern. Hebrews 4:16 was the mind-changing verse for me, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." I realized something through this verse. We need to pray for mercy and find the grace that he has already given. We need to pray for the mercy that we don't deserve. I didn't deserve a normal baby. Nothing good in me made me worthy of a perfectly healthy child. God promised me that the grace would be there, so in those most difficult days thus far, I often prayed for God to be merciful and was willing to accept his grace if He chose not to be merciful. There was a reason for that difficult time, but I know it was for a reason. He has mercifully taken away the migraines.

Whether you are grieving over a lost loved one or grieving over lost expectations, God offers grace to make it through the early grieving process, and you will be amazed at how it changes and becomes something better. Let God be your stronghold in the time of trouble and be prepared for the attacks of Satan. He will use grief to make you angry with God, and it will creep up when you think your grief is fully matured. 

Don't be afraid to share your grief. Nothing turns to anger and bitterness faster than grief that is held in and bottled up.