SORROWING & REJOICING

It’s been over six months since I’ve written here.  Those months have been filled with thoughts of Abigail, of the accident, of the days at the hospital, the graveside, the memorial service.  Some scenes are played over and over again in my mind until I wish I could turn them off!  It is then that I must remember that God uses those memories, just as He does events, to mold and shape me for a greater usefulness in His kingdom.  It is in NOT forgetting what He has required of us that our thoughts will be focused on eternal things.

I believe I’ve thought more on heaven and eternity in the last 10 months than I ever did before Abigail’s death.  It’s SO close, just behind the visible things!!  My concept of heaven has been expanded as I consider and read about what it may be like there.  I’ve begun to long for heaven, especially as I consider Abigail’s present state.  Surely she must be amazed at God’s love, mercy and grace to her; falling upon her face in worship before the Father and our Lord Jesus who sits at His right hand!  Sometimes I mourn what she’ll “miss” on earth…and then I remember that it’s not she that’s “missing” anything, it’s me and those who love Him that still remain on the earth!  This is not all there is nor is it the best; for the best is still to come!  My husband has often told our family over the years that this life is merely preparation for the next.  To remember, as a quote by Nancy Leigh DeMoss says:  “The truth is, a moment or two from now (in the light of eternity), when we are in the presence of the LORD, everything that has taken place in this life will be just a breath—a comma.”

God’s gift of focusing on what’s ahead does not exclude grief.  Yes, we mourn!  Our hearts ache, we know a great sadness way down deep inside of us, and tears flow often. I read somewhere that grief is very inconvenient.  It washes over us like the waves of the ocean; sometimes at very inopportune moments.  We live with hope, but we also live with loss.  It is a fact in this fallen world that we mourn Abigail’s absence.  A mother who has also experienced the death of a daughter shared a quote with me attributed to C. S. Lewis, following the death of his wife:  “Her absence is like the sky; it spreads over everything.”   We will never “get over” or “move on” from her death.  It is the greatest trial that God has ever required of us; it becomes a part of us and part of our earthly journey for the rest of our lives.  We will always be aware of the void left in our lives and home. We long to see and hear once again our silly, funny, bouncy daughter and sister.  She was the one who made us laugh!  Each family member misses their own special relationship with her.  We know however that she wasn’t always happy.  She experienced physical and emotional pain from the first auto accident in January of 2011 and fought a serious battle with depression.  Can we rejoice that those limitations and battles are over?  Yes, we can…even while we mourn!

The following paragraph has been adapted from one written by R. C. Sproul, Jr. about his wife’s passing:

“While (we) looked down upon (Abigail’s) lifeless body the morning she died, she was not looking down on (us).  She was instead dancing to Him and for Him.  When (we) were praying for strength, she was singing from her strength.  As (we) were bent and broken, she twirled and pirouetted.  As (we) became so much less, she became so much more.  This is His plan and promise.”

Sorrowing and rejoicing go together…blended, intertwined, inseparable from each other.

I found a CD entitled Blessings by Laura Story in Abigail’s room; it had been given to her by a church friend after her first accident.  The lyrics to a song, also entitled Blessings, had been printed and put on a wall in her room.  I will never know exactly what it meant to her, but only what it meant to me as I listened to them.  We often pray for things that seem good, but are not what God desires most for us.  The beautiful words of the refrain say it all:  “’Cause what if your blessings come thru raindrops, What if your healing comes through tears, What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near, What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”

_______________________________________________________

We had a significant milestone date occur yesterday and several more in the next few weeks.  We’re grateful for those of you who have prayed for us; will you please continue to do so through the following dates?

January 21, 2015        10 months since God took Abigail to Heaven

January 27                  4th anniversary of her first auto accident* (2011)

February 10                 6 weeks of rehabilitation began at Mary Free Bed Hospital in Grand Rapids, MI (2011)

March 4, 2015            1st anniversary of Abigail’s second auto accident

March 21, 2015          1st anniversary of her home going

____________________________________________________

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD,

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways,

And my thoughts than your thoughts.     (Psalm 55:8)

HOW THE SOUL GROWS THROUGH LOSS

“Sorrow is better than laughter, For by a sad countenance the heart is made better.”  Ecclesiastes 7:3.

A little known verse and something we don’t often consider…what God does in and through our sorrow.  He widens our soul with compassion and empathy for others and He stretches out spaces in our hearts for joy.

At the end of A Grief Unveiled by Gregory Floyd, he addresses trusting God for their loss and the permanent changes made in their lives on earth.  I’ve substituted Abigail’s name for their son’s name in the following quote:  “This is what I began to pray:  ‘You are perfectly trustworthy and you know what you are doing.  You are sovereign and all-loving in (Abigail’s) death, and its impact on us.  You are using it to draw us more deeply to yourself.  We are being drawn.  You are the LORD of the void as well as the LORD of the fullness, LORD of the desolation as well as the LORD of the consolation.….You hold us in your hands.  You have held us in your hands the whole way through.  We are held and we are carried.  Is it possible that your attention could be so personal and so particular?….Yes, you are in charge.  You gave us enough faith that we were not devastated by our loss.  You knew the pain would be good for us….Your will was that (she) was here and your will is that (she) is there.  And your will is that we live with a void—sometimes a gentle ache like a child’s momentary cry in the middle of the night, sometimes a yawning chasm that nothing seems to fill.  Yes, you heal the brokenhearted.  But not in the way people think.  You heal us to the point of recognizing that we will never be whole until we are home with you.  It makes the images you give us for life so much more real—a battle, a journey, a narrow road.  Through it all, your love carries us and works it to the good.'”

It has been difficult to accept that we’ll never be the same again.  To quote Mr. Floyd again, “The school of suffering has taught us lessons that can be learned only in its hallways”.  We are different people and things will never be ‘back to normal’.  “Life will be full of peace and joy, love and sorrow, sin and reconciliation, but not ‘back to normal’.  We have a new norm for normal.  Reality has changed, the psychological and spiritual terrain has changed.  We are possessed of a terrible wisdom about life that we did not have before.  Life Jacob wrestling with the angel, part of us is knocked out of joint, and we see differently, feel differently, know differently.”  Some closing thoughts from Mr. Floyd include, “And so I live with the loss, I do not deny it.  It is there, sometimes felt and sometimes unfelt, sometimes raging and sometimes still.  I am alive not in spite of this loss but with this loss.  I can laugh, sing, dance, with a hole in my heart.  I can even praise.  This is the grace of healing….”.

Another book that has brought balm to my heart is Jerry Sittser’s A Grace Disguised:  How the Soul Grows Through Loss.  He speaks so eloquently of what sorrow works in our hearts and lives. He writes, “Recovery (from a great loss) is a misleading and empty expectation.  We recover from broken limbs, not amputations.  Catastrophic loss by definition precludes recovery.  It will transform us or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same.  There is no going back to the past, which is gone forever, only going ahead to the future, which has yet to be discovered.  Whatever that future is, it will, and must, include the pain of the past with it.  Sorrow never entirely leaves the soul of those who have suffered a severe loss.  If anything, it may keep going deeper.

But this depth of sorrow is the sign of a healthy soul, not a sick soul.  It does not have to be morbid and fatalistic.  It is not something to escape but something to embrace.  Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’  Sorrow indicates that people who have suffered loss are living authentically in a world of misery, and it expresses the emotional anguish of people who feel pain for themselves or for others. Sorrow is noble and gracious.  It enlarges the soul until the soul is capable of mourning and rejoicing simultaneously, of feeling the world’s pain and hoping for the world’s healing at the same time.  However painful, sorrow is good for the soul.

Deep sorrow often has the effect of stripping life of pretense, vanity, and waste.  It forces us to ask basic questions about what is most important in life.  Suffering can lead to a simpler life, less cluttered with nonessentials.  It is wonderfully clarifying.  That is why many people who suffer sudden and severe loss often become different people.  They spend more time with their children or spouses, express more attention and appreciation to their friends, show more concern for other wounded people, give more time to a worthy cause, or enjoy more of the ordinariness of life.” 

Please pray that our all-wise LORD will (continue to) work these things in our family’s lives as He molds us into different but better people through our sorrow.

_________________________________________________

A mother who experienced the death of two teens in a car accident last December recently posted this on her FB timeline.  I agree, and although I may cry when you ask me, I’m always glad when you do.

Photo

 

 

Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer

Our oldest son Jeremy gave Keith & Kristyn Getty’s CD entitled In Christ Alone to his baby sister Abigail on Christmas, 2009.  Two beautiful songs on that CD came to be very significant to me after her first accident in January, 2011.  I’ve chosen to name this blog site after one of them titled Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer based on 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, “So we do not lose heart…for this light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”  After the first accident, I prayed this for Abigail; after her second accident and death, it is my prayer for myself.

 

Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer

 

Jesus, draw me ever nearer

As I labor through the storm;

You have called me to this passage,

And I’ll follow, though I’m worn.

 

(Refrain)

May this journey bring a blessing;

May I rise on wings of faith;

And at the end of my heart’s testing,

With Your likeness let me wake.

 

Jesus guide me through the tempest

Keep my spirit staid and sure;

When the midnight meets the moring,

Let me love You even more.

 

Let the treasures of the trial

Form within me as I go –

And at the end of this long passage,

Let me leave them at Your throne.

 

Today marks 60 days since Abigail’s death.  Memories constantly flit through our minds.  It has been recommended that we journal or write a letter to her to help us process our grief.  I love to write so it isn’t a difficult task for me.

I’ve come to the conclusion that even though her brother Valiant is just short of 4 years younger, Abigail was the “baby” of our family.  She was the youngest sister and had the stereotypical temperament of the youngest child.  Fun loving, wonderful sense of humor, loved to play and win board games, loved trivia questions and silly jokes often laughing so hard while telling them that we could hardly understand what she was saying.  We are very conscious of the void that will never be filled on earth.  As Gregory Floyd writes in A Grief Unveiled, “…the void is there like a mathematical equation.  Subtract one from any number and there is always less.”

 

Mr. Floyd’s book is the most recent one that I’ve read and his story of the death of their 6-1/2 year old son and their own journey of grief afterward really spoke to my heart. He is Roman Catholic so I disagree with him on several points throughout the book, but it did not take away from the benefit I drew from it.  He articulates much better than I could the following truth.  “As I knelt on the ground the words of the psalmist came to mind, ‘I will lift my eyes to the hills.  From whence comes my help?  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 121:102).  And I began to see that when I look to the earth I am filled with pain that I cannot bear—the horror is too great.  But when I look to the hills, when I lift my gaze from earth to heaven, peace comes to my soul; a certain deep quiet comes over my mind.  When I lift my eyes from the place where (she) laid to the place where (she) lives, I begin to hope.  And my hope is this: that I shall see (her) again.  Does hope replace pain?  No.  Hope does not replace pain.  Hope embroiders pain and ultimately hope transcends pain.  But the hope that (we) share in the resurrection is far firmer than the ground we stand on today.”

 

We’ve learned that grief is not an option, but rather a journey that we must make.  We can delay it, but that would only prolong our grief for it must be made.  We must draw near to it in order to move beyond it.  It is a process that will take months and years.  It will soften, but never be totally gone.  Abigail’s death has altered our lives for the rest of our lives.  How grateful I am then, for the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Again, Mr. Floyd writes, “When I would think about living the rest of my life without (her), of never seeing (her) again, the thought was unbearable.  But when I would ask myself, ‘Can you make it through just today without (her)?  Can you make it from morning until evening? I would think, ‘Yes, I can.’  One day at a time, I could handle.  One day at a time was all there is grace for.  I had hope for tomorrow, but grace only for today.”

 

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  2 Corinthians 1:2-5.