random thoughts

my life and thoughts about it

My Cup September 23, 2017

Filed under: Christianity,Life — dana @ 11:57 am

You know the common expression, “the hand that was dealt”? This is a similar concept, but more specific to our relationship with God and what He gifts to us. I apologize if you were hoping this was about coffee, because sadly (or very happily if you detest coffee as I do) this is not about coffee.

I find it interesting that I’m writing this today, on a good day, because the subject matter could be described as gloomy or discouraging and I am anything but those things today. Like I said, it’s a good day. 🙂 Recently, I’ve been going through my own version of a storm or just having a difficult time with some circumstances around me. It’s one of those situations that is definitely out of my control. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m writing this now, more toward the end of this flare up, and I believe I’ve found a place of peace and acceptance with it … although, that doesn’t necessarily mean I like it. But that’s the whole point of this subject matter. If I haven’t lost you already with my meanderings, I’ll get to a point now.

If you’re anything like me, maybe you find yourself pressing into God more than usual when these storms or circumstances arise. So that’s been the case, especially this past week or so. I was reading my Bible one morning and then BOOM, out of nowhere, God opened this verse to me in a different light than I’ve seen it before: Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11). Allow me to offer a little bit of background info or context which most are already familiar with, but I want to be thorough.

Jesus knew he would be crucified soon. He had already prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane for God to please let “this cup” pass from Him. In other words, if there was any other way to save mankind, Jesus was asking God to go that route instead, but in His perfect obedience, Jesus wanted God’s will to be done above what Jesus wanted for Himself. See Matthew 26:36-46. So here we are when the officials and soldiers came to arrest Jesus and Peter isn’t having it. He draws his sword and cuts off the ear of one of the high priest’s servants which warrants the response from Jesus, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Now that we’re all caught up, let me explain how this applied to me in the moment, in the midst of my own personal pain and agony. In that “aha” moment, I realized I needed to not be angry or bitter toward or about my circumstances. I needed to “put my sword away” and release any resentments I may have had regarding my situation. That was only the first part, which would seem like common sense since we’re called to walk in forgiveness and always have a pure heart. News flash, I’m still a work in progress so sometimes resentments and impurities slip into my heart, but I do try to eliminate these sins as soon as the Lord reveals them to me.

The second part of what Jesus said is what hit me like a ton of bricks. “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” People who know me know I love a good, thick milkshake or a nice, cold Dr. Pepper. Well let me tell ya – Jesus did not give me a delicious milkshake or a refreshing Dr. Pepper in my cup! How rude, right? What’s in my cup during this season is some kind of wheat grass, whey, kale, mixture of complete disgust and nastiness. That’s what Jesus put in my cup. Blech! I can almost imagine His mixture of emotions in giving me this cup, like any good parent who wants their children to eat healthy; you feel good for doing the right thing, yet you hate to see your child unhappy, and then you think “but they’ll be so much better off with the nutrients”, “why do they have to complain so much, it’s like 2 minutes of grossness?!”, etc.

My belief is that God allows these uncomfortable situations in order that we grow up into healthy examples of His unconditional love, acceptance, grace, and mercy. These are concepts I know best by experiencing them. Experience is a form of action. Of course, I prefer to be on the receiving end, but we’re called to give these godly qualities to those around us. That’s no fun when the last emotion that bubbles up is kindness when you’re drowning in pain. My point is that I began to see my storm, my circumstances, as the cup my Father has given me. It is a GIFT. He’s not trying to make me hurt and doesn’t want me to suffer, but He does want me to grow and mature and be an example in the earth today. He wants me to just drink the stinkin wheat grass, whey, kale mess! If He didn’t allow Jesus to throw the cup to the side and drink what He wanted, then I’m not off the hook either. The bottom line is that it has absolutely nothing to do with what I want and everything to do with what God wants. This is the gift He’s giving to me, so I’m going to darn well be grateful.

I’m just gonna throw some supporting Scriptures and favorite quotes at you:

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:17-18 . . . hint hint, we share in His sufferings so He can accomplish something in us.

Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Genesis 18:25

“God allows in His wisdom what He could prevent in His power.” – ‘Uncle Arthur’ Burt

“Love wasn’t put in your heart to stay. Love isn’t love til you give it away.” – I have no idea. It’s on a plaque that’s been in my mom’s house my whole life.

“Not my will, but Thine be done.” Matthew 26:39

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life —unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism  CUP, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes. – page 417, Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” – from the Serenity Prayer

“We can trust God’s heart when we don’t understand His ways.” – I say it all the time but don’t know where I heard it first.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11

And we know that in ALL THINGS (including my cup) God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

I could go on and on with these as I LOVE quotes and there are so many Scriptures to support this train of thought, but I digress. My husband brought up an interesting point when I was talking to him about this tiny nugget of revelation. He noted how we either deprive ourselves or others of the necessary process we need to go through in order to learn and grow by trying to rescue them or take the cup away that God has given. Peter was trying to rescue Jesus from that cup. I’m so incredibly grateful and indebted that Jesus accepted the cup that was given to Him. I’m learning to accept my cup with more grace and determination as He did. I just cannot express enough how comforted I am in this process to know God is giving me something that is ultimately for His glory!!

Side note: Can’t say I’d complain if God sent a milkshake right about now. 🙂

Advertisements
 

She Ain’t As Strong As She Looks, Folks! September 15, 2017

Filed under: Christianity,Life,relationships — dana @ 7:38 am

It seems as though I’ve given this picture to the world of a girl who goes through trials unscathed and weathers storms heroically. Maybe not, but I sure do get a lot of encouragement about how well I’ve handled life’s trials. I just wanted to set the record straight. I’m a blubbering idiot sometimes – seriously, ugly crying face complete with red cheeks, puffy eyes, snot all over the place, curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor. Yeah, that just happened yesterday, and a few months before that, and a few months before that.

Let’s use a metaphor (mostly to protect the identity of all persons involved). Let’s imagine you have my life for a second and have lived in a studio apartment for years. Two adults, one room. The bathroom has a door that closes where I can turn on the fan and escape to fall apart, but not for long until my husband comes to check on me and ends up holding me in my total meltdown mode, which is nice, but off the subject. The only other “room” is the closet, but it has the slatted doors where light and sound can easily enter or escape. So here we are living in a room where I can stretch my leg out the side of the bed and touch a kitchen table chair. No complaints – I have a happy little life with my wonderful husband and perfect puppy. But a house with rooms would be nice….

I still have a folded up blueprint of my dream house. It was in a Southern Living magazine when I was in high school 20+ years ago. I tore it out because I fell in love with it. It’s faded, tattered, and worn at this point, but I would still love to live in that house one day.  Maybe you can relate if you’ve ever seen a house you absolutely adore and would give anything to have. Maybe it has a pool and is on the beach. Maybe it has a game room above the garage for a pool table. Maybe it has a room your husband could call his office and another room you could make into a cute little guest room. (I don’t have very high expectations at this point). Maybe it has a big fenced in yard for the dog. Let’s just say it’s perfect. The design is perfect, the curb appeal is perfect, the layout is perfect. Everything about this house has you written all over it. It’s your dream house for crying out loud!

People try to tell you this house is unrealistic. They introduce you to other houses, deals, bargains, other options, but you just can’t get this one particular house out of your head – as nice as all the others may be. You know your vision and what is the perfect fit for you.

So let’s pretend this house exists and you have found it. Work needs to be done to obtain it though. Saving money, for instance. People actually need to move out and put in on the market. So you wait and you pray and you believe that God has finally given you your dream house. You save money, maybe for 10 years, and then it happens! The house is available and all the stars are aligned and God is so faithful to have heard your prayers and bless you with your heart’s desire. You’ve saved money. You’ve talked to the bank. You’ve been working with the realtor. You can taste it, almost touch it. THIS IS HAPPENING!!!!

No so fast. Someone else beat you to the punch and it’s gone, just like that. And that someone else is someone you know, who is dear to you, who knows the desire of your heart. All your working, and saving, and praying seem to be in vain. God has either allowed or ordained someone else to have your dream house. (Let’s avoid theological debates on this idea please).  The point is that you’re back to square one. Square one isn’t so bad, you’ve been there before. The hard part is the gut-wrenching pain that cuts the very core of your soul. I know that sounds dramatic, but I feel deeply. That’s the way I was created. There’s no words for that kind of pain, that kind of wound. Of course, there’s some anger, but as I’ve learned, anger is a secondary emotion. There’s something deeper underneath that drives anger. It could be fear, hurt, sadness, betrayal, vulnerability, etc. I’ve been left devastated. Completely, utterly devastated. This has not happened once, but twice in my life with the second time being more excruciating than the first.

I don’t blame the people (friends) who swooped in and bought the house. I don’t believe they’ll appreciate it as much as me, but that’s neither here nor there. Maybe God wants you to change your dream. Maybe He put that dream in your heart and wants you to hold on and keep having faith. See, I’m very easily happy for people who find their own dream house. I rejoice with them! It’s harder for me to find that same level of joy for friends who found MY dream house, but I’m trying. What adds salt in the wound is that everyone else is rejoicing for these friends, clueless of what’s going on with me, as I try so desperately to hide the pain through a strained smile.

Of course, I’m still grateful for what I do have. I’d rather live in one room happily ever after with my amazing husband and perfect puppy than to have the dream house and be miserable. I’m not saying other people are miserable in their dream houses, but if I had to choose between my current life and a miserable dream house, I’d choose my current life. Of course, I’m still praying and having faith that my dream house will be available again someday or there’s another one just like it out there somewhere.

The first time this happened, God gave me an even better dream house – one I didn’t even know existed. But only after I completely released my idea of what I wanted. So I’m not sure at this point as this second time around is still fresh. For now, I’m still hopeful that my own dream house is out there somewhere. Maybe it will look different when it comes. I guess I just wanted to share that even though I’m pretty open with my struggles in life, I don’t always face those challenges with grace and finesse. It’s messy and ugly. It’s down right torturous. But I have the peace that passes understanding and unyielding comfort of a God who loves me and wants what’s best for me, even when I don’t know what that is.

I hurt. I hurt badly and deeply. God is the only One who truly understands the depth of this pain and is the only One who can heal it and bring restoration. I’ve experienced that before and He’s a faithful, Sovereign God so I know He’ll do it again and again and again.

 

Waiting September 4, 2017

Filed under: Christianity,Life — dana @ 11:51 am

There are so many encouraging things people say, even principles that are true, about the magic that happens during the waiting season. I agree with all those truths. However, that’s not what this particular post is about. This is about what comes after the wait, the reward that comes because of the wait. There’s a point toward the end that wraps all the following loose ends into a neat little bow, so you don’t have to try to follow my train of thought in the meantime. 🙂

My mom has always called me a late bloomer. I suppose that’s true in the sense she means it. I’m kind of behind the crowd when it comes to meeting milestones. For instance, I got my AA degree right out of high school, but waited to go back to college for my Bachelor’s until I was 29. I finally completed my Master’s degree when I was 34. I don’t regret the wait to go to college though. I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career or occupation in my 20’s and didn’t want to waste the money on a degree I wouldn’t end up using. I spent a lot of my 20’s travelling which I’m so happy I did!

Another example of being a late bloomer is marriage. Being where I’m from in the sticks of North Carolina, I was borderline ancient when I got married at the age of 31. Most of my childhood friends married right out of high school or college. Some of them are even grandparents at this point and I don’t even have any children yet, but that’s another paragraph. There were men who passed through my life who I desperately begged and pleaded for God to turn their hearts and attention toward me. Thank God for unanswered prayers! It was difficult, to say the least, to watch other women and friends begin a walk with the Lord and then get married within a year. I felt like God had forgotten me. I was a faithful servant and determined to save myself for marriage (which by the grace of God I was able to do). It was lonely though – wanting God’s best for my life and seeing it happen to almost everyone but me. I had many conversations with God about other people’s marriages compared to what I wanted. If marriage was what I saw all around me, I’d rather be single the rest of my life. I prayed, somewhat inconsistently, for whoever my husband would be – that God would make him into the man he needs to be, drawing him closer to Himself to become a man of unwavering faith, etc. You’ll see soon how God had most certainly NOT forgotten me, but was actually answering my prayers all along.

I had this idea that I’d get married one day and would be able to be a stay at home wife or at least not have to work full time. I chuckle at that thought looking back now, especially since our society almost demands a two-income household just to keep the lights on, but I digress. I’ve never been the type of woman (God bless y’all!) who was career minded and enjoyed working. Work has always been an obligation for me, something I’ve had no choice about because I had to support myself. There’s been no one else to help pay my rent, car payment, insurance, cell phone bill, etc. So off to work I went, for years, not because I wanted to but because I had to. People who know me well, especially past coworkers, know that I’d much rather assume the role of moral support in the workplace than any other role. I like encouraging people and being a help to them to make their days go by easier because, Lord knows, I appreciated the same! So work was a burden I endured throughout those lonesome years and even the not lonesome years. I dreamed of a day I’d be free.

And then there’s the topic of babies. Even though I married at 31, I wanted to go to graduate school without having children at the same time. My mom started college when I started kindergarten and I have no idea how she did it. I remember interrupting her studies All THE TIME. So my husband and I chose to wait until I finished graduate school to start a family. No big deal. I’d be 34 with plenty of time to have children. 34, 35, 36, all these ages passed me by without getting pregnant. Finally, in the fall of 2015, we got pregnant – a lot later than I ever wanted to have children, but we were ecstatic and considered it God’s best timing. Unfortunately, 24 weeks into the pregnancy, our son was stillborn. The waiting continued. 37, 38, and now 39 and still no children. So I find myself waiting again. I can’t say I enjoy waiting, but I’ve become accustomed to it. Waiting and I are old, hmm, friends doesn’t seem the right word, but maybe acquaintances. Enter here all the truth from the cliches about the blessing in the waiting period.

My original plan for my life was to go to college right out of high school. After college, I would give my career a couple years to get on track. I would marry at the age of 24 and have 3 children before the age of 30. That was MY plan. God’s plan included introducing me to a lifetime of waiting. College didn’t happen until 29. Marriage happened at 31. More college. Career somewhat on track at 35. Babies wouldn’t happen until our first was born and died when I was 37. Babies still haven’t happened. But I believe they will. 🙂 College happened. Marriage happened. Career happened. Babies will happen.

You see, for me, the blessing in the all the waiting is the great reward I’ve received for waiting. College wasn’t really hard because I was mature enough to focus. God gave me the grace to study and retain knowledge because I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and was committed to making it happen. People believe what they want, but my marriage is pretty darn near perfect. I don’t say that to boast. I say that because God did it! Those prayers I prayed for my unknown husband contributed to keeping my husband alive while he was in the Marine Corps and dealing with a multitude of other issues I won’t get into. (Wife rule – never uncover your husband). Marriage has been nothing but blissful and easy. It’s been over 8 years now. We’ve lived in 3 states and have struggled financially because of the moves. We’ve lost a child. We are still in love and cannot ever spend too much time together. My husband is my best friend and the only person I can be around 24/7. We live in a 500 square foot studio apartment and have been here for the past 4 years or so. To say we get along is an understatement. God answered my prayer about not wanting my marriage to be what I’ve seen in others. I couldn’t have imagined this marriage. Recently, I left working “for the man” and opened my own private practice. It’s been maybe 6 weeks and I already cannot imagine ever going back to work at a traditional 40 hour per week grind. I only go to my office when I have clients. Otherwise, I work on my computer at home in my pj’s. Or I go to work with my husband who is also self-employed. I love working with him. So much so, if anyone wants to front us the collateral, we’d love to get in the business of flipping houses together. 🙂 Anyway, I’m free from the burden and obligation of work. What I do now is pretty much what I’ve always done – moral support. I’m a therapist. I encourage people. I listen to their struggles and empathize with them. I LOVE it!! It’s what God created me to be. I basically get paid to just be myself. I’m my own boss so I get all the days off I want and we get along great. hehehehe. I’m saying all this to say that I truly believe with all my heart that when God does bless us with children, I expect it to be a wonderful experience. I get told all the time how hard parenting is and I don’t doubt it, but I am expecting it to be blissful and easy, like my marriage, like my job now. The reasons I am so grateful and blissful in these situations is because I did without them; I had to WAIT for them. It’s like living in constant rain and overcast skies and then finally meeting the sunshine. When the sunshine of my husband and self-employment finally entered my life, I have appreciated every little thing. I anticipate a bottomless pit of gratitude when I finally have children. That’s my reward for the wait. I can appreciate what I have when I get it. I think others may miss out on that blessing, the reward of seeing life through the lens of gratitude, when they don’t have to wait.

 

Happy August 5, 2017

Filed under: Life,work — dana @ 12:32 pm

I don’t remember the last time I was this content, at peace, and just still. It’s funny to me that I use the word happy because I have different thoughts about it than most. I am happy. I think the feeling I’m trying to convey though is an underlying joy or satisfaction. To me, that’s so much deeper than happiness. I believe happy is one of those feelings that comes and goes; it’s fleeting. I’ll depart from the semantics though.

Another feeling I’ve been experiencing is freedom, which is new to me. Like most of you, I’ve had a traditional job for the past (almost) 20 years, with a few short intermissions. I tip my hat to ya! It’s not easy working and juggling family, church, cleaning, cars, bills, and whatever else life demands. For me, I know Jesus met me where I was. I was being obedient to what I needed to do. However, I’d be lying if I said I was never jealous of my friends whose husbands made enough money for them to not work or only work part time. Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side. 🙂  Recently, I opened my own private practice and am free from a traditional 9 to 5 job. No clocking in. No boss asking me to do anything. No deadlines to meet. Nothing I don’t put on my own plate. No going along with decisions I disagree with. No expectations I don’t give to myself. FREEDOM!

To me, time is freedom. I’ve taken a temporary pay cut until my practice picks up. Since hubs is self-employed also, we pretty much just live on faith that the money will show up when we need it. We are both hard workers, so I’m not concerned with it. Beyond that, we trust God to be our provider. He is our Father. He is the one who promised He would take care of us. We are doing our part and not expecting it to show up on the doorstep, but we trust He will bring us work. He will. Even if funds don’t come through work, they’ll be there when needed. He’s never failed us.

I’m struggling to share a fluid train of thought. All these things in my mind are interconnected so I’m trying to share them in the easiest way possible, but I apologize if it is a little scattered. I believe the peace and knowing I’m in the will of God is the birthplace of the contentment and lack of worry. It was a leap of faith for me to leave my job as we depend on my income along with my husband’s. However, I’m not scared about all the what if’s. Quite the opposite! While my practice is slowly but surely growing, I have time to do all the things that have been neglected. Time to really just sit down with my guitar and Bible and spend time with Jesus. Time to clean things that desperately need attention. Time to read a book. Time to write. Time to spend with family and friends. I’m not a slave to a clock and another man’s dime.

I enjoy what I do. I LOVE counseling. I can’t imagine not working. It’s encouraging and life-giving to be able to walk alongside someone in their struggle. I love watching God do His handiwork and healing in others’ lives. But I also love that I can now choose how much I work and when. I can even choose how much I get paid. Counseling is something I think I would continue to do, at least part time, when we have children, especially since I can decide the when, where, and how much.

Work or a career has never been a priority to me, but rather an obligation. I’ve never enjoyed having to work or even the 40 hour work schedule. I felt like my life was off-balance. Too much time was spent on something so low on my list of priorities. Now my time is spent on many things so much more important to me: my walk with Jesus, my husband, my own mental and physical health which has suffered as those were the first to go out the window when I didn’t have an option to not go to work. I’m taking care of myself in so many ways now and it feels so good!

Since time is freedom to me, there’s no price tag anyone can put on that. I love my life. Of course, there are always concerns, things to do, stuff that goes wrong, things I still want in life, but I’m content. I’m at peace. I’m satisfied with where I am. I’m happy.

 

the day my friends left May 27, 2017

Filed under: Christianity,family,Life,relationships — dana @ 12:11 pm

Technically, its days plural, but I didn’t like the sound of that in the title. If you don’t like the topic of grief, I suggest you just stop reading now. 🙂

Grief is a topic I am well-acquainted with, unfortunately. I am in no means attempting to assert that I am an expert at dealing with it, but I have had lots of practice. It’s really not a contest I’m trying to win – quite the opposite. There are many others out there who have had much more tragic experiences, so I gladly tip my hat to those who have waded their way through the tatters grief leaves in its wake.

This particular post is to speak specifically about the loss of 3 of my friends, but I always like to mention others who have gone before me to be with Jesus as their presence made a difference in my life, such as both my grandmothers, my dad, my stillborn son, an uncle, an aunt, my sweet niece, one of my best friend’s little girl, my pawpaw (the only grandfather I ever knew as both of mine died before I was born), family friends including our dear neighbor of many years, my friend’s dad (she’s one of the 3 mentioned), one of the most precious women I’ve ever met (my new step-father’s late wife), two of my friends mothers, and an older gentleman who I worked with and attended church with who would always banter with me in his dry sense of humor. I’ve known many other people who have gone on to be with the Lord and attended countless funerals, but these are the people closest in my circle of family, friends, and acquaintances whose absences were notable.

June 2, 1997 – 20 years ago

Keri is her name. She was the first person to leave my life in a way that left a gaping hole. Today is actually her birthday. She would’ve been 38 years old. She turned 18 just one week before her tragic car accident. She wasn’t present at her high school graduation. Her mother, father, and sister received her diploma. She was a scholar (yet gullible at times), a beautiful dancer, and a light in every room she entered. She lived by the mantra, “Smile, God loves you!”

I met Keri when I was 4 years old. My family moved to NC as my dad accepted an assignment to pastor a church there. Keri and her family attended the same church. Keri was 3, I was 4, her sister was 5, and my brother was 5 or 6 depending on the time of year. My mom has always said we were stepping stones in age. My brother and Keri’s sister played more together and left Keri and I to play together. Of course, we all played together many times. They lived across a field from us so we could ride our bikes back and forth to each other’s houses.

Even in high school, I remember trying to drag sleds across the field to Keri’s because she had a huge hill on her dirt road which was perfect for sledding. Keri saw me struggling to make it in the snow and came to meet me halfway to help carry the sleds. I saw her at her baccalaureate the night before her accident. I’m grateful for that night. Since Keri was a year younger, we always had our own group of friends from our own class/grade. She was my back-up friend and I was hers. If our friends were busy, we could count on each other to have someone to hang out with. I remember at the funeral home, I was standing next to her casket and an employee asked if I was family and said only family was allowed at that time. Keri’s mom said, “yes, she’s family – they’re like sisters.” That meant the world to me. Still does.

I love telling stories about Keri – fun times shared throughout our growing up years, her OCD issues, the songs she loved to sing in church and the other songs she liked to listen to in the car. This year marks 20 years without seeing her smile in person. I’ve lived longer without her than I ever had with her. Every once in a blue moon, I’ll see an old car and wonder if it’s her before my brain remembers it can’t be her. When I hear those songs she loved, I smile. Occasionally, a tear will escape (like today as I write this).

March 6, 2002 – 15 years ago

Baker attended Keri’s memorial service. He was an intern at the church where I attended youth and Keri was involved there as well. He was so supportive throughout that loss. He gave me a cd (well a tape back then, but I eventually found the cd) with a song about death. It quotes 1 Corinthians, “death where is your victory, where is your sting?” I remember going to lunch with him one day as I had a lot of family issues going on at the same time of Keri’s death. I told him secrets I wasn’t comfortable telling anyone else. He was a faithful friend who could be trusted with my fragile state. I only knew Baker a short time. I wish I had met him sooner and stayed in touch with him longer. I was living in Florida when a mutual friend called to tell me of his passing. Nonetheless, hearing that the world in which I’m living no longer had him in it was a blow. First Keri, now Baker, I still don’t understand why it’s the most amazing people that get called Home so soon. It somehow makes this world less attractive to me. Baker was 25 then and would be 40 now. Just trust me when I say, you would be a very blessed person to have just met Baker, much less to befriend him. I count myself blessed to have known him the short time I did. He was, in a sense, an angel to me. He was there when I needed an extra loving touch from God and then he was gone.

August 19, 2007 – 10 years ago

Dan’l knew both Keri and Baker as we all attended the same youth group. I was maybe 17 or so when I met Dan’l. I went with my brother to this youth group and this kid (complete stranger, mind you) came and sat on my lap, introducing himself as Dan’l. I remember asking him again what his name was – it took me a while to get it. He was only 3 years younger than me, but he seemed so much more like a kid because of the innocence he portrayed. We became quick buddies.  I remember at a youth trip out of town writing him a letter of encouragement. For some reason that stuck out in my memory. Like Baker, Dan’l and I lost touch as we grew and moved away from home, living our adult lives.

However, I don’t know why, but I tracked him down at some point and just called him out of the blue. I went to stay with my dad in Washington state because he was ill. Dan’l lived in Idaho at that time. We stayed on the phone for the longest time catching up and sharing what was going on in our lives. I remember in that first phone call after years he told me a story about a girl and mentioned he hadn’t told anyone about some of the things he shared. (I couldn’t remember what he said about the girl to save my life now). But it made my heart smile that he so quickly trusted me again after all those years. We agreed to meet in Boise which was halfway between where he lived and where my dad lived. It was a long drive for us both, but we made it work. I’m crazy enough to do stuff like that, but I never expect anyone else to do the same. It so blessed me that he drove hours just to meet me and hang out for half a day to turn around and drive hours back home. I recall that he kept calling me on the drive to meet me just to check on me, well that and he was probably bored. 🙂 We had a great day. We went out to eat and then to a Starbucks. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I got the best Dan’l hug of all time that day.

Dan’l didn’t just hug people. Dan’l embraced people in a way that makes you feel completely accepted and loved just the way you are. He had such a welcoming spirit that just enveloped you. It was that day I saw Dan’l in a different light than the kid I once knew. That was also the last time I saw Dan’l in person. From that day on, Dan’l and I either spoke on the phone or chatted online every day. We both kept trying to talk the other into coming to visit. I was in Florida and he was in Idaho. If I had only known, I would’ve moved Heaven and Earth to go visit him.

Dan’l died from a fatal motorcycle accident at the age of 26. He’d be turning 36 this summer. It was totally a God thing that I was informed as early as I was. No one really knew the extent of our daily conversations, so no one would know that I would want to know asap. A friend of Dan’l’s who I had never met before called me on a Sunday around lunch time. When she introduced herself as a friend of Dan’l’s, I knew something was wrong. I had a hunch something was wrong because I attempted to contact Dan’l the night before and never got a response, which was out of character for him. She said she saw that Dan’l and I seemed to be good friends on Myspace (and I have no idea how she found my number unless it was on there) and she told me about the accident. Then she said telling me was harder than she thought and she couldn’t call anyone else. I had the pleasure of meeting her and thanking her in person at the memorial service in Idaho. My brother gifted me flyer miles to make it out there. Dan’l’s family was gracious enough to let me stay with them. Otherwise, I couldn’t afford it. I remember asking Dan’l’s brother what Dan’l did the day of the accident. He told me what happened the night of the accident, for which I’m grateful, but I still don’t know what he did all day. I was so accustomed to sharing with him about my day and hearing all about his.

Dan’l’s death changed me in a way the others hadn’t. It’s one of those tragic unrequited love stories. We never actually had a conversation about our feelings for each other, so I was left with the loss of my best friend, the loss of the hope of what I wanted for the future, and the loss of having no answers – ever. I was left with no closure. God has really healed me and I feel like I have received answers, at least answers I choose to believe. Dan’l told me once he still had the letter I wrote him from our youth trip. I didn’t believe him until his family was going through his belongings. His mom handed me the note and asked if that was from me (it was signed dana). Sure enough, my handwriting and everything.

Dan’l was calm, steady, wise, and larger than life. He didn’t get ruffled easily, not never, but not easily. Whenever I’d discuss a problem with him, his advice was always, “you should pray about that.” He loved golf and always responded the same when I asked about it, “The first nine were glorious, the back nine I don’t want to talk about.”

I’ve since found closure, but I still miss my friend.

Today

I miss all my friends who are dancing in Glory now. I’m sometimes frustrated that they’re there and I’m here. It’s bitter sweet. I’m happy for them, sad for me. I picture my heart like a puzzle made from thousands of pieces, each shape unique and not like any other. It’s a puzzle with missing pieces in the shape of Keri, Baker, and Dan’l. The picture will be complete again one day. In the meantime, I’m so utterly grateful to have had these beautiful, amazing people in my life for the short time I did. If I had to do it over again, I’d go through the pain and heartache again just to spend the time with them. Each one of them is so worth it. I’d rather have the pain from the loss than to not have the joy of calling them friends. Now, most memories come with smiles instead of tears. When the tears do come, they are a simple reminder of the love and friendship I have.

 

from pity party to Thy will be done April 18, 2017

Filed under: Christianity,Life — dana @ 12:20 pm

Writing is cathartic for me. Although I do talk about these things with people, somehow I feel like writing more thoroughly exhausts the subject. I’m allowed the time to think of exactly how I want to outwardly express what is going on inside my head. Anyway . . .

I’ve been having a pity party to the point of completely falling apart yesterday. I’ve been inundated with seeing things around me that I don’t have, things I desire with all my heart. I don’t understand why things that seem to come so easily to others seem to be the biggest struggles of my life. I don’t have answers. I have heartache and pain, almost an emptiness. After all that, I condemn myself for feeling sorry for myself, for comparing my journey to those around me, for not being grateful for all the blessings I do have. I remind myself of those blessings, but the glaring hole of what is missing seems to overwhelm whatever gratitude I can muster. Quite frankly, I’m tired of fighting it, or at least yesterday I was.

Today, however, I’ve decided I need to find and aggressively press a reset button in my mind. That’s what I’m doing. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to practice what I preach. I need to live out the principles I so firmly believe. Either I’m going to trust Jesus or I’m not. I’m either going to lean on His understanding or my own. I’m going to choose His will or my own misery. I choose Him. I choose Jesus. I choose whatever it is He has for me and I’m letting go of these desires of what I want for my life. I believe His Word and His promises. He will take care of me. His thoughts are toward me. His end is good and not evil. My bottom line today is this: I choose to sacrifice things I want in this life so I can have every desire of my heart eternally. I don’t want a once a week relationship with Jesus. I don’t want a passive, “Hey, how are ya?” relationship with Jesus. I want ALL of Jesus ALL the time. I want to know Him better than I know myself. I want to know His thoughts, His desires, His will.

Right now, I don’t understand a whole lot about His will or what He’s doing in my life. I do know the purpose in His heart is to grow me up, to strengthen me, to make me into a bride without spot or blemish for Himself. So I choose to let go of the pity party, to stop looking at what I don’t have, and to look into His beautiful eyes so full of love and mercy. I’m asking Jesus to place in my heart the same desires that reside in His heart. He is the One who can pull me out of the pit I’ve dug for myself. Only He can save me from the mess that I am.

You know, come to think of it, Jesus never had a house with actual rooms & a yard or children either. He never had a dream job or all the finances readily available at His whim. He lived by faith for a place to rest His head and food to eat. He simply lived every day obeying the Father. I’m sure if I spent more time listening and less time complaining, I would find Him telling me what needs to be done in order to accomplish His will which includes taking care of my needs. This is how I see myself moving from a place of self-pity to a state of mind with the vision of Thy will be done, Lord.

 

This Week Last Year February 18, 2017

Filed under: Christianity,family,Life,married life — dana @ 4:35 pm

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

We went to an early morning ultrasound follow up appointment with a specialist my OBGYN referred us to the week before. I was 24 weeks pregnant and somehow losing amniotic fluid. I was compliant with drinking the 100 oz. of water daily my OB recommended the week before. They just didn’t know what was going on. The extra tests run by the specialist the week before weren’t much help. She mentioned terminating the pregnancy the week before and we were totally caught off guard. That’s never an option for us. Never. We tried telling her, but she kept offering after reading the test results, which might as well have been Greek, as all the numbers and information made no sense to us. Anyway, it was a non-issue after they couldn’t find the heartbeat. First it was the girl who performed the ultrasound who told us she couldn’t find it. She went to get the doctor. I asked Will if he heard what she said because he was doing something on his phone at the time. I reiterated that she said there is no heartbeat. He said okay. Then the specialist came in and said “I’m sorry.” She told us we didn’t have to check out or anything and she would inform our OB. We were in shock.

On the way out of the hospital (that’s where both my OB and the specialist are located), Will called our pastor to inform him. He asked us if we wanted to come over. We agreed, but told him we wanted to go to Bible College as planned. So after class, we went to my pastor’s to sit down with him and his wife. Both had suffered the loss of a miscarriage in the past. It was helpful and encouraging to have their support and wisdom. They asked if we wanted to go to lunch with them, but we declined to continue taking care of everything.

We contacted the OB as we hadn’t heard back from her office yet. They had an open appointment if we could come at the moment, so off we went. They preformed another ultrasound for me and confirmed the silence. It wasn’t until we began discussing scheduling the date for the induced delivery that I started crying (at least at that office, I had cried already during the day). They left me alone with Will for a few minutes to cry and gather my composure. We agreed on Thursday, even though it wouldn’t be with my regular OB. It just seemed like the next day was too soon and Friday was too far.

As we were on our way home, I called my supervisor to let her know I wouldn’t be in the office at least the next 2 days. I really began crying when I had to say the words out loud to her, “we lost the baby.” She was so compassionate and understanding and told me to not even think about work. The OB’s office called me and gave some reason I can’t remember, but Thursday wasn’t going to work so they scheduled me for Friday. The nurse felt more comfortable with it being on Friday anyway (and I did too, actually) as I would have my regular OB completing the delivery. So I texted my supervisor again, letting her know I won’t be in the office on Thursday and delivery would be Friday. The same response came, “don’t worry about work right now”. I also told her she could tell the team. I didn’t want it to be weird going back to work and everyone treating me as if I were pregnant and I wasn’t. So she informed everyone for me, which was nice.

Anyway, we went to my mom’s house next. We asked her to sit down at the same table where we told her she would be a grandmother. I talked and told her the baby has no heartbeat. She shook her head in disbelief and shared tears of grief and compassion. Her biggest hurt to this day is that she can’t heal the pain of her baby… me.

I forget what we ate, but I remember we ate something somewhere for dinner. We contacted Will’s parents and they were at his brother’s house, so that was our last stop of the day. We of course had gone home at some points during the day, but I don’t remember when. I just remember all the places we went. Anyway, we went to his brother’s and they were making dinner. We asked them to send their son upstairs so we could have a grown up conversation. They could all tell by the looks on our faces that something was serious. We sat down at the table and Will began to talk. That’s when he broke down and choked on the words. As he finished, we were met with more shared tears of grief and compassion.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Will was scheduled to teach at Bible College this day. He felt like he needed to follow through, so we went to Bible College. Will taught. It was amazing. People didn’t know what had happened yet because we asked no one to share it. We wanted time to grieve alone without the rest of the world offering condolences yet. Of course, word got around to a couple people. But I remember a couple people asking if I just took the day off work because I’m usually not available to go to morning classes. I just said yes and I had a few days off that week.

At some point that day, I texted a few of my closest and dearest friends in a group text to inform them. I also posted on facebook, “Just a little life lesson/nugget of wisdom: You can always trust God’s heart when you don’t understand His ways. Everything He does is from a loving, merciful, just, and right heart. Jesus is so precious.” (I had to look that up). Family who I informed in a private group, friends who knew, and co-workers who knew at this point made sweet comments of how they love us and were praying for us.

I remember my friend Kristen texting me, asking me what was going on because she knew something was up, but didn’t know what. I actually had planned on contacting her that day because I know she understands my path from a place of walking through it herself. I just hadn’t gotten to it before she texted me. So, I told her what happened and she’s so compassionate (I know I’ve used that word several times already, but it’s the best I can come up with to describe the response I felt). The funny thing she couldn’t believe was I was actually getting a pedicure at the time she texted me. Haha – she was in complete disbelief that that’s what I was doing. My thought was that I was going to be in the hospital with who knows how many people seeing my feet and they were in bad shape – in much need of attention. I wasn’t working, so seemed appropriate to me at the time. Plus, I was enjoying the alone time.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

I don’t remember. The only thing I recall is being anxious and nervous about the delivery. Would everything go smoothly? I knew the baby wouldn’t be harmed. I was secretly hoping maybe his heartbeat would be there. Would it hurt? I just had a lot going through my mind. I have no idea what we did that day though. I do know Will was with me the entire week. He’s self-employed, so he gave himself the time off. 🙂

Friday, February 19, 2016

We arrived early at the hospital. I checked in and got settled while Will parked the car in the parking garage. I don’t recall either of my nurse’s names. The first one though had a thick accent and I have no idea where she was from. She was nice, but difficult to understand. I felt bad for having her repeat everything. I had to change into the gown and complete tons of paperwork. We had them do one last ultrasound to quadruple check there was no heartbeat. Still none. Y’all probably don’t want the details, but basically they had to dilate me which involved a pill that I didn’t take orally. I had an IV and a monitor around my waist to measure contractions.

They kept offering a chaplain to come see me or a grief counselor or both. We kept declining. They kept offering. We kept declining. Will and I were in perfect peace. All the anxiety I had from the previous day was gone. It was like we were in a cocoon of grace. Plus, we have a pastor who is there for us and walks with us through the ups and downs of life. Will is an angel too. He was so completely attentive, except for once, but that’s in another paragraph…

Our visitors at the hospital (not all at once, but throughout the day) included my mom and brother, Will’s sister, and his parents and grandfather who happened to be in town. He’s been a missionary all his life, so I was grateful he came in the room and prayed with us. At shift change, I was so grateful for my next nurse. She was such a sweetheart and so attentive. The other nurse was nice, but this sweet girl was just amazing. She informed me of the pain meds I would probably want. I felt okay at the moment and was trying to put off taking the pain meds, for no other reason than I have a tendency to be stubborn and want to prove a point that I can deal with pain. Eventually, I did ask for the pain meds because I knew I really didn’t want to feel the pain. I also had an epidural. That was one of my biggest concerns as I have scoliosis which looks like a corkscrew and I was paranoid about being paralyzed by it. It took the guy a minute and he had to do it a bit higher than usual, but it worked out fine.

So at one point, when the pain meds had kicked in and I was incredibly drowsy, I recall my mom, brother, and sister-in-law discussing where they wanted to go eat dinner before church and they couldn’t decide. I was so frustrated. I wanted everyone to leave. The meds made me super irritable and on edge. I kept looking at Will trying to get his attention telepathically, but he was involved with a friend of his who needed help with car parts. I love my husband. He’s such an amazing person, helping his friend figure out his car trouble while we’re delivering a stillborn. It’s bittersweet though, because I wanted him to look at me so I could give him the evil-eye to ask people to leave. He’s better at that than me. I’m not sure if it’s my dad’s unassuming personality trait or the Southern hospitality I get from my mother, but I can’t imagine ever asking someone to leave, unless of course they’re doing something horrible – something much worse than just getting on my nerves. Will eventually finished up the phone call and did ask everyone to let me rest.

Poor thing. I remember biting his head off because when I changed into the gown in the morning, I didn’t consider that I’d have an IV and all these contraptions attached to me and I left my bra on because I knew we’d have visitors. So, he was trying to help me get it off while I’m doped up and irritable. I couldn’t speak as quickly as my brain was working or maybe my brain wasn’t functioning as quickly as I thought it was. I was trying to give him instruction on what I wanted him to do and he was doing what he thought was the best way to maneuver all the lines and cords. I don’t remember what I said, but it wasn’t in a very nice tone at all. He was quiet and patient with me though. He’s a saint, I tell ya!

My OB had come in to check on me. It was almost time. I remember us laughing as she said, “I just have to run and do a C-section real quick and I’ll be back” like she was going to order lunch or make a phone call. Maybe you had to be there, but we absolutely love her. But she didn’t make it back in time and the sweet nurse and charge nurse were actually the ones in the room when I delivered. I already wrote the other blog about what happened with holding him, etc.

They did give us a box with pictures and keepsakes which was sweet. We had already discussed names. We of course had names picked out for the baby, whether it be a boy or girl (Isaac Benjamin or Calah Rebecca and as a backup boy name in case there’s another one – Johannon Jude), but we decided we want to save those names for babies we actually have the opportunity of raising. That may sound horrible, but it is what it is. So over the last 2-3 days we had been discussing names we wanted to use instead. Will said I could use a girl name I love, which he vetoed for a daughter we raise, which is Jaymes-Anne. I’ve always wanted a boy name (I know Dana can go both ways) and Anne is after my beloved friend, Anne of Green Gables. So that would be the name if it was a girl. We chose Judah Gabriel if it was a boy. I’ve always wanted a son named Gabriel and to call him Gabe, but you can’t call a kid Gabe Bridges without him being picked on at school. Just say it out loud. So Judah Gabriel it was – or so we thought. My mom returned to the hospital after church. We asked what the Word was on and she told us, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes” (Genesis 49:10). I exclaimed to Will, “what about Shiloh? Judah Shiloh? He agreed. It was perfect and perfectly fitting.

They asked if I wanted the baby to stay in the room with us. We declined. See previous post for more info on why. My brother came back to the hospital too and wanted to hold Judah, so of course they accommodated him, which I’m grateful for. They asked if I wanted to stay in the labor and delivery ward or be moved to med/surg. I chose to be moved. When babies are born, they play a sweet lullaby song over the intercom. You can hear happy family members in the halls. Every once in a while, a baby cries. Yeah, I wanted to be moved.

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

I was home from the hospital by lunchtime. We missed a wedding we were planning on going to, but they graciously forgave our absence. I slept. I cried. Slept and cried. Pretty much sums up that day. I recall gathering the handful of baby things we had already, mostly gifts for the baby from our moms at Christmas. I put them in a paper bag and asked Will to give them to my mom for safe-keeping, but I didn’t want them in the house to remind me. The last thing I needed was reminders.

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

We announced our loss to our church family. We posted the news on facebook.

As the week went on . . .
We (Will) began taking care of arrangements. He went to the funeral home to meet with them about cremation. I found a little baby urn I liked online and ordered it.
I got my hair cut Monday or Tuesday which was a nice distraction from people commenting on the loss when I went back to work. My schedule at the time was working four, 10 hour shifts Wed-Sat. I returned to work that Wednesday. Will went back to work so I didn’t want to sit at home by myself all day. I think I made it through half my shift and came home. I didn’t go in Thursday. Friday and Saturday, I think I may have made it through staying the whole day, but only due to having offices and bathrooms to hide and cry in.

And now one year later,

I’m still at peace. I still give all glory to God and am grateful for the time I had with little Judah growing in my belly. I know he’s safe and happy. I’m actually somewhat jealous of where he is. I know I’ll see him again. My grief has shifted from grieving the specific loss of my baby to the possibility of having no children. But Will is a great encouragement and reminder to keep the faith, believe God is a God of miracles and promises. We both still trust we will have children. We know they are a blessing and inheritance from the Lord. I know the things I’ve had to wait for the longest are the things I appreciate the most, like Will. I believe God will give me a little Isaac in His perfect timing the way He did for Abraham and Sarah. Isaac is representative of the promise of God. I’m still believing to see the fulfillment of that promise come forth in my life.