When putting on my big girl panties just isn’t enough

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I am sad today. There are a lot of transitions happening all at once.

It is my children’s last day of school – they will never be a 1st and 3rd grader again. They must say goodbye to their teachers, to their school, to their friends – again.

I am sad for them. I am crying their tears and feeling their loss.

My littlest keeps asking if he will ever see his teacher again. He adores her. She has been a blessing this year, and has loved him as God created him to be – without temptation to fit him into a pre-constructed box. I will forever be grateful to her for that.

My husband graduates from the Army War College on Saturday. It means we must say goodbye to new, dear friends. It means we are moving onto our next Air Force adventure – we must uproot again and create a new home.

Plant roots deep in another location. Make new friends. Make new memories.

We are packing up our home. Saying goodbye to our neighbors. Letting go of our routines we worked so hard to establish.

I feel myself detaching from this house. I now only see four walls filled with our stuff. Our personal touches are waning as I give away my house plants and candles. {You can’t take those with you on a cross-country move.} Besides, I kind of like leaving a bit of myself behind with friends and neighbors.

I have done this before – saying goodbye, leaving a place I call home to find another.

I am not sure why, but this time I am finding it to be harder. I feel like we just arrived here. I am solidifying new friendships. I have a yoga instructor I adore, a climbing buddy who motivates me. My dog even has a playmate she will miss. My children are being invited on regular play dates. Coffee with neighborhood moms is comfortable and not forced.

Life will go on when we leave.

We serve our country. We uproot our families. We commit to supporting our military member. But, it isn’t always easy.

We do have many perks we enjoy. We do get to travel the world. We do get to spread our wings and see what we are truly capable of. But, that doesn’t mean I always like it.

I will make this transition, just as I have made every other. And, eventually, I will feel just as settled into our new location.

However, I can’t deny that today, I need to make time for myself to grieve. I need to accept the reality of my feelings and set aside time to deal with them. I must be intentional – not stuff, not run away, not deny.

There is a new saying I have learned this year from the Army wives – “Put your big girl panties on”. It is often used when husbands deploy. While it is cute, and often generates a chuckle, it is not always helpful. My current circumstances will require me to put my big girl panties at some point. Alas, I am not ready…yet.

Today, I am not satisfied with this kind of self talk. It denies my reality, my existence as a human that cries, stumbles, hurts, gets angry, and just plain doesn’t want to do this again.

My husband would recommend I watch a sad movie and cry. He is probably right. I have a few hours now until the boys get home. Watching a sad movie, and letting the tears fall, may be the very best medicine today.

There are laments in the scriptures. Laments of loss and grief. I find comfort in knowing that. It gives me permission to feel sadness and heartache – I don’t have to be perfect today.

So, I will leave my “big girl panties” in the drawer for now. And, when I am ready, I will put them on and wear them proudly. But, today I will find comfort in knowing that it is okay to mourn and be sad – Jesus made time for it, and so can I.

Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:38-39

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

I am purposed for authenticity,

jana

 

Holding the Memories

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.” The Giver, Lois Lowry, 1993.

I want to share a secret with you. A secret that I have been holding some time now. This secret, if you cherish it and remember it when caring for others’ sorrows, has the power to heal. It has the power to give healing to others who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

Here is the Secret…

Ask them to share their memories of the person they are grieving.

Ask them to tell you one of their favorite things about their loved one.

What memory makes them laugh?

What memory makes them cry?

What memory do they cherish most?

You will bear witness.

Listening to their story as they share this memory with you, will bring light to places in their soul where darkness has gathered for far too long.

My loneliest experience since my brother’s death has been the realization that he took our shared memories with him. No one holds them with me now. I am the sole bearer of memories we shared in our childhood, of our parents, of our times together as a family of four.

This loneliness is unlike one I have ever felt before. I don’t ache for companionship, or a friendly telephone call, or someone to remember me in a special way. No, this loneliness is deep…deep in my core – an ache to be remembered as I was before.

An ache to be known as a child, a teenager, a sojourner in our life as missionaries. Corry was there for most of it. No one…no one…shares our memories but he and I. For that I am deeply sad, and at times the loneliness seeps in and paralyzes me.

It is so difficult to explain. Those of you who have been there, understand.

It wasn’t until I read the words above in Lois Lowry’s book The Giver that I found the words to capture what my heart was trying to say.

Memories are meant to be shared.

Why is that?

Why?

I think of the ancient Old Testament texts where Moses and the prophets recount the memories of generations past – evidence of God’s soveriegnty and presence through the ages. They recount and list the events that transpired from one generation to the next asking everyone to remember.

Rituals.

Celebrations.

Dates memorialized.

All in an attempt to remember and share those memories with one another. There is a reason for it.

Galatians 6:2 states, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”.

There is a greater purpose. We share memories because that is what we are called to do. Absence of shared memories produces loneliness. We fulfill the law of Christ when we share our burdens with one another.

And, for some, the burdens are memories of times past.

Blessings anew this day,

jana 

My thoughts on the tragic death of Rick Warren’s son

Rick Warren

I kept hearing bits and pieces about Rick Warren’s family in the news this week. I understood there had been a tragedy. I didn’t know the details, though I had my suspicions.

Last night, I was visiting with a fellow parent at my sons’ Tae Kwon Do class. He confirmed for me what I had already been suspecting. Rick Warren’s son had committed suicide.

How did I know? How had I perceived that in all likelyhood suicide was the “unmentionable” the whisperings were about? Because, I have been there. My family has been there. A prominent minister with a son that struggled with mental illness and took his life. Yeah…I have been there.

I suspect the church is more repulsed and intolerant of suicide than the rest of our American society. I imagine many faithful followers are asking, how can a son of man – a popular pastor who has sold millions of copies of a book that promises “a purpose-driven life” – take his life? How can that happen? What went wrong? Did He believe in God? Was his faith not strong? Why was he struggling when he had a dad like that? Where is God in this?

Oh, how I wish there were easy answers to these questions.

My immediate thought at the news was, “I wonder how this event will change Rick Warren’s ministry? I wonder what new perspective he will gain?” It will be impossible for him and his family to go through this and not question their faith, their core beliefs, their understanding of the power of God, and their understanding of prayer and divine healing.

I believe God can heal sickness, illness – even mental illness. I believe God can supernaturally stop events from happening – even prevent imminent death of an individual.

I also believe there are times God doesn’t intervene in ways we expect him to. And I really don’t understand how or why.

I have learned to sit comfortably with the profound mystery of it all.

___________________________________________________________

In the weeks to come, Rick Warren and his family will be featured in the news circuits. Articles will be written. People will gossip. And, his son’s photo will be flashed across the media over and over again.

My soul aches for the family.

I ache for them because time and time again, their son, their faith, and their honor will be misunderstood, scrutinized, and judged.

I pray that they will be protected from the onslaught of vultures that will come in the form of those wanting a “good” story or a “good” nugget for gossip. I pray God will shelter them from the storm that has errupted in their midst. I pray that those people who love them and loved their boy will surround them and remind them of the good times and of the boy he was in spite of the illness. I pray for the mighty hand of God to protect them from all evil that is trying to rain down on them.

Will you please join me in prayer? And, when questions fill your mind in an attempt to make sense of this tragedy, will you please lift them up to God instead of joining in the gossip?

There is something for all of us to learn here. If we allow the questions to arise within us and lift them up to the One who has the answers, He will reveal more of himself to us, and we will grow in deeper and more intimate understanding of Him and His Church.

So, let the questions come, just be sure to direct them to the One who has the answers.

newly purposed,

jana

 

Do You Ever Wonder?

do you ever wonder

Do you ever wonder if all of the trials, suffering, and pain you are going through right now has a purpose?

Or ask, What is the point?.

Or, How is God going to use this?

I have wondered…..

I remember in Fall 2006 saying to God, “I can’t possibly handle anything else. I can’t hold any more pain. I feel I have lived two lives, have been witness to and experienced more suffering than any one person should. How much does one person have to hold?

The following flashed through my mind when I made that statement:

  • Preacher’s Kid
  • Missionary’s Kid
  • Parent with Mental Illness
  • Lived in and traveled to Third World Countries
  • Military Spouse
  • Death of a Sibling
  • Trained as a Health Care Provider
  • A new mom with two little ones under the age of 3

Within a month of making that statement, I was diagnosed with Depression.

Did God put a stop to the trials? No.

Was I expecting Him to? Not really.

I accept that we will have trials in this life.

I was simply tired. 

Tired of struggling, tired of fighting, tired of hiding from my own pain.

…..

Rest assured, God knows exactly what you are going through. He has suffered like we have suffered. He has been tempted like we have been tempted.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:8-9)

In case you missed it, let me restate this for you.

Christ is able to sympathize with us.

Christ has been tempted in every way we have been tempted.

He learned obedience through the suffering he endured.

Draw close to Christ with CONFIDENCE.

Draw near to Him and He will give you Grace. 

A Free Gift, no strings attached.

We will receive Mercy and find Grace IN TIME OF NEED.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

God understands the process of refinement our current suffering is bringing us through.

He gets us. He gets you. He gets me.

He knows us and wants to be known by us.

Suffering is not the end. It is the means to an end.

Suffering refines us. It’s a Good Thing. Do Not Run from it. 

…..

I have pleaded with God for understanding, wishing to see into the future in order to understand how what I am going through now fits in with His eternal plan. Desperate for grace, for freedom from pain and suffering, ready to be done laboring in this life.

I have been there.

…..

I can testify, as one of the Broken, that He will use you in your brokenness.

I look back at an old journal (I had just begun writing again after five years of silence after my brother’s death).

 In May 2007, I wrote these words:

“I am full of joy in Christ. I am confident that He is preparing me for a specific task for Him. All my trials I am going through, all of my thinking and analyzing and growing in Christ is good, and I am so thankful because I know the Lord is using all things for good and to His glory. The Lord is using me to bless others, and I am so excited! Lord, you are working on me. I hear your voice everyday and I am overflowing with Your Spirit. How is this possible? I literally feel I will burst if I don’t tell people the love I have for You.”

…..

I have walked through the darkness, and come out on the other side. And, now I can honestly say, it is worth it! I now understand James’ statement:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

My soul has changed. The scales have been peeled off of my eyes. I now see Christ where before I saw the scars of this world.

Press on, dear friend. Do not give up. Cling to Him and he will carry you through to the other side. Be patient and trust that He has you in the palm of his hand.

Rest in His assurances. 

…..

If I could, I would hold you right now and pray this truth over you and into you. Asking God to fill you with the peace that surpasses all understanding.

You can do this. You can trust that all is not lost. That in fact your labor today is worthy of eternity. 

My heart’s cry is to give you this word of encouragement today.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 41:31)

…..

It is a New Year. Maybe you have made a list of resolutions. Maybe you have even checked off one or two.

I challenge you today to add this Resolution to the top of your list.

Pursue Christ through the darkness.

Do not be afraid.

Lean into Him with all your might and Trust that you will not stumble.

He has you in the palm of His hand.

…..

This post originally appeared at Finding Purpose in the Pain where I am a contributing writer.

newly purposed,

jana

Santa Cactus

Be forewarned. This is not your typical Christmas Message.

cactus christmas

While most are out there celebrating the “magic” of Christmas, filled with joy and wonder, shredding paper off packages, and delighting in celebration with family,

I can’t help but recognize that I wake this morning not feeling any of that.

Instead I feel a sense of loss,

sadness,

wandering without a firm foothold called home.

I am anticipating disappointment, expecting this day to not look like what it does in my daydreams.

In my daydreams, this day looks much different.

A large house. Lots of kids running around. Many family members gathering in the kitchen to nibble off platters as the meal is being prepared. I can even smell the turkey cooking in the oven, the mulled cider on the stove, nutmeg sprinkled on egg nog in Santa mugs.

I hear laughter, sharing of stories, the jingle of bells on the front door as another joins our celebration. More than anything, I see my baby brother standing among us. And…my proud parents standing at his side.

To have us all together again, that is my daydream.

We Rankin 4.

That is how my mother signed our Christmas cards. Our “tagline”. Our family “brand”.

We Rankin 4.

…..

I take a step back realizing I want to apologize. Apologize for bringing a bit of gloom to this otherwise joy-filled day. But, this is my reality. And, in my heart, I know that I am not alone.

Some of us grieve this morning, opening presents from under the tree, recognizing that the pile is a bit smaller due to those whom are no longer with us. I grieve with you this morning. I, too, feel sad knowing that Christmas morning will never again look like it did in my childhood.

We Rankin 4 joined by both sets of grandparents. Singing around the piano in my Grandmother’s home, her Soprano voice filling the air with carols. My father the Tenor. My mother a harmonizing Alto. My grandfather the sturdy, resounding Bass. My brother on Cello joins the chorus. Me with my flute, singing the melody. Turkey in the oven. The table set in red and green. Our finest china set for the occasion.

I spend time letting the memories of yesterday fill my mind and remember a time when I felt more whole, more intact. I feel rather fractured now, and wonder when that feeling will go away.

My expectation, now with a family of my own, is that I would feel bliss, that my children’s excitement would overflow to me helping me to forget the sadness of my past.

Yet, I cannot escape it.

The memories swirl only reminding me that I have experienced loss. I don’t want to dwell in it. However, I must acknowledge it. If not, I deny part of my present experience.

…..

I sit here this morning in front of a warm fire, finding solace in the tapping on keys.

I am surrounded by my children who assemble their newest Legos from Santa. My husband at my side, his presence helping to stabilize my wanderings in these memories of mine. His parents providing us with a peaceful morning reminding me that memories continue to be made.

I pray my children will be able to reminisce fondly on these years.

My parents, however, are far from me. I can’t help to wonder if they are lonely, to feel guilt over our choice to spend Christmas with the “other” grandparents. I know they wish us well and are happy for us. They are capable of creating new memories, spending time with friends and other family. But, still, lingering under the joys of this day, are lost daydreams.

We Rankin 4, gathered with our new families, all sets of grandparents, around the piano – all our voices joining together in carols – Alto, Treble, Soprano, Bass, Cello and Flute. Reading the Christmas story. Present with one another.

I am told that day will come. When all God’s children will join together in joyful chorus.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  (Revelation 21:1-4)

…..

I choose this day to not forget. To remember the precious memories of my past. To consider my parents and the aching that remains for them. To not forget.

I will also choose to make an effort to make new memories. To get caught up in the joyful celebrations of my children.

I will choose to remember that day in Bethlehem when God sent his son, Jesus Christ to be the Savior of the World. I must choose to remember this and to remember that without this promise fulfilled, my daydream {all of us gathered once again in joyful chorus} would remain only a daydream.

…..

Merry Christmas

I dedicate this to all of you who are grieving the loss of a loved one this day. You are not alone.

newly purposed,

jana

 

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