Grief

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Grief…

It’s a lot like being robbed.

I only say that because I know grieving and I know being robbed.

It happened about 12 years ago. Evelyn and I came home after dropping Grace off at school. I unlocked my door, went inside and began my morning routine. After an hour or so of cooking and cleaning, I went to sit down at our computer only to find it missing. I didn’t even think about a break-in, after all, I came home to a locked house, nothing was out of place, no drawers were ransacked, no tables overturned, nothing like the movies. I called Jim to see if he or his brothers had the computer. I can vividly remember what he said,

“Sara, go check your jewelry box.”

As I lifted the lid, my heart sank. All of a sudden, my house, my home, my sanctuary, became foreign to me. The safety I had always felt was immediately stolen from me, along with so many earthly possessions we held dear. Not knowing if the thief was still in the house, I grabbed Ev, went outside, called the police and then called my dad.

About nine months ago, we were robbed again. Only this time, when I called Jim, his words to me were,

“Sara, she’s gone.”

As I dropped to my knees, again my heart sank, only this time much deeper. I felt my security stripped away once again. I began to feel like I was living a violated life. I never asked for this. I didn’t deserve this attack. But nonetheless, grief had robbed me.  

Twelve years ago, a thief took my jewelry, our computer, our video camera and bag, along with most of our home movies. Nine months ago the thief stole so much more.

What does grief steal?

It steals your identity. Who you were, your joys, your pleasures, your singularity. You lose yourself. Sometimes the person in the mirror becomes unrecognizable. You hate that face that stares back at you with hollow eyes.

You hate the random emotions that surge out of control, just under your skin. Ranging from a deep desire to protect everyone, to wanting to run away and be alone. Anger can burn steady and compassion rain down, all while jealousy laughs at you and love holds your hand.

You spend a good portion of your time looking back. Thoughts like “if only it was last year at this time,” “if only I had driven that day,” “if only life were different.” And with all the turning around, the future becomes very uncertain. Where you once planned vacations, you now hope for a day with no tears. Where you once hoped for sunshine, you only plan to get out of bed.

Grief can ransack your home, stealing all you hold dear, but still leaving everything looking exactly the same. I can walk into a room filled with familiar faces, wearing the smile that everyone is accustomed to seeing, chatting and engaging in conversation, and feel completely alone. I have lost so much. I feel so robbed. I know nothing will ever be the same.

When my house was robbed all those years ago, I needed to call the police, of course, but my second call…I needed my daddy. I needed him to wrap his big arms around my trembling fear and assure me that he would keep me safe. And he did.

When my life was robbed in January, I needed to make some calls, I needed to tell people what happened, but my first call…I needed my Abba, my Father. I needed Him to remind me that He was, in fact, holding my life, holding my ache, my pain, my hurt. And I needed Him to remind me that He was now holding my Grace. I needed to hear His voice, His Word, reminding me who I was in Christ and reminding me of my future hope.

We never did catch the first thief, nor did we ever see our items returned. But grief…I have caught this thief, and I plan, by God’s goodness and mercy, to see everything it has stolen from me, fully restored. If not here, if not now, then when I hear His voice saying,

“Sara, it’s time to come home.”

 

Grief

Hold on…Let go

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A month or so after the accident, an opportunity to volunteer on the playground, at the school, presented itself. I quickly jumped at the chance for two reasons. First, I love spending time with kids. They rarely ask questions, they don’t notice if your eyes are red and puffy, and they just live to enjoy life. I needed to be surrounded by some old-fashion joy. Second, being home, especially alone, is a torture that few can understand. Alone, with my thoughts, fears and sadness, walking through rooms that, not that long ago, were filled with laughter, silliness and hope, is a place I try not to put myself in too often.

I still work on the playground, once a week, for only an hour, but in that hour, I have the chance to play. I watch routines on the bars, play catch with whatever they are throwing and, everyone’s favorite, push the six kids that made it to the swings the fastest, while everyone else waits in line for their turn.  

Some want an underdog, some want a slow push and some just want to swing themselves while talking to me about the woes of elementary school life. I love it.

I find myself saying two statements though, over and over again.

Hold on and Let Go

I tell them to hold on when I’m about to push. Hold on with both hands. Hold on tight.

And when they slow down enough to jump off…I tell them to let go. Let go with both hands. Let go or you’ll get hurt.

I’ve seen the ones that don’t hold on tight when I push. They end up swinging lopsided, on an angle, almost colliding with their neighbors.

And I’ve seen the ones that don’t fully let go when it’s time, trying to jump while still holding the chain with one hand. They usually end up flat on their backs, laying in the woodchips, wondering where they went wrong.

Today, I realized how often I make both of these mistakes in life.

Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold on unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

Holding on to the promises of God allows me to swing straight when I get pushed or challenged. Loosening my grip, even just a little, leaves me feeling on edge, uneven, angry and bitter. It can cause me to collide with those on the same path as me, sometimes with my words, sometimes with my actions, but always affecting more than just myself.

At the same time, though, not letting go, when God says to let go…

Philippians 3:13 “But one thing you need to do is forget (let go) of what is behind you and reach forward to what is ahead. Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Letting go of the past, the pain, the hurt, the confusion and letting go with both hands, allows me to land firmly on my feet, when God calls me deeper. If I try to hold on, even with just one hand, I will find myself on the ground, struggling to understand where I went wrong. Burdens still strapped to my back and sore from the fall.

So remember today, on this rainy October 1st….

Hold on to His promises and Let Go of the pain.

Hold on…Let go

Worship With Me Mom

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I grew up in a denomination that loves its praise and worship. I have been to song services that have lasted for hours. I have heard teachings on worship, been to workshops on the power of praise and have even led the song service a time or two. When I hear a new worship song, I usually memorize it within minutes, share it with a few people and allow its words to seep into my soul.

Worship is powerful. Singing praise and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father, even in the midst of trials, will often be what drags us back up, out of the depths of despair.

And the enemy knows this.

If he can’t convince you to stay home and not attend a service, he will give you reasons why you shouldn’t participate, once there. The music is too slow, the music is too fast. They aren’t singing new songs, they haven’t included any old ones. Don’t look too excited, people will stare, don’t look too bored, people will wonder what’s wrong.

Or, if you’re in my shoes, the enemy will replay the events of January 25th over and over in your head, until it’s all you can do to even stay standing.

I’m just going to be honest here, our worship services have been so powerful and Spirit-led lately, I look forward to being in the service each week, but each week I fight the enemy of my soul. Not that I don’t fight all week, but he seems to push certain buttons on Sunday morning from 10:30-11:30, that are specifically designed to keep my mouth from singing praise and my heart from entering into worship.

But, that’s when I press in and you know what I’ve found behind the enemy’s line of attack? The sweetest worship I have even known. And the beautiful knowledge that I am not alone. Not only am I joined in unity with my husband and my sweet Evelyn and my dear church family, whom I love, but when I can push beyond the noise, beyond the enemy’s whispers, and beyond my own distractions, I find myself worshipping my Jesus, next to my Grace. There is no time when I feel closer to her, no time when I feel more at peace.

See I know that when she took her last breath on earth, her next breath was filled with praise, to the one she was standing in front of, face to face. I know there are books upon books about Heaven and what happens there, and most of what I read, I’m unsure about, but the Bible is very specific about the amount of praise and worship that will take place.

I can no longer open my eyes during a Sunday morning service to see my Grace on stage, singing to Jesus and smiling back at me, but now, when I close my eyes on a Sunday morning, I can almost hear her say, “Worship Jesus with me mom.” And so I will, for the rest of my breaths here on earth, until we are joined again, side by side, worshiping hand in hand once again.

Worship With Me Mom

Love Is…

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The above painting is one that Grace, Evie and Jim did a few years ago. They each put their thumbprint on the bottom corner. Below is a poem that Grace wrote. It was among the writings of hers that we found after the accident.

Love

By: Grace Achatz

What is love?

Is it a racing pulse?

Or complete stillness?

Is it being held by the one you care about most?

Or watching from a distance?

Is it wanting to be with the one you love?

Or simply smiling?

Is it writing love notes to your closest friend?

Or being afraid to tell them how you feel?

Is it like watching a newborn pup and its mother?

Or watching an older married couple?

 

Love is all of those

It’s keeping by the one you love

A racing heartbeat

It’s sharing hopes and dreams for the future

Watching from a distance, or up close

It’s not being afraid to come to them with anything you need

Complete trust and faith in one another

It’s smiling just for the sake of smiling

A high-pitched voice

It’s simply saying

I love you

I just wanted to add a few more thoughts on love…

Love is…a husband who wakes up at night when I am crying and can’t sleep

Love is…having family who randomly send funny pins and pictures to me, just to make me smile

Love is…getting texts from friends with songs that they know I will love

Love is…having best friends who will hold my hand when I’m fighting a battle or will hug me until I’m ready to let go

Love is…a school family who supports and grieves along with us

Love is…having joy mixed with sorrow upon the daily reminders that my baby is with Jesus

Love is…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us

Once when Grace was around 10, she came downstairs from her room and told us that God had just spoken to her. What He told her was that love was the key that unlocked heaven’s door.

She lived that word from the Lord. She loved, and she loved fiercely and without shame. I wonder how many unlocked doors stand wide open around heaven because of the love that Gracie freely extended.

Show someone love today, hug a little tighter, look in your friends faces, see what they are hiding. Be Jesus to those around you. Seriously, it is the greatest commandment.

Love Is…

Auto Focus

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It’s hard not to think about what is coming up at the end of this week. Friday night, the night New Life parents and friends will gather around to celebrate the graduation of Grace’s 2016 class. For us, it should have been a night filled with the perfect white dress (that we already had picked out in early January), the perfect blond hair (which she had already planned on having Faith do), the perfect nails (which she had begun to grow out, just for the French manicure), and the perfect evening, filled with family, friends and future plans.

I began to think about what we would be missing out on. What we no longer get to enjoy, what we don’t have. And all those feelings and emotions are normal and fine to feel, but this time, as I started to dwell on what I didn’t have, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a few things that I did have.

I did have the pleasure of raising one of the most amazing people I have ever known. I spent 17 years, side by side, with a girl who loved Jesus, her parents, her sister, her aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and almost everyone else she came into contact with.

I did have the joy of nurturing a child who was not without her faults, who struggled with some difficult things, but saw the beauty in the struggle, the beauty in the battle for holiness.

I did have the chance to walk alongside an amazing beauty, who would bend down to lift a child up and cuddle with them, but also, had fight in her, that would only well up on the basketball court.

And above all else, I did have the chance to watch my 17-year-old walk the Christian walk, unwavering and unmoved by outside pressure. I saw a girl who finished the race set before her, all the while, glorifying the One who set up the course.

I could spend this whole week focusing on what I don’t have or what I’m missing, or I could auto-focus on what I did have, the knowledge and memories of one amazing Grace. 

Sometimes reality will wake you up in the morning, screaming. And when you lay your head down to sleep, reality will replay the bad over and over, like a movie reel. Sometimes reality is less reality and more the enemy of our souls, who wants to keep us trapped by only what we can see with our human eyes.

Romans 4:17 is talking about the reality of Abraham being too old to have children. The end of verse 17 says, though, that the God that we serve, calls things that are not as though they are.

Am I missing something terribly? yes…But is God still on the throne? yes

Am I sad and often overcome with grief? yes…But does God say He will turn ashes into beauty? yes

Is this going to be a hard week? yes…But is God bigger than any hardship? yes

What I choose to focus on will change my outlook. This week, as hard and sad as it may be, my auto-focus will be set to the things the Lord has told me, not the pain the enemy wants to keep me bound to. This might be a constant refocusing, it may take several times in the course of an hour, but how else do you get the perfect picture, the one that God will hang in the gallery of battle-worn soldiers, who fought the good fight, and finished the race, only to hear ‘well done.’

 

 

Auto Focus

Mayday

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Tomorrow begins the month of May. May used to be my favorite month. I love spring. I love the new leaves on the trees, plants emerging from their winter sleep and my flowering pear trees, that bloom white and make me smile whenever I see them. I also enjoyed the fact that May ends with Memorial Day (one of my favorite holidays) and my birthday.

After my dad died, something I wasn’t prepared for, was the drastic change I felt for holidays, special events and my birthday. I didn’t want to celebrate them anymore, especially my birthday. My dad would race the family to be the first Happy Birthday any of us would receive on our day. It kept getting earlier each year (mainly because my dad and sister were competitive) which kept us laughing. But on May 31, 2010, there was no early morning phone call, and I realized that there never would be again.

And now another loss, a greater loss….and so I am preparing myself for this month. A school play, she won’t be acting in, a spring concert, she won’t be singing in, a Mother’s Day that will be missing half of what makes me a mother, a graduation ceremony, she won’t walk in and a birthday that will be another “Happy” short.

Below is an entry from my journal a week after the accident:

“I have told a few people that I lived in a self-built city. It was a beautiful city. If you looked around you would see a house for each of my daughters, one for my husband and I, a work house, a church house and so on, in my lovely city. There were problems, where aren’t there problems, but at least I knew what they were, I could see them coming, I could deal with them. Then last Monday night, in a crippling blink, my city was attacked, my oldest daughters house fell, and as it toppled, it brought with it my entire city. I now stand in the ruins of what was a beautiful city. I stand, staring at my husband and remaining daughter, and I wonder, how am I going to ever rebuild.”

I realized this morning, while reading Psalm 31, (my 2016 chapter), that my city is still under siege. And May is going to be a month full of attacks. When I picture this in my mind, I see a “Lord of the Rings” type castle, with enemies all around the wall. In verse 22 though, David says “In my alarm or panic, I said ‘I am cut off from Your sight, Lord!’ Yet You heard my cry for mercy when I called to You for help.”

Every time something comes my way this month, every time another special event or holiday approaches, I have the choice to tell myself one of two things…I am cut off from God’s sight, He doesn’t see, He doesn’t care, I am alone, or I can tell myself…He hears my cry for mercy, He shows me His wonderful love daily, and in His dwelling I am safe (not free from sadness, but safe).

The very last verse of chapter 31 says, “Be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” My sweet friend reminded me this morning that our job is to have the courage and hope, but it’s God’s job to provide the strength, which He will faithfully do.

Then Jim reminded me that God is still God in May, and because He is, I will be safe in my city, even when it’s under attack, because in His shelter, I will take refuge.

Mayday

Dangerous Prayers

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I have prayed a few prayers in my lifetime that I won’t pray again unless I’m really prepared for an answer. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23. I was diligent about praying this scripture years ago…and when God began to answer it, I underwent a few solid years of intense awareness of my own thoughts and how “what a man eats does not make him unclean, but what proceeds from the heart (Matt. 15:18) and that “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9). It was a time in my life when I would battle internally for days, weeks, months, with unwanted thoughts, and I would ask, beg, plead with the Lord to deliver me from them, but I learned so much through those difficult days. I learned that God was, in fact, strongest when I was weakest, that His grace was and is sufficient for me and that my thought-life, although hidden from the outside world, was not hidden from my Heavenly Father, and it was something that He desired to be Lord of too.

Another prayer that should be carefully considered is the one that asks God to teach patience. Now I don’t know why some prayers get answered quicker than others, but if you pray for added patience, please be prepared for ample opportunities to practice this fruit in every area of your life. In your home, with your family, at the grocery store and especially on the road, when your running late. You have been warned.

So I am going to post below one of the prayers Grace wrote out a few months before the accident. I have read and reread it and wondered if I would have the courage to pray the same prayer. Grace’s life brought honor and glory to the Lord, but her legacy does also. Am I willing to allow the Lord to do anything with my life, as long as it’s what glorifies Him the most? Am I willing to allow this grief stage of my life to point others to Him? Or will I get stuck in what I wanted my life to look like, instead of what God is prompting me to accept?

 

My Purpose                       8-2-15

Lord,

I can’t seem to find my true God-given purpose in life. What do you want me to do to bring the most glory and honor to You? I know You have planned something great for me, but I have no idea what that is! My life lacks excitement, not knowing what comes next, spontaneity. Show me Your plan Lord, help me to bring glory and honor to You.

Love, Grace

Dangerous Prayers