Tag Archives: sorrow

Lord, help me get through this

Today is kind of a big day for me.

Nope, it’s not my birthday. Not my wedding anniversary either.

One year ago today I mailed my capstone and finished grad school.

Yeah, so what? (you’re probably thinking) Lots of people finish graduate school.

And you’re right. But this anniversary is really not so much about finishing grad school or even finishing my capstone project and handing it over to the FedEx guy. It’s really about what happened when I walked out of the FedEx office and climbed into my husband’s truck. When I finally gave in to the tears I’d been holding back for weeks. The ugly, dripping, snotty, wrecked sobs. When I let go and let myself feel the weight of the previous three months — the hardest months I’d experienced in years.

Do you ever have a week, a month, or maybe even a year when you start to think, “Really God? What else could go wrong? What else could possibly come my way? Why is all of this happening to me?” And then finally, “God, I really can’t take one more thing. I just can’t.”

That was how things were for me last May. As already mentioned, I was in the throws of finishing up grad-school. I was already worn down and burnt-out from 3.5 years of going to school part time while also working and caring for a young family. And this final push was to be the most challenging as I worked to create an 86 page integrated marketing plan for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — in 9 weeks. Then, just as I was starting on my project, my husband came home early one afternoon. He had lost his job.

We were shell-shocked. He’d been employed with the organization for 3 years and just received a raise three months earlier. We never saw this coming. But I knew it was no time to get sucked into worry and fear. So I steeled my shoulders, took a step forward and said “we will get through this.” And I prayed, “God, I trust you. Please help us get through this.”

The following week my husband started feeling sick. He went to bed and woke up the next morning and half of his face was paralyzed. The doctor diagnosed it as Bell’s Palsy. While treatable, the doctor said it could be months before the paralysis was fully healed. Treatable or not, when the face you wake up to every morning — the face of the man you love — becomes paralyzed, it’s freakin’ scary! But, once again, I thought, “I can’t show worry or fear. I need to be strong and help him get through this.” So I steeled by shoulders, took a step forward and said “we will get through this.” And I prayed, “God, I don’t understand why this is happening. But I still trust you. Please help us get through this!”

A few weeks later I was driving to pick up my kids from school and I got in a horrible car accident. My car was totaled. Miraculously, both the other driver and I walked away uninjured. I was very shaken up by the whole thing because I knew it could have been so much worse. I knew that if my kids had been in the car with me, it probably wouldn’t have ended with everyone walking away. But, I couldn’t go there. I couldn’t dwell on that. Instead, I steeled my shoulders, took a shaky step forward and said, “I’ll get through this.” And then I prayed, “God, really? How much more? I trust you, I do, but really, how much more can one person take?”

Then a few days later I noticed there was something wrong with my beloved cat of 14 years. She couldn’t walk straight or stand-up to eat. I took her to the vet and he said she probably didn’t have long, but he didn’t think she was in any pain. I watched her deteriorate over the next three days, while I struggled between making the decision to euthanize or to let her go on her own. Finally, she went, but it was not a peaceful death. It was painful and ugly and I cried for her and for me. Still, I knew I couldn’t give in to the grief. I had to power through; finish my project, show up for work, get my kids from here to there. So I steeled my shoulders, placed one foot in front of the other and said, “I’ll have to get through this.” And then I prayed, “No more, God! I just can’t take any more. Please, show me your plan. I’m finding it hard to keep trusting. To keep going. Please make it all stop.”

For the next five days, with head down and placing one foot in front of the other, I worked almost around the clock to finish my capstone. I finally finished everything the morning the project was due. I spent several hours proof reading and making edits and then raced out the door to the copy place. I knew I had to get it printed, bound and dropped off with FedEx before 6 p.m. or it would be counted late. Of course the printers at the copy place didn’t want to work. Then, the binding was off. I steeled my shoulders as I stood at the printing counter, watching the minutes on the clock tick by, waiting for them to resolve the issues. Finally, it was done. I ran out the door, one foot in front of the other, jumped in my husband’s truck and we raced to FedEx. Just as I was filling out the shipment slip, the driver came in for the final run of the night. I had made it just in time.

So, my friends, I’m sure you understand how it came to be that by the time I walked out that door and into that pick-up truck, I was done. I could not steel my shoulders any longer. I couldn’t keep going. And, honestly? It felt good to admit it to myself and just let the stress, sorrow and worry all come rushing out, flooding me until I felt like the pile of wet Kleenex accumulating at my feet. And that’s how I came to God — a soggy, crumpled mess — and said, “thank you; thank you for getting me here, on the other side.”

I came to God a soggy, crumpled mess and said thank you.

After a few days of catching up on sleep, clarity started to return and I saw just how much He had done to get me through it.

A few days later my husband was offered a job. A job he loves, and where he is much happier. And I realized what a gift those two and a half months of unemployment had been. He was able to spend time volunteering at our kids’ school. He took care of dinners and housework so I could focus on my capstone. He was able to rest and heal from his illness. And by the time he started that new job, the paralysis was gone.

Not only did I walk away unharmed from the car accident, but the woman who had caused the accident stayed with me until the police arrived, told them the truth and gave me her insurance information. Her insurance company gave me absolutely no hassle and cut me a check for more than I think my car was even worth. Certainly enough to put a down-payment on a new car.

While I still mourned the loss of my sweet girl, I realized how fortunate I was that she chose home to die, as so many pets escape to a hidden place to die alone. I was with her in her final days, and she went when she was ready, so I didn’t have to make the decision to end her life.

Oh, and my capstone? I got an A. And a shiny piece of paper that says I have a Master’s of Science in Integrated Marketing and Communication.

But the view is always clearest in the rear-view mirror, isn’t it?

In the months following I watched dear friends go through hardships and grieve losses that no one should ever have to experience. Things ten times worse than what I experienced last year. And that, of course, put my rough patch into perspective. But the thing is, in most cases they did the same thing. They woke up each morning, steeling their shoulders, putting one foot in front of the other and praying to get through it.  Because sometimes…that’s all you can do.

Steel your shoulders so the pain doesn’t knock you over.

Put one foot in front of the other so the sorrow doesn’t consume you.

Pray to God for healing or help or strength, even when you don’t understand any of it. Even when you are mad at Him for letting it all happen.

Because, He will get you through it. One day at a time, He will lead you through whatever hardship you are facing. Whatever loss you are mourning. It may only be once you come before Him a wet, crumpled up mess, sobbing at His feet. But He will pick you up and brush you off and stand you up.

And one day, I believe in my heart, one day, you will be able to look back and celebrate that time in your life because you will finally see where He brought healing and mercy. The moments He loved on you and strengthened you. The days he gently steeled those shoulders because you didn’t know how, and moved your feet forward because you were too exhausted.

You will look back and see He heard your prayers. He led you through the storm.

Guest post: Hope and the Messiness of Spring’s Thaw

Kim Gunderson is one of those people who leaves a lasting imprint on your heart, even if you only just met her. That’s how it was for me after meeting Kim at the She Speaks conference last July. We sat together at one of the meals and talked for a bit, and I just knew from those few moments she was someone who had been anointed by God to encourage moms and dads and love on others who were hurting and needed hope. Her writing is honest and beautiful, and often brings me to tears. I’m so honored to be able to share this guest post from Kim.

 

Have you ever wondered if God has a sense of humor? Last month, Jelise reached out to ask if I’d like to write a guest post for her blog. Id love to! I quickly responded. After chatting, I decided to write about the one thing I believe many need to hear: hope. Hope that there is more to life than what we see. Hope that God is real and he really does mean all that his Word says. Hope that pain and sorrow don’t last forever. Hope that joy really does come in the morning.

As quickly as I settled on the topic, I tumbled headlong into the darkest pit I’ve experienced in years. A pit so deep, I wondered if I’d ever see light again. The feeling of hopelessness stormed my heart with the fierceness of a midwest thunderstorm. Funny how God allows that to happen – a return to hopelessness just as I need to write about hope.

The month of March is pretty significant for my family. Not only is it my birthday month, but nestled right in the beginning is the anniversary of my youngest daughter’s death.

Yes, I’m one of those moms, a mom who lost a child living everyone’s worst nightmare. The kind you’ve heard about, aren’t sure how to react once you meet, and who often surprise people into silence when asked, how many kids do you have?  After all, how do you respond when someone shares, two by choice, two by birth and the youngest of those two is in heaven?

My youngest daughter, Emma, was born into a blended family 15 years ago. She arrived two weeks early and kept me on my toes every moment after. For 5 years, Emma brought pure joy as her giggles filled our home and her squeezes made any day better. She belonged to all five of us and truly completed our family.

Five years, one month, and fifteen days after Emma was born, she breathed her last, right on the second day of March. A normal day became a defining day, forever altering my life. A fire destroyed my home and snatched my sweet girl away. (You can read more about that story here  or here).

To say I fell headlong into a pit that day would be like saying Chicago weather is unpredictable. Obviously.

What wasn’t so obvious was how I was going to survive. Yes, I knew Jesus. Yes, I believed in him, in his Word. I mean, I worked for him (translation: I work at a church). But this? Living life on earth without my sweet girl? Living the tenuous and tender dance of joy and sorrow, love and grief, loss and hope? I didn’t want to simply survive this season of my life. I was determined to not allow it to define me. Or control me. Or keep me trapped in sorrow as my soul yearned to live.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you see threads of your own story interwoven among mine. Tears well up, blurring the screen because you know. You know exactly what I’m talking about – that pit of darkness where hope seems absent. You. just. know.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.” Psalm 62:5 NLT

The years following Emma’s death felt like perpetual winter. C.S. Lewis penned it this way: Always winter, and never Christmas. Waiting through the frigidness of this season became my new normal. Waiting for our house to be rebuilt. Waiting for the waves of grief to subside. Waiting to see God work, to make sense of this tragedy. Waiting to survive, to see beauty even in the sorrow. There was beauty during those years, just as there’s beauty on a winter morning as sun strikes the snow, causing it to sparkle like diamonds. Beauty surrounded us through the gifts of strangers, friends, and family. Gifts of time and resources replaced clothes and furniture, and ultimately built a beautiful new home where devastation had once reigned.

During the waiting, God provided strength to bury my sweet Emma’s body, courage to choose to trust Him, no matter what. He provided peace in the midst of chaos, and filled me with hope that His Word was true, that He knew what He had allowed and would use it for good. He drew me closer, calling others to do the same. He revealed His faithfulness through His constant presence, His whispered words of comfort, His tender declarations of love. His Truth became alive as it showed up real and tangible throughout my everyday life. He met me in the darkness of the pit and shone brightly through the love and hope and patience of his Son, Jesus.

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19 NLT

We long for the beauty of springA couple of years ago the thaw began and I started to see the “something new” that God promised. The trauma and chaos of the previous years subsided, and peace reigned. Christmas finally arrived. The days of sorrow lessened to moments. While memories of Emma still brought tears, they soothed my soul even as I yearned to hold her once more. Healing, deep, full-thickness healing occurred and I longed to embrace the beauty of spring. The dark days were behind me and life felt good again.

Until I fell into that pit a short few weeks ago. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the fire and Emma’s death. Ten years of living without her. Ten years of wondering what she’d look like, what her likes and dislikes would be. Ten years of sorrow, and ten years of experiencing God’s faithfulness each and every day.

One day as the darkness hovered near, I felt the pull to head outside to breathe the fresh air, sweeping away the cobwebs that clouded my mind. As I walked around the little lake near my rented home, I noticed it had begun to thaw. Sure, the ice was still thick towards the middle, but the outer edges had been released from its grip and the water flowed with ease. A perfect visual of the journey of my heart.

The air was warmer, too, and it felt like spring, full of hope. Yes, my soul was weary and weighty as sorrow interrupted my life once more, much like the melting snow and ice I traipsed through on my walk. As I walked, I was reminded of this hope: spring is coming. There is absolutely nothing I can do, nothing that can happen, that will stop it. I can’t wish it away, or wish it to come sooner. I can’t hide away and hibernate until its arrival. I need to walk through its ugly thaw, brown and wet and dirty. I need to take every sloshy step, feet wet, hem of my pants soaked, one step at a time, believing that beneath the ugliness of the thaw, beauty yearns to burst forth.

We don’t want the messiness, though, do we? We long for the beauty of spring’s flowers yet dread traipsing through the messiness of spring’s thaw. But the thaw is necessary for growth, providing nourishment for the months to come. Hope is a bit like that. It looks messy and uncertain, ugly and inconvenient yet so vital for our growth. Hope is like trudging through the frigid waters of melting snow, slipping in its muddy wake, shifting our eyes from the mess and fixing them on the Maker. It takes patience and strength and great courage to allow the spring thaw do its work in our hearts, to trust that work even when we can’t see the beauty just yet.

“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11 (ESV)

Yes, God does have a sense of humor, and he is at work, calling hope forth from our sorrow. He’s creating something beautiful through our circumstances and in our lives, even those messy and painful parts. I suppose the question remains, are you willing to endure spring’s thaw so you can embrace the beauty of its flowers?

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Kim GundersonKim recently admitted she’s a true Midwesterner at heart, having lived in the Chicago area for the majority of her life. She loves watching the seasons change, especially as winter gives way to spring. Kim has raised four kids – two by birth, two by choice, and recently welcomed a son-in-law into her family. She’s the author of Breathing in Ashes, a memoir that shares her story of hope after the death of her youngest daughter. She also blogs over at www.abigumbrella.com and is a contributing writer for Ask God Today Ministries.

You can connect with her on:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/kim.gunderson
Instagram: www.instagram.com/abigumbrella7
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kimabigumbrella
Email: kim@abigumbrella.com