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Posts Tagged ‘joy’

It’s not that I consider myself an expert in grief or joy- but since I’ve just survived (not celebrated) the 25th anniversary of the deaths of my three sons, I feel I have seen more than most how this plays out in my own life.

Grief and joy seem to be polar opposites. There are a lot of people who think that one cannot experience joy while experiencing grief….and also not experience grief while experiencing joy. I beg to differ.

In my life…I’ve experienced the deepest of grief in losing my three sons at the same time at the hand of their father – and then…only nine short months later….lost my mother. You could say, and I’d tend to agree, it was the worst year of my life.

But was it? Was it the worst YEAR of my life? By stating this – it would infer that my entire year were wrought with the immense grief and difficulties these two events brought about. But, that is not entirely true. Because during this same year, I got engaged, met my first nephew, spent time with family and friends…..and during those times…I was able to feel immense JOY…..but it was still in the “time” of my grief.

So….which is it? Was it the worst or the best? Well….it was both! And…sometimes the two collided!

I explain it like this. On the day I got engaged and the time afterwards….I felt such joy and happiness and wanted to share with everyone…including my children that were no longer here. I call that “where my two worlds collide”. It’s where what is happening in the now and what I want to happen…can’t…because they are no longer here. It is feeling the sadness and grief for what should have been but no longer can be….colliding with what is happening in this moment…and the joy it brings me…in the present.

I also call it a double-edged sword. And, I feel so many decisions and things in life are like this. I feel I could have missed out on the possibility of grief and joy co-existing in this moment. If I had chosen grief, I would have allowed myself to only feel the angst of missing my kids…the anger of them not being with me to celebrate this moment…the sadness of realizing life without them….and most…would probably say it was a validated feeling. And I don’t argue that…BUT…I would argue to say if I had chosen this side of the sword…I would have missed out on the joy of the moment….the love I was feeling….the possibility of life moving forward….of feeling a purpose for continuing on…for so much.

So…I chose joy. That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel the grief….not at all. What it meant though….is as I allowed the pendulum to swing back and forth….MY CHOICE….was to have it land on joy. I didn’t allow myself to get bogged down in the “what should have been”…..but I DID allow myself to feel it. Instead, I chose to feel it….and then KEEP MOVING FORWARD into the joyful feelings.

It seems hard and unlikely we are capable of making these choices. But to that I completely disagree. If you know me, have been around me for long or have heard me speak – you KNOW I believe in the power God gave us.

“We don’t always get to choose what happens to us…but we always have the power to choose how we react!” ~me

This is what I call the power within. I don’t tell people to not feel what they are feeling or going through…but I do tell them they have the power to choose what they wish to do about it. How they choose will determine so much. I truly believe in feeling your feelings in a way of working through it. Feel it – grieve – be frustrated – be angry – just don’t stay there. Unless you want to…and truly…who wants to stay there? It is hard and miserable.

The night my boys died I cried out “WHY NOT ME?” I wondered why it was not me instead of them. But then I chose to calm down and promised them I’d live the rest of my life trying to figure out what my purpose is. There must be a reason I am left here without them…and I promised to spend the rest of my life trying to figure it out. Because as long as I’m pursuing it…I’m living. I’m still breathing…they aren’t. Does that hurt? ABSOLUTELY it does. But it was my new reality.

My reality was to either choose to wallow in the grief…or to learn to find joy…and allow them to coexist. I chose the latter. And it is truly a choice. To keep moving. Sometimes I choose and then fall into the opposite of my choices…and so I have to choose again. I didn’t say it was easy….all I’m saying is it is possible.

The crazy thing is – in the past 25 years I’ve met more parents who have lost a child/children than I ever thought possible. I’ve realized the island I felt like I was on – is actually a continent because it is so large…. with citizens who never intended to travel there and now have a citizenship they never wanted to have.

But while on this continent, I’ve watched it’s citizens. I’ve seen the ones who have chosen grief over joy – and it makes me sad. They allow the pendulum to swing – but you can tell the choice is grief – because that is where they tend to land. I’ve also watched citizens choose joy. They allow their grief and joy to not just coexist – but they sprinkle each in healthy doses as they share with others to show them this island is not our only place of residence. The island of loss is just one of our dual-citizenships. It isn’t what defines us – but it is something we will not deny as being a part of us.

I’ve also seen some who think they’ve chosen joy over grief. They act as if the loss didn’t happen. If I don’t talk about it or acknowledge it – I can move forward and find joy. I’m afraid, however, the body knows. The unhealthy art of stuffing our feelings, not being real enough to allow our hearts to feel the tough stuff….isn’t truly joy. It isn’t really moving forward. It’s more like running away from something instead of moving towards something. This, too, makes me sad for others. As much as they think they are choosing joy….they are sometimes working so hard to NOT allow grief in…they are missing out on true joy.

All of this to say – I believe you have to allow both grief and joy to coexist in your life. But…I also believe you must make a choice on which one you will land on….which one you will lean into when the other gets too heavy….when the angst of grief is pulling you down and into a place that seems unhealthy and you can’t or don’t want to go on…that is when your choice of joy must happen. You MUST start to retrain your brain to go back towards the blessings….the now…the possibilities of life from this moment on.

Each day – we are one day closer to our loved ones. Each day – we have the ability to make progress. For me….it looked like purposes. Find yourself a purpose. It might only be for the next few moments, the next few hours, a day or so, or months…but you MUST find a purpose for why you are here.

My initial purpose – was to plan a celebration of my boys that was more about how they lived instead of how they died. It had to be safe enough for all the school-aged children to feel safe to be there and to feel what they needed to feel. Then, it was going to their school…so those kids could see that I was “okay”. Because I felt like if they could see that it was okay for me to keep going…they’d know it was okay for them to keep going as well. Then, it was to help take care of my terminally ill mother. To care for her, repair our broken relationship, to create memories I would need to carry me in my new grief when I lost her too. It was to take the burden from my father when mom was ready to talk about her final/funeral wishes “because unfortunately I knew what would be needed”. It was to put her mind at ease knowing her wishes would be taken care of and her love would be poured out. Then, it was helping to take care of my family in new loss. But – there was also joyful purposes. It was planning my wedding and my sister’s wedding. It was talking about creating a new life. My purposes kept changing – but I was always finding them.

Was it hard. You bet it was. In the midst of it all, I was also allowing myself the times needed to talk through my grief, my losses, my feelings about each event. I was being real with myself and those closest to me….so that I could work through it instead of sitting in the middle of it.

I didn’t do all of it right. I promise you that. But…I’ve made it 25 years. I’ve experienced a lot. I try to share now…not because I did it perfectly. But I did make it here – and learned a lot along the way. I share to help those who are new to the grief part. I share because I want to see them able to make the choice of joy and grief coexisting.

I also want to make my boys, and my mom proud. I want to make my children still on this earth proud. I want to help others, and believe that now, that is my purpose.

Much love ~c

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Why NOT me???

As this new year begins….and we are all toying with resolutions and wanting more and trying to do better….I really….just decided to try to focus on one word.

God gave me my word for the year….it’s JOY.

Why? Because I’ve come to realize that in the crazy world I’ve been living in this past year…I have been so bogged down in the day to day…mundane must.get.it.all.done mentality…that I hadn’t really been taking the time to enjoy living!

Even after all that God has brought me through…after all the trials and triumphs I’ve walked through….I had forgotten just what it’s all about.

Maybe that is why my word isn’t “happy”. Because I know God didn’t put us on this earth to be happy! But joy….TRUE JOY…..is something we can always have….even through sorrows….even through pain…we can find joy! “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess. 5:18

So joy is what I’m searching for this year…on a daily…almost moment by moment basis. But in searching…I’ve had to do some soul searching and ask myself why I wasn’t feeling joy……and that is where it got hard.

In answering this question…I’ve come to realize a couple things I need to work on.

1.) I need to make sure my own cup is overflowing before I give so much of myself.

For those of you that don’t understand quite what I mean by that…..it looks like this to me.

I have to be sure that I’ve done enough for myself before I do for others. I am all about doing for others and helping others out….but I also have learned that when I do it on “fumes”…..I get calloused….worn thin…..short with my family and those closest to me……and just plain not so nice to always be around! I have to be sure I’m doing my part for myself….and giving others my overflow….and not taking from myself or my family….

and 2.) I need more faith in God.

This one is H.A.R.D. for this girl to see.

Now…don’t get me wrong! I have a belief in God. I have trust in God.

But…..if I have to be completely honest ……(which dangit…I really think I should be!)…..I have so much more faith that God will do it for everyone else……and not so much me!!

OUCH!!! That hurt to admit! But it’s true. If any of you were to call me with anything you needed….wanted to step out in faith to try….ANYTHING….I would totally believe God will do it for you!! But….for me….I’m still not sure if it’s because I don’t feel worthy….(trust me….I’ve been with me for over 47 years now…and it hasn’t always been good….or even pretty good…)….or if I just don’t think after all that has gone wrong….there can be THAT much good in my life!

So…..in doing all of this I’ve really jumped into scripture and into trying to remedy this situation…..and then one weekend…my preacher preached on…..YOU GUESSED IT……FAITH!!

He talked about how Jesus is either completely amazed by our GREAT faith….or our LACK of faith. And we had to evaluate just where we thought we ranked on a scale of 1-10.

Again…in scoring myself….I’d have to give myself two scores. In faith for others…I’m like an 8 or a 9 even! But …then..when it comes to faith in my own life…..I’m on the 2 or 3 end of the scale.

Why so imbalanced?? I’m not really sure. I mean, a healthy dose of humility isn’t a bad thing…until it strangles you and you feel so unworthy that you don’t believe anything can happen for you and you just.quit.trying. I’ve been there. People..this is hard for me to admit…and it’s been really hard to be this transparent. In doing so…I’m calling myself out! I’m calling myself to action! And this….is going to require a great big faith in a great big God and it will involve Him…..being BIG for me!!!

And you know what……..I started this blog a couple weeks ago…and now…as I finish…I’m proud to say I’m getting better. I’m realizing I’m the one who has to take action…take massive action…in order for Him to achieve what He wants in and through me. So maybe….it hasn’t been my faith in HIM….as much as it’s been my faith in ME!! I’m getting better……

Because really……

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Praying for joy….and faith…for each of us! Step up…step out….and JUMP with me! ~c

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Allow me to share with you….the past 24 hours in my life.

I’ll start with yesterday….

To almost everybody….it was a 3 day weekend and Labor day was just a fun time and a great day to be off work.

To me….it was going to be the first high school football game for my sweet boy!! To say I was excited….would be the understatement of the world!!! I didn’t realize just how excited I was, really, until after the game was over though…..

After he went early….sis and I did a “craft” project together. She had bought a HS team shirt to wear to her brother’s game and we “blinged” it out! It was fun sitting at the table with her coming up with the design.

Then, we got to the game! He had his own little fan section of family and friends there to watch! The game was awesome! It was a close, well played game. Our boys played hard! MY BOY played hard! He honestly played harder than I’ve ever seen him play! He was punched….and the way he reacted…made me proud! He told the kid….to play it out on the field…he wasn’t going to fight him…but he would kick his ass on the field! Reminded me of his brother….the way he walked away…..wouldn’t fight…but did the right thing. To say I was proud….man…doesn’t even begin to tell you how I felt. I got to see him make tackles like I’ve never seen before…..and just watching him….realizing this is HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL!!! I just can’t put into words…or properly describe all of the emotions going on in my head and my heart!

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Just a few from last night! Can I just tell you as he sat at dinner next to me…after the game….and talked and talked about the game…what the coaches told him….tears were welling up in my eyes. Sitting there…just listening to him go on and on….I was loving every minute of it. I love being his mom. I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me…knowing God trusted me again with another son….with Bryce….with my rainbow. He is such a light in my world…and to the world around him. I see great things within him….and the coolest thing right now…is I believe he is starting to see the potential in himself. I am just blessed to be along for the ride!

Then, after my boys fell asleep…..my sweet girl…my night owl…..just wasn’t tired at all. On the way home from dinner we saw some pretty cool lightning that I could tell was pretty far away……and she commented how pretty it was. So, both of us in our jammies…went into the back yard…and got on the swing and just sat there talking and enjoying the light show God was providing. What was really cool…is that if we looked straight up….we saw the prettiest of bright, shiny stars…but then if we looked north…the lightning was just as bright and beautiful. We sat……we swang……we talked…..we laughed. It was a beautiful night and it was a beautiful time with my girl. Just sitting out there enjoying the quiet…the beauty….and each other. I am amazed that after four boys….God gave me A GIRL! I joke about it a lot….but really….I’m totally in love with that little cutie. She is growing in to such a lovely young lady…and I am so proud of her. She has a heart that is totally sold out to Jesus. She struggles with normal stuff….but it is so easy to bring her back down because she really is grounded in wanting to be HIS girl. I tell her she has so much that I didn’t have at her age. I probably had more maturity and responsibility…but she has such an innocence and a thirst for God and His plan for her life….it really just leaves me speechless some times. So…after a great day….I got to end it with my girl. My daughter. My love. What a great day.

Then, I went to bed knowing they would be out of school and I’d be off work another day. But it wasn’t just any day…..

You see, I woke this morning…after such a great day with my two wonderful kids…..to …… another birthday. Today is Cory’s 28th birthday. I woke…thinking of the day he was born. I tried…..oh I tried so hard….to try to figure out where he might be today…what kind of life he would be living…and let me tell you something…..MY BOY would be LIVING LIFE to its FULLEST! That is just who he was! He enjoyed everything he did! He had such gusto! Such a love for life!

Cory was my dreamer…my actor…my singer! He was my clown…my sing when you are down…..He was my constantly smiling….always loving….sweet baby boy. For the life of me…I can’t imagine him as a man. He never got to hit the time like Bryce is now…where his voice changed and his body changed…. I know…with his features…his eyes….his sharp jaw line…that he would have made a very handsome man! But…I can’t quite see it in my mind…I can’t imagine it….not at all….

I spent his birthday making great memories with B & B! We had a great day together!

I know Cory would love his brother and sister….and I know he would have been in the stands last night cheering his brother on! I also know he would have loved sitting on the swing with us last night looking at the stars too! But…you know what…as sad as my momma’s heart has been today….and as many tears that I’ve shed today…and so many other days…..

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my Cory….and Cody and Caleb too….WERE in those stands with me….and WERE sitting on the swing with us….and they ARE with me….every day! They will forever hold pieces of my momma heart that nobody else can have. They will continue to live in the way I live…in the lives of my children now…because they are a part of me….a part of US! And most importantly…..the ministry of their lives will forever be continued…..as long as I live….and as long as their story is shared.

All of my children…all five of them….are leaving a legacy that I am so proud of. They are leading and loving others…they are being disciples….now and always. To say I have a blessed life…is an understatement. I’m blessed…because I “get” to be the mom of five absolutely amazing kiddos. They all hold my heart….and forever will. I will spend the rest of my days…trying to live MY life..in a way that would make each of them proud to say…..yup….that’s MY mom!

Happy Birthday, sweet Cory. Thanks for all the smiles….the lessons…the laughs and songs! I miss you…more than I ever thought possible… But I’m so thankful for the promise of eternity with you! To hold you again…..makes me long for that time to come soon. But…until then..I’ll go on enjoying your brother and sister…and trying to live up to the mom I think you’d want me to be!

Forever in my heart…~momma

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Last night we had a fabulous family Valentine’s Day.  We spent the evening just enjoying each other.  We made an easy, family friendly dinner and as we sat around the dinner table we were talking and sharing about our day.   I asked my son to share one reason why he loved his sister…then I asked her the same about her brother.  Then they started asking us about what we lo about each of them.  We spent a long time sharing reasons why we loved each other and just affirming each other.  I have to tell you…it did this momma’s heart good to hear my children share such fond, and touching reasons why they love each other!  Especially since that is NOT how they act all the time (or even most of the time!).

But when we had gone a couple of times each and my son asked his dad to share another reason why he loved my daughter….SHE replied, “Because we have the exact same nose!”.  We all BUSTED out laughing.  I had a mouth full of food and almost choked and then laughed so hard I was almost in tears!  This is so funny to me because I remember when I was pregnant with her…..my husband and I were having a conversation about what she might look like and he specifically said, “I think she will be beautiful!  I just pray she doesn’t come out with my nose!!”.  We all just had a good old fashioned belly laugh!  It was so good to be sitting around the dinner table sharing such joy and laughter with my family….DEFINITELY very high up there on the best Valentines memory list!

It was also last night that out of nowhere, my son’s heart showed itself in a huge way.  I have to say that it totally caught me off guard.  We were all bantering and talking and I was standing at the stove preparing dinner.  We were all in the kitchen and he ….. out of nowhere…… said, “So mom….is February 22nd the worst day of the year for you?”.  By the time he finished his question…he was standing behind me with his arms wrapped around me.  I looked over at my husband, with tears in my eyes, and just softly answered, “yes.”.  He just continued to hold me and he said, “I thought so. I’m sorry.”.  He gave me another squeeze and went on about his evening.  I, however, took a little longer to put myself back into the “happy” compartment.  It is times like this that remind me that I don’t have to go through this alone…I have a others to go through this with. Bryce loves me and his brothers….and is getting old enough to share my sorrow with me…..and that is huge!

So….I am thankful today for a blessed and wonderful Valentine’s Day.  I am thankful that I got to see more glimpses into my children’s hearts.  I am thankful that deep down, they really understand what love and family mean.  I am thankful that their daddy, loves them…and me…with all his heart.  I am just blessed.

Today I thank God that as I prepare and go through this next week…leading up to “the worst day of the year” for me….as my son so eloquently put it….I thank Him for the constant reminders…… that I am so blessed to still be here.  I am still needed on this earth. I am still in search for the purpose He would have me fulfill…….and that love runs deep in my home.  I am thankful that as we shared what we loved about each other …… each person’s heart and how tender and sweet …. was one of the first things shared.  I thank God for growing each of us…in His time.

I seek your prayers….for as strong as He is, I am weak.  This is a difficult time.  Joy is still present.  But so are memories that hurt very deeply.  For the next few weeks I can share with you so much about where we were and conversations we were having 15 years ago…..  This can sometimes comfort me…but also torment me. 

I know my God still, and always will, sit on the throne!  I know He will guide my path, as He always has, and strengthen me in this time.  I know all of this… but the pain is still very real and present.  Sometimes it seems it would be easier to just hole up….stop reaching out…and not go on.  That is why I need, I crave, nights like last night!  More blessings…more silver linings….to keep me moving forward ….. in order to fulfill my purpose and get me closer to my eternal Valentine’s celebration…where all our hearts and souls can reunite and rejoice together….forever!

Share love, joy and laughter with those around you.  You may never know how much they may need it!

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