Monday, March 28, 2011

She was the best

Thursday just after midnight, Jesus came to take my Grammie home to be with Him forever. She had not been feeling well, and had been in the hospital for a week. They did a procedure to try to help her and basically her body rejected it. She went only a few days later. It was time. She was 91 years young. It was an amazing time though that evening, with all her kids and grandkids gathered around her; singing her favorite hymns, praying, sharing our favorite memories with her, and reciting Psalm 23, her favorite. It was beautiful. She mouthed along when she could, for as long as she could. The death I have experienced this past half and a year has been hard, but beautiful. But I watched as death took over Grammie's frail little body. I have said in an earlier post that though some thought death to be evil and senseless, I did not agree, but God is in control and allows death. While I do believe that, I do agree now that death is the ultimate evil to our physical bodies. I watched as it had its way with Grammie. It was not meant to be, but because of sin we will all die a physical death. The amazing part is that as Jesus followers, we will not die a spiritual death. Jesus came to take Grammie's hand, stood in the gap so that she never had to "see" death. He came and took her to Heaven. That's what Jesus did for us. He took on death, so that we didn't have to. But we HAVE to die physically in order to get to Eternity! And she was so looking forward to this. My cousin had described this scene to me the next day and it made perfect sense. Because you see Grammie had seen Jesus. Earlier in the day, she sat straight up in her bed, eyes closed. My aunt Mary asked her, what do you see? Jesus, she said. And the angels? Mary asked. They are behind Him, Grammie replied. Wow! I assumed maybe she saw a vision of Heaven, but I believe now, that she saw Jesus, He was coming for her. About 10 hours later He came to take her to be with her Savior! What a Grand entrance!

Grammie was the best. I don't even know where to start. She was there with us when we came out of the womb, as she helped my mom for 4 months straight when we were born. She was there when we were sick. We spent Tuesdays after school and piano lessons together. Enjoyed tomato soup with rice, and Nesquick cold cocoa, or tea anytime we wanted! We sat with her outside on her burnt red picnic table and cried when it was time to leave. She told us, there was a time to come, and a time to go. And we could come back next time. She loved each of us so much. Her kids and grandkids, and great grandkids. She loved each of us the same. We were her "sweeties" and her "buddy boys". My cousin Trisha said when she was little she thought her name was Trisha Alice Bovenkamp Sweetie. Isn't that precious!? I never felt condemned or judged, only loved ALWAYS. She was so full of grace everywhere she went. She didn't even have to say anything! She was with us when we told her we were pregnant at 10 weeks. She was so excited. She was with us at 20 weeks when we told her our baby would probably not survive. She just came and sat next to me and hugged me and told me she was so sorry. She was so faithful! She had a hard life filled with her share of pain and loss, and she did not waiver! God was always her strength, He was until the end. He was her best friend. She leaves an amazing legacy. Most of her family has trusted Jesus with their lives, because of the solid foundation that she laid. As we sat by her bed and prayed, I thanked the Lord for her beautiful feet that brought Good News wherever they went. She wiggled her toes, as my sister and I held her precious little feet for the last time. What new meaning that verse takes on for me now! I will share more later I'm sure, she made such an impact in my life, I am so grateful. I Love you Grammie!

She was the best...............

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Life, God and other things.........

I am learning a lot about myself, my heart, God, life and other things. They say that grief reveals a lot about who we are in our deepest heart. For me, this has been dealing with some ugly stuff. Real, honest, yet ugly. I say grief, and building a house reveals who i am in my core! As i think back last week painting, and it not turning out the way I wanted it to, I threw my brush at Brian and said, "YOU do it!" Well I didn't literally throw it, but you know what I mean. I was just frustrated! At the same time, I love it, because I want to work on those things. To be refined. When things are roses, we just don't always get down to the nitty gritty of who we truly are. We maybe wouldn't even see that part of us. So its sad, and ugly and good all at the same time. I have learned that I don't grieve perfectly. But also that no one does! This has brought me back to a time in my life when I had tried to be the "perfect" Christian. I was a leader of young girls, I thought I had to have it altogether. To show them what a good Christian looked like. ha! Oh man, the Lord used a series of events in my life to show me that is not what it is about, and I was knocked off my pedestal thank goodness. I realized during that time, that a Christian wasn't to live a perfect sinless life, but to accept the grace and love and forgiveness from Christ that He offers to us, because HE is perfect and sinless, and paid the price for my imperfection. All i am to do is accept that free gift, by confessing, accepting forgiveness and moving on. Wow - you think that being raised in the church I would have understood that concept, and yet I lived my life like i needed to be perfect. I read this morning in Galatians that "If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily." Whoa was that a wake up call for me when i read that back then. It was like I was smacked in the head. His death would have been for nothing, if I was required to be perfect. And I knew that was not the case. And here in grief I find myself trying to do it right. It was hard for me at Griefshare last week, when I realized that I had been sitting in my crap. Yes I felt all those things but I was just sitting there and wallowing. I read in Jesus Calling today, what Jesus Calling focuses on and that is trust and thankfulness. Trust is the channel through which his peace flows through us. Fear blocks His flow of Strength through us. Thankfulness lifts us above our circumstances. I think that to say that something is unfair, as I was feeling last week, really is telling God that He doesn't know what is right, that he made a mistake. My cousin texted me some truth which was good.......and true, but i really didn't want to hear it at that moment. I needed to repent of this. At first I felt fear that I messed up and sinned against God, but then I was reminded that He loves me and forgives me, and it is done. As far as the east is from the west. Gone. I don't need to be upset with myself, but just receive forgiveness and move on.

Some have said that death is senseless and not supposed to be. I think that death is just a part of life. Because of sin, we will all die. To say that death is evil, would say that God is not in control and as big as He is or that it somehow slipped by Him. I don't believe that at all. I do think however, that the enemy wants to mess with us when we are in a weakened state, and many times that weakened state can happen when we experience a death or any loss really. We talked about this a lot this weekend with my Young Life peeps. When we are in ministry or doing something that matters, and will make a difference eternally, Satan will do whatever he can to attack that. So we all shared different ways that we have felt that attack. I don't think Esther's death was the attack, but I feel like the fight I have been in since could be the attack. Satan would want to take me out, and make me doubt and wonder and question God and think that God is not fair, and he would want me to stay there. But the important thing is that i don't stay there! I can sit in the mud puddle for a bit, and we are all allowed to, but we cant stay there forever, or as they put it in Griefshare, you will be "stuck" in grief. And Satan would want me to be stuck. Because when I am stuck then His spirit is not flowing through me, I am not peaceful, and i don't see the power that Christ has, and will have nothing to offer others.

So this relates to my experience several years back, because I see that there have still been remnants if you will, of this mindset in not wanting to mess up. But I am learning through this process that, Monica, you have and you will mess up. But its not about me and my goodness, but its about the goodness of God. He will help me out of the pit. And I also can expect ups and downs. I will have good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks probably for a long while. I have been fearful thinking of April 3rd which was Esther's due date. I don't know why i feel anxious, like something awful is going to happen. I told that to the Lord this morning, and just need to take one day at a time, and not assume that anything is going to happen. His grace is sufficient for me day by day, and that day has not come yet. But he will be there for me on that day, as he has been EVERY other day.

I was also able to hang out with a new friend this weekend for the second time. The Lord brought us together several months back. Her and her husband also experienced the same exact situation with their daughter who had Turner's Syndrome, but passed away 3 weeks before Esther. It has been SUCH a blessing to be able to go through this process together. We know that it was not by accident, but with God nothing ever is. We are able to encourage each other and share our hearts, which are so similar, and know that we absolutely KNOW what the other is going through. Ours is an interesting situation, one that not everyone can understand. I have been so thankful for her and her wisdom and love and care and understanding. It has been hugely healing for me to spend time with her.

I love the sun, the birds chirping in the early morning hours and spring is coming! Praise the Lord.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The cloud

I feel like I am in a battle. Even though it is hard and exhausting, i am encouraged because I know who wins. God always wins. There really is no other alternative when we go through life and pain and grief. As believers, well anyone really, we have only two things we can do in respect to God; we can move toward Him or we can move away from Him. If we move toward Him, or even just look His way, we have hope. If we choose the other way, away from God, there is nothing. No peace, no hope for anything. Just struggling on our own, with no hope for this life, or eternity. Our hope lies in Jesus, and looking to Him for anything and everything. This has been a hard week or so, for me. I can't totally put into words where i am at but this is sort of what I feel. Streams in the Desert on March 14 said,

"Do not be afraid to enter the cloud descending on your life, for God is in it.

And the other side is radiant with His glory. "Do not be surprised at the painful trial

you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ." (1 Peter 4:12-13)

When you feel the most forsaken and lonely, God is near.

He is in the darkest cloud. Forge ahead into the darkness without flinching,

knowing that under the shelter of the cloud, God is waiting for you.

This has spoken to me this week, because I feel a heaviness, a sadness, a confusion, a fogginess that I haven't felt for several months. I was doing good, I really was, I felt clarity and peace and joy, and I thought I had gotten through the hardest part of grief. The initial intense pain. Now I don't feel that, i feel in a funk, I cry because I don't know how I feel. I am genuinely excited about our house and have been busy working on that, but as we get ready to move in, in a few weeks, it is also blaringly obvious the there is someone who should be with us, but is not. I feel like I am trying to be ok, to feel good, but trying feels hard. The littlest things that people ask me to do, feel huge and overwhelming, and they shouldn't be. It feels cruel to me, everyone having babies and being pregnant around me and I couldn't have my baby. And yet, i know God is NOT cruel. That is not who He is, not in His character. So needless to say I feel a darkness over me, but what has encouraged me even as I write this, is that God is in this. He is waiting for me, and wants to teach me things about himself through this. Not just getting to the other side and being ok. Its about the journey, not the destination. That is life! God has to be in this, otherwise we would just experience loss and suffering, but for what??? To just live a mediocre life after loss, and not experience life to the full? So what, if we lose something or someone we love, then thats that, and now we live with our suffering and damaged broken self forever?? There has to be more. God is more. He wants to give us himself, and yet so often we don't experience Him until we have lost. I am not open to Him the way I am when I have lost. God has something for each of us in our losses, whatever they are, or else I don't believe we would experience them! Because He is good. Are the things that happen in life good? Nope. But He is. I think of the song. Blessed Be The Name of The Lord. The is a part of the song that says,

He gives and takes away,

He gives and takes away,

My heart will choose to say,

Blessed Be Your Name.

Those are easy words to say, until something has been taken from us. Then we know what it means to CHOOSE to say Blessed Be Your Name. It is a choice. As i have said alot in this post, I feel............and I do feel, but I also choose Jesus. I choose to say Blessed Be Your Name, even though this sucks! Because He is my HOPE. My only hope.

Only a few people even ask me how I am anymore. And I understand. I have been doing good. I think people think that I am just back to normal. But I am not normal, I don't feel normal. It's weird because it is hard to describe how I feel right now. I am reading Jerry Sittser's book, A Grace Disguised. I feel like he puts so much of what I am feeling into words. He talks about our identity's and trying to find who we are after we experience a loss. We are never who we once were, but that doesn't mean that we can't have high expectations for our life after loss. Yes, if we have expectations that include our lost loved one, then we will surely be disappointed. But we can have high expectations for our future that are equally as good, but just different. The scenery of our life is different, but it can still be beautiful, if we change our focus. That is what I feel I am working through now. Accepting that what my dream was for having Esther as my daughter here on earth, is no longer. But even with our loss of Esther, God is still good, and has good in store for us, it will just be different than we expected. I know that with God, when one dream dies, another dream is brought forth, and one which we never imagined. That is who God is, and if I wait expectantly for Him, and Him alone, He will show up. And I know that what He has for us, is what He planned in advance. His great and precious promises...............

Thursday, March 10, 2011

We've made some headway on the house

Here is just a peak at what the house looks like at this point. It will look different tomorrow too, because we will be painting the accent walls. I am looking forward to that! It is looking more and more like a house everyday. :) I was very pleased with how the inside of the house, the ceilings and walls turned out. I was so nervous because I didn't know what it was going to look like! But it looks better than i could have imagined. The outside too! I love it.

My honey is so awesome. He works so hard and has done an amazing job on our house!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

As for God, HIS way is perfect...

As i opened up my devotional today, I had written this in big letters on March 10th last year, "As for God ---HIS WAY IS PERFECT!" Thank you God, I trust you!!! So confident, with exclamation points and all caps. I know this is true, and yet it doesn't mean that i am not confused and sad. In Griefshare we talk about the tangled web of emotions that comes with grief. All normal and natural things that we will feel as we grieve. On the first night, we did an exercise where we write the emotions we felt the strongest and then numbered them in order from 1 being the strongest, and so on. Last week, which has been about a month and a half since we started Griefshare, we looked at our list again and to see if any emotions had changed, or gone away, or just lessened in intensity. It was interesting to see on my list, that the sorrow and sadness had lessened, but the confusion and jealousy had increased. Those last two were at the bottom of my list, and now i feel that they are on the top. I know God is in control and has a plan, but I still feel those emotions, and it seems more often now. I hear of more people being pregnant and I can't help but wonder. I know God makes babies, and is in charge of every precious little life and how long they live. All our days are ordained by God and I know that. BUT, why could my precious little life, Esther, not live? It just seems that everywhere around me, people are pregnant and having healthy babies. And I feel confused at times, and jealous that it seems that everyone else gets their babies and I didn't get mine. To have here, and raise and love. I have felt so sad these past few days, because there is a longing in my heart that I didn't have before, because of Esther, and she is not here to love. One second I am confident in her purpose here and her length of life, and God's purpose for her, and the next second I am not. And I wonder and I long for her. I would be 8 months pregnant now, probably feeling miserable, but I would love it.

So I just have to get this all out. I know God knows where I am at, and can handle me. I am thankful that he blares in my face this truth and I believe it, and will probably have to repeat it to myself all day. As for God His WAY IS PERFECT. (Psalm 18:30) Although I don't understand His ways, He is perfect, and I know that He loves me and Brian and He has a plan for GOOD, and not for EVIL, plans to prosper and not to harm us, plans for a HOPE and a FUTURE. (Jeremiah 29:11) I know these things are true and I do have hope and am looking forward to the future, whatever is in store. But today I am sad, and I miss Esther. :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2 years

On Feb. 28, Brian and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary. Have I mentioned how thankful I am for him? He is amazing. I came home after a long day which ended with Young Life Club. He had beautiful flowers and the sweetest card for me. He would probably rather not spend money on flowers that die, but he knows I LOVE them and so he does it for me. He is so wonderful. It has been fun and a learning experience loving each other in the love language that speaks the loudest to each of us. Its easy to love others in our own love language, but it takes being intentional and often times working at it, to love in the language that speaks to the other person. My love language is words of affirmation. But i also LOVE flowers. I write Brian notes and cards, and he knows that is the way I speak. I don't do it so that he does it for me, but he has learned over these 2 years that is my language and how I feel most loved. He on the other hand could care less about cards, but i do it anyway. And I work hard to love him the way that he needs to be loved. Because I love him and respect him so much and I want him to know it! His love language is physical touch, and not sure what else. But he likes to have the house picked up, loves it when i make his lunches and make dinner. So not sure what language that is???? Acts of Service I guess!!

Sometimes I wonder how and why God made men and women sooooo different and yet meant for us to be together! But I realize that it is what grows us. To work at loving each other, putting the other's needs before our own, really being unselfish, communicating together (often times mis-communicating:). What other platform would the Lord use in our lives to refine us this much!!!?? Our relationship is not perfect by any means, however we have made the committment to always talk about an issue. Right then. To work it out and not stew about it or begin to let it take root in our hearts. So we do that.....we'll hash it out, do what we need to do, and then it is over. We also don't play games......none of this silent treatment crap......i soooo hate that, and yet in my humanness I do have that tendency at times! But the Lord has helped me in that area while striving to love Brian well and not play childish games with him. We are not children in that respect......(even though he would admit he is just a big kid, but in a good way!) Wow i wasn't planning on going on like this, but I guess I have just learned a lot in 2 short years.

So the flower story isnt over yet................... after about 15 minutes since getting home and plopping in the chair, he asks me to go into the bedroom and grab the rice bag for him. We love our rice bags in our home. And I love him and want to serve him :), so i go to get it, and there sits a dozen roses on our bed for me! He is so tricky. Apparently the first flowers were the decoy. But i must say they were beautiful! He totally surprised me. Have I mentioned how awesome he is?......................I am so blessed.