Good COLD December evening, friends!
Perhaps you are somewhere warmer than I . . . lucky duck! I would like to begin by thanking you all for your kind thoughts, comments, and especially prayers of blessings over my sweet baby, Micah. We have spent the last two evenings celebrating his birthday ~ last night we had a special family dinner and tonight he took six of his closest friends to Chuck E. Cheese for a party. Micah has begged for YEARS to go to Chuck E. Cheese . .. it isn't a place that we frequent. The kids had a nice time, but I will say that there has been a 'frustration' in Micah for the past couple days - today included. I began to feel a bit down - perhaps I try to make up for Chad's absence a bit too much in material ways (a question I ponder often, and still think the answer is 'no' . .. but I don't want to not ask myself the hard questions and in doing so let it get out of hand)? Did he not appreciate the party? As I was tucking the kids into bed tonight and reflecting back on Micah's mood I was once again hit with the notion that we continue to celebrate the holidays . . . all the while 'pretending' that everything is alright . . . but knowing that everything is, indeed, not alright. I sensed that in Micah this past couple days. So, again, I thank you all for your prayers offered up on his behalf!
Well, I could probably end there tonight . . . but there is much more to come. In fact, I believe that what I am about to post is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT thing that may ever go on my blog. Please don't check out on me.
If you have followed this blog for any amount of time, you know about my new friend Jenny Coin. Jenny was widowed unexpectedly three and a half months ago, and soon after she lost her beloved husband, Shawn, she miscarried their first child. Jenny and I have been ministering to one another, and in doing so we are becoming good friends. Jenny is strong! I am so proud of her. Jenny asks really good questions and we are saving all of the letters that we write back and forth to one another so that we can soon launch a new blog of our letters and our journeys through grief as young women.
On Monday morning I awoke to find this e-mail from Jenny. My kids were all home because of a snow day . . . and when I found her e-mail I knew that this could possibly be one of the most important e-mails I have ever, or will ever respond to. I asked the kids to keep the noise to a minimum and proceeded to answer her questions to the best of my ability. Below you will find her e-mail to me . . . and my response. Please stick with it to the end . . . and I would like you all to know that if anyone has a question about a relationship with Jesus and you would like to e-mail me, personally, I would welcome your e-mail. You can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Blessings!
Hi me again,
I got another sympathy card in the mail again yesterday...they just keep coming. However this one got me thinking. The card was from a family that I used to babysit for while I was in college, when Shawn and I were living in Marquette.
Anyways there was a note at the bottom of the card. The note said "There must be a better grand plan for you because you are a wonderful person and deserve great times ahead" Several people have told me this the last three months, especially after the baby. Actually many people have been telling me that my 'new life' will be so much better, that the plan for me has changed and my new path will just enhance my life more and bring me more joy. Well for some reason just today it got me thinking two different things.
1. I know when people say this to me, they only mean the best for me and mean well. But sometimes I just want tolook at them and say to them "what the heck are you talking about...my husband just died and I just lost our baby....what do you mean my life is about to get better?
My response to that at first was...well I don't want a 'better' life, I loved the life that I had...I loved my husband and our life...I wanted to have our baby...I wanted the perfect family...I didn't ask for nor did I want a different life, I was perfectly happy with the life that I had.
I know I have a lot of time to grieve yet and to figure out my 'new life' and what I want to do. I think just now after 3 months I'm realizing that my life is going be extremely different from what I had "planned". I'm trying to come to terms with having a different life and trying to figure out how my life is going to be so much "better" then what I had. For now, I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing for the last 3 months...breath in and breath out and take one day at a time. I also have been remembering Matthew 6 that I found on your blog. I am a HUGE planner, that is where I get my control and security from. I'm quickly realizing that you can have everything all planned out, but just as soon as you can have a plan, it can all come crashing down around you.
So I guess my first question is...After Chad passed away did people tell you that God had a better plan for you? and How did you respond to that?
2. This is a biggie! Ok, how am I who just had MY perfect life ripped out of my hands supposed to one, believe that there is a bigger/better grand plan for me? When all I've ever wanted in my life was to be the best wife to the man I love and a mother (I thought that was my plan and truly why I was put on this earth) those are both now gone and two after I have just had my 'original plan' ripped out from under me, how am I supposed to put my faith, heart and sould into a new plan...what if that plan gets destroyed and I get hurt again. I don't think I can handle it if anything else 'bad' would happen. The new plan makes me so scared as well. I sit here typing this with tears streaming down my face as I listen to Bring the Rain from Mercy Me.
I don't know maybe I'm just feeling this way because like I've told you in the past...I haven't been a very religious person. I have always believed in God and said a prayer here and there, especially in times of struggle but I don't think I've ever really let him into my life. Correction I know I haven't really let him in. Does that make any sense to you? I will honestly tell you though that during the last two months I have been really trying to let God into my life more. I need to know why...I need to know what is next for me...and I now know that God is the only one who knows this. I didn't let him in so much the first month, I was so mad at God for taking Shawn from me, I even prayed the morning Shawn died on my way to work for him to please keep Shawn healthy and to please fix what was wrong with him. I mean I really really prayed hard, out loud and everything. Three hours later he died. I haven't told anybody that, nobody knows that I prayed that morning. Like I said maybe I'm just feeling this way because I just don't know how to feel. Maybe I'm feeling this way because I haven't been to church in a really long time. Maybe I need to find a church and just go.
Wow this email is making me think of a zillion things. Maybe I will wrap up this email and we can talk about some of my other questions another day. Funny how such a life shattering event can make you feel like you need to re-think the religious or lack of religious aspect of your life. I wonder if I would have belived harder in God before if Shawn would still be here with me?
Ok, well I'm going to go and read for a while and try to stop thinking so I can sleep. I will talk to you soon and sorry this got so extremely long. Maybe this would have been better to ask in person.
Jenny ~ Wow! What wonderful questions you are asking! They are good, and healthy, and I am so glad that you are asking them. I'm not sure I know where to start - so let's start with the most important part . . . God!
Jenny ~ The one thing I am absolutely sure about is that God wants to have a relationship with you! Can you believe that? The God who created Heaven and Earth and who keeps it all in order and in motion wants to have a relationship with YOU! Jenny, He doesn't want to be some far off god that you pray to on holidays or when you really need something. No, my friend, He wants to be your friend! Just like you and I have become friends . . . that is who God wants to be in your life. Please forgive me if I go into more detail, or tell you something you already know, but there may be someone who eventually reads this who does not know these things. Jenny, God the Father sent His beloved son to die on the cross because sin had separated us from Him. Jesus died on the cross to reconcile us to God the Father once and for all. For thousands of years people had needed to offer sacrifices as a way to reconcile themselves and their sin. God sent His son as the final sacrifice so that we could walk in relationship and have the assurance of eternal life.
I, personally, think that the 'relationship' part of this is the key. Think of it this way ~ if you wanted to have a relationship with me, but only called once every few months or when you needed something . . . would that be a relationship? God never changes and He never moves! He is ALWAYS surrounding us waiting for us to call out. He tells us in Romans 3:23 that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." But in verse 24 He goes on to say, "Yet now God in His gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who freed us by taking away our sins." In Romans 7 the Word tells us that we wrestle with this thing called "sin" all our lives. It is why we do the things we don't want to do and don't do the things that we do want to do! It goes on, though, in chapter eight to tell us that when Jesus comes into our hearts the power of sin is broken and that it is like the lights come on in a dark place! There is a new power at work in our lives.
How do we get this reconciliation and new power? We do it by repenting of our sins - basically, admitting that we were born with sin in us, and asking Jesus to come into our hearts and have a 'relationship' with us.
Now, Jenny, I would like to tell you about my personal relationship with Jesus. I grew up in a Christian home. I knew all about Jesus . . . but I will never forget one night when I was thirteen years old I decided that I wanted more . . . I needed a relationship with him. My daddy had left us when I was eleven, and I needed a 'constant' in my life. I needed someone whom I could trust was ALWAYS there and would ALWAYS love me. In the book of Philippians the bible tells us the "Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us." That, was what I needed. I took a step one night at a church service and went to the altar and gave my heart . . . ALL of me . . . my hopes, my dreams, my life . . . to Jesus. Since that night, I have lived my life with Jesus in mind. I had watched enough Christians by this point to know that a life with Christ didn't mean a life free of trouble, rather, that when troubles come there is a constant . . . an anchor.
This, my friend, is the crux of all of this . . . please hang on here for the most important part . . . Jenny, when Jesus died on the cross, He rose from the dead and not long after that He ascended up to Heaven to live there with Father God. When He did that, He sent something called the Holy Spirit. When we ask Jesus into our hearts, at that moment the Holy Spirit is deposited into our "spirits." One thing the bible teaches is that there are three parts to our physical being . . . our body, our spirit, and our soul. Our soul is our mind, will, and emotions. Basically, at the moment of salvation, we lay down our souls and let the Holy Spirit come in to inhabit our 'spirit' being. The Holy Spirit is an amazing, incredible part of all of this! The Holy Spirit is our counselor, our guide through this wonderful and horrible life, our constant companion and our light to follow. The Holy Spirit becomes that little voice that directs our path . . . the world sometimes refers to women having a 'sixth sence.' Well, what I have come to know as a believer is that my 'sixth sense' is the Holy Spirit that lives within me. . . always comforting and guiding me.
Jenny, there is something regarding my faith that I am really chewing on right now. What I am chewing on is this concept of 'peace.' You see, what I know beyond knowing as I look back over this past year of my life and all of my grieving is that all of my pain and fear and mourning and questions have been enveloped in a very sweet peace that has come from the Lord. When I was thirteen years old, I had NO idea what my life would hold . . . .the good OR the bad. But that decision as a teenager has changed the way that I relate to my life. I could have become paralyzed the day Chad died - paralyzed with fear, pain, or both. But instead, I look back on that day and know that, truly, the Hand of God ushered me through every horrible step of the grieving process. That doesn't mean that the pain was magically gone or that I didn't question or get angry with God or Chad, or even that I didn't sometimes want my own life to end! It didn't mean that I didn't feel hopeless at times as I grappled with the most horrible pain I ever could have imagined. It doesn't mean that I didn't question how in the world my life could ever go on. What it does mean is that through ALL of the questioning and grappling that there was a CONSTANT! Jesus was with my through every step and every tear. The Holy Spirit was, and is, my very constant companion.
In Phillipians 4 the word tells us that, "when we present our requests before God, with thanksgiving in our hearts, that He will give us a peace that passes all our understanding that will gaurd our hearts and our minds." Jenny ~ I DO NOT understand how it is true! But, my friend, I KNOW that it is! I have had a peace that has truly stood gaurd around my mind and my emotions. It is way bigger than I . . . It is truly something that only God could do! I am so thankful for my relationship. HE is my best friend! The Word says that we will have a friend in HIM that will stick closer than a brother! I have tested it and know it is true! He is SO good.
One thing that one of my counselors told me this past year was that it is in times of great trouble like you are going through that we must go back to what we KNOW to be true . . .NOT what we FEEL! I tell people in my concerts, that the God of October 6th - the day before Chad died when my life was perfect and good - and the God of October 7th - the day my whole life came crashing down on me - are the SAME GOD! My circumstances don't change WHO God is! God is good! Period! I trust that! I trust Him!!!!!
Now, for the comments that people say to you. Hmmmm . . . I am so sorry that people feel that they have to make sense of all of this for you! The best thing for them to say would just be to say they are sorry - but they feel that they need to help, so they tell you that there will be good ahead. You know, Jenny, there WILL be good ahead. I know that because God's Word tells us that "All things work together for good for those who love Him." I am a BIG believer in the fact that God "redeems our suffering." That is a topic for another time . . . but basically, it means that God does not waste our suffering.
However, please let me assure you, Jenny, that God did not take your husband from you so the He could give you better! That is absolutely NOT the way a loving and tender Heavenly Father works. When God created Heaven and Earth, death was not in His plan! However, when sin entered the world, so did death. I am so thankful that God made a way through Jesus for us to be reconciled back to Him . . .and therefore back to our Husbands who now live with Him in Heaven! The notion that somehow God did this to you so that you can have a bigger, better future is ridiculous!
Does God have a plan for you? Absolutely! Will it be good? Yes and no! I TRUST my precious Lord who gives me this amazing thing called 'peace' to have a good future me. I don't believe that my life will be without struggle. I DO know that God longs to redeem all of this pain and anguish and I trust that somehow, in some way He will bring good into our lives.
Jenny, remember our little pup Miah? She is named after Jeremiah 29:11 that says, "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and to give you hope and a future." THAT is the heart of a Heavenly Father who does, truly, want good for you.
Psalm 91:1 (God's 911) says, "Those who live in the shelter of the Most High God will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty." Jenny, God longs for you to be snuggled in so close to Him that you will be sheltered in His shadow. Cry out to Him! Open your heart completely to Him and let His sweet Spirit envelope ALL of who you are - your pain, your future, your hopes, your dreams! He longs to hold it all in His hands . . . so that when the plans YOU make fall apart - He is there to hold you through it!
Another part to all of this, is that I would recommend that you get into a really good, supportive, bible teaching church. Marni and Collette and I would love it if you would like to come with us! Our church is great! I know you have a church . . . but I'm not sure how plugged in you are. Our church has absolutely been a rock to me through all of this! But, we can talk about that later!
I love you so much, Jenny! And I pray God's best for your life!