When the Holidays Hurt

Thanksgiving is behind us, and Christmas is upon us. This time of year has been bitter sweet for my family since the birth of our son, Luke, on Christmas Eve of 2013. We had him for 11 days before the Lord called him home, so this time of year, as wonderful and as magical as it is, comes with heartache for us.

Last year, I suffered with sever anxiety throughout the holiday season, and it robbed me of the joy and blessings that were around me. Not only did I have panic attack upon panic attack, but my family was plagued with the flu, which exacerbated my already intense anxieties. I lost months of memories made, because I was in the throes an anxiety disorder (which I will write about in a later post).

So with Christmas quickly approaching, what do we do when our hearts are aching? First thing’s first: pray. Pray boldly for God to deliver you from your heartache. If you don’t have a journal, I would highly recommend buying one. I have prayer journals that I frequently look back on, and see how I have been delivered from various trials. When rereading through my old prayers, my faith increases because I can see how God has worked in my life. How quickly it is that we forget what God has done for us. Just look at the Israelites in the Old Testament! They were delivered from slavery in Egypt, had the Red Sea parted for them, yet they complained and forgot the miracles and blessings that were pouring forth (Exodus 14).  We have what the Israelites did not have, though. We have the Bible; the living word of God. When we forget what God has done, we can go to both the Old and New Testaments and be reminded of how God does deliver His people. And with a prayer journal, we can see what God has done in our lives, and how He has parted way of the Red Seas for each of us.

Secondly, give yourself time to grieve. Whether it is the loss of a job, a marriage dissolved, finances out of control, or the death of the loved one, we need time to grieve. Healing does not come from pushing the hurt away. It comes only through Jesus. We are allowed to mourn the loss (whatever it may be), however we do not have to set up camp there. When we wallow in our grief, we get lost in it. Instead, we need to be victorious in our sufferings and allow God to bring fruition to us from it. You might be in the middle of a very dark time, and you may be reading this and saying to yourself, this is impossible. Oh, sweet friend, I know that feeling all to well. However, I also know that with God, ALL things ARE possible (Matthew 19:26).

Lastly, if you are unable to find peace with the hurt, I would highly recommend finding a Christian counselor who can help you through the process, all the while pointing you to the cross. Because, the cross is where the healing begins, and the cross is where the pain, the sadness, the anxiety, the anger, the darkness, and so on, ends. If you need assistance finding a Christian counselor in your area, let me know. I will do whatever I can to help you find one!

Additionally, reach out to the elders in your church. There is a very good chance that there is someone who has been through whatever it is you may be going through. God places people in our lives for reasons we will never understand, until one day when it all makes sense.

The holidays don’t have to hurt.

You have the choice to rejoice. Choose joy!

Please let me know how I can pray for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Let It Go

I have two young daughters who daily remind me to let it go. Whether it’s because they break out in song and dance (you know the song from Frozen. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard it 1000 times…and counting), or because I am nudged from above to see the bigger picture of the simple things through their little eyes-but letting it go is something I have to do quite frequently.

So, what exactly is it that I have to let go of? Well, first and foremost, I have to let go of myself. We live in a culture where it is praised and encouraged to live for me, myself and I.

My three best friends and my three worst enemies.

When I read through the story of John the Baptist, it depicts so beautifully that my life is not about me, but about the King of kings. It is not about what I can or cannot do, but about what He has done. In Luke 1, we read that even before John was born, he was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15). Further in the chapter we read how John leaped in his mothers womb when Mary’s voice was heard (Luke 1:41). John lived for Jesus, and lived in such a way that glorified Him.

I say I live for Jesus, but if I’m being honest, I really don’t. I live for me. I live for my comforts, my gains and my purposes. I’m selfish and self consumed. I want to live for Him, but I don’t want to be inconvenienced or uncomfortable in the process. Just saying that and writing that makes makes me feel so icky. But, it’s true. I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want to go through hardships. I don’t want to sacrifice what’s closest to me. I don’t want to feel another heartbreak that lasts a lifetime.. I want my life to be worry free, trouble free, pain free, illness free… So, I pray, but not boldly, because I am scared of what that might bring. I pray for increased faith, but I pray that with doubt because I am so fearful of what that may look and feel like. I am so consumed with myself, that I am not allowing Jesus to work in my life the way He needs to. I keep getting in His way.

John’s was a “The  voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the ways of the Lord” (John 1:23). He proclaimed the coming of a Savior to people who so desperately needed to be saved. Isn’t that what we are called to do? Speak more and more about Jesus? His grace upon grace, His mercy, His love, His compassion, His life, His death. His death on a cross that saved a wretch like me.. A selfish, and fearful wretch like me.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is John saying, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  Wow.. Such humility. Before Jesus, John was ministering to and baptizing people; not in his name, but in the name of God. When he saw Jesus approaching him in the Jordan, John shouted “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” That day, when John baptized Jesus, feeling unworthy to even touch the straps of His sandals, his ministry ended. He then pointed people away from himself and towards the Son of God.

Well, why didn’t Jesus go to him when he was imprisoned? Why didn’t Jesus save John from being beheaded? Surely Jesus knew what was going on. Surely He could have saved him! But He didn’t. Not because He didn’t love John, but because it wasn’t about John; it never was. Just like it’s not about me, or about you. It is, however, about Jesus.

So, before I can let anything else go, I have to let myself go. Before I can bring anything else to the cross, I have no bring myself to the cross. I must decrease, so He can increase. I must fervently pray for increased faith, and pray that boldly and without fear. I must pray that even in the wilderness, in the valley, and on the prison floor, my faith in HIM can be so large, that there is no room for doubt. I have to let it go (whatever it may be), and let Him do what He does best: Save me.

Lord, you are so gracious to me. Day after day I get in your way, yet you love me just the same. Day after day I struggle with anxieties, fears, the never ending to-do lists, the what if’s of life, yet I fail to acknowledge that you are already in my tomorrow. So Father, help me see beyond myself, and to see how great you are. You, oh Lord, are a good good Father. Forgive me for my selfishness. Forgive me for thinking that I can do what only you can do. Lord, it is my desire that I may decrease so that there is room for you to increase. I am scared of what that looks like. I am actually terrified of it, God. But I know, Abba God, that you are worth it. I pray this in the beautiful name of Jesus, amen.

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Sweet Surrender

Surrendering doesn’t come easy to me. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty tough. I take it as a loss, as defeat and as weakness.

But right now, I am lost.

I feel defeated.

I feel weak.

I feel robbed of my joy, my heart is heavy, my anxieties are consuming my every thought. It is a vicious cycle that I cannot break.

But I know the One who can.

So, I have come to this place of sweet surrender. This place where His mercies flow. This place where I can rest in His arms and find peace.

1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Do you know how freeing it feels to truly cast all of your anxious thoughts at the foot of the cross? To humble yourself before Him and ask Him to help? Maybe you’re like me, and you get so caught up in the busyness of life, where you forget how much He cares for you and loves you.

That busyness. It’s not from Him. The distractions that keep you from running with reckless abandon to Jesus..those distractions are not from Him, either. Then what do we do when we are barely treading water? When our fear has overpowered our faith, when our anxieties have swallowed us up, when our sadness has stolen our joy? Well, I remember the blessings that flow, and praise the One from whom they came. Philippians 4:8 is a beautiful reminder of just that, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”

So, here I am, Lord. This place where You have brought me. This place of sweet surrender.  Where I can focus more on You, and less on me. Where I can find stillness in the midst of the storm. Where I am gently and lovingly reminded that You are God, and I am not. And what a beautiful reminder that is. Because I can’t do this without you.

Surrender doesn’t have to be enslaving when you are surrendering to the One who can save you.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Have you surrendered to Him? Are you still carrying your burdens?

Find your rest in Him, sweet friends.

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Imagine

Happy birthday sweet boy. You would have been 3 today. I can only imagine all the fun you’d be having with your sisters running around the farm, feeding the animals, riding the go cart, decorating gingerbread cookies… Yet none of that compares to what I imagine life being like in the presence of Jesus and the glory of God. While we run and play on open acreage, you run and play on streets of gold. While we prepare to celebrate the birth of our savior, you live that celebration every day. While we sing songs of worship and praise, you are looking upon Him. You, my dear Lukey, are where we strive to be. And though I’m reminded of your weakness when you were born, and of your short life here on earth, I find peace and joy in your new strength and in your eternal life once you entered the gates of heaven.

Christmas Eve is a joyous time, but it is bittersweet for us. We celebrate your life, and remember your soft face, your sweet smell, your blond hair and blue eyes. All your imperfections that were so so perfect to me. We look at your pictures and tell your sisters how you, my brave boy, beat the odds. How even in your weakness, you were strong. How you made the doctors question their knowledge on how you made it through my pregnancy, through birth, and lived for 11 days. How through you, we were able to share the power of God and the grace of God to , to nurses, and to other hurting families. You, Luke Michael, will always be my brave little boy. My miracle. And apart from Jesus, you will always be my greatest and most wonderful Christmas gift.
Happy birthday, sweet Lukey. You made us so proud.

imagine

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Silent Night

Published December 24th 2015

Sweet Luke,

Two years ago, you took your first breath and cried your first cry. We were able to see you, feel you and breathe you in. And we savored every moment we had with you, because we knew your days with us were short. The hospital became our home for 11 days; the sounds, the voices, the busyness of your room-it became comforting to us. In our loneliness of grieving for a baby that we knew we would not hold very long, we found solace in the bustling sounds of the pediatric intensive care unit.

We talk about your all the time; we share your memories with everyone who asks. And we are always questioned, “How did you get through losing a child? How are you able to cope with the loss of your son?” The answer is always Jesus. Because though we found momentary peace with the busyness of a hospital, we have eternal peace with Christ. And though we found comfort in the sounds of the machines that were monitoring you, we knew that there would come a time that the machines would be turned off.

And there would be silence.

We’ve never known silence like the silence of your last night with us. It was the kind of silence where we could hear and feel our own hearts beating, and hear you breathe.

Because of that silence, we listened as you took your last breath.

Because of that silence, we were able to hold our breathless son, and cry out to Jesus-praising Him for sustaining us, for blessing us and for holding us still.

We ran to Him, so He can hold us still.

He held us still throughout our entire time with you. We felt the hands of God upon us, and we felt such peace with you, even though we knew we’d be leaving the hospital with empty arms.

That kind of peace only comes from stillness and silence in Christ Jesus.

January 4th 2014

It was a silent night.

It was a holy night.

And we are able to rest in Heavenly Peace,

Because Christ holds us, still.

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When your heart needs a checkup.

I have days (moments throughout the day, really) where my heart needs a checkup. When I’m feeling weary, burned out, frustrated and at my wit’s end. Can you relate, or am I alone here? You know, those kind of mornings when I’m about to take that first sip of coffee, but I end up spilling it all over myself, and it’s just downhill from there. I pour another cup of coffee, get ready to enjoy that first sip, and I hear my little one start talking through the baby monitor, or the dog is scratching at the door, or the phone starts ringing (or all of the above simultaneously). Before I know it, it’s nearly lunch time, my coffee is cold and my heart is just, well…yucky.

I struggle with getting my heart right sometimes. Sometimes, I let my frustrations and annoyances get the best of me. But you know what, my attitude reflects my heart all the time. So if my heart is yucky, my attitude is sure to follow.

Recently, I have heard sweet whispers of Psalm 51:10

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of repentance. When I read it, I feel the writer (David) pleading with God to wash him clean. In the first verses alone, we can so clearly see where David is and where he longs to be. He says in verses 1 and 2:

1. Have mercy upon me, O God,

According to Your lovingkindness;

According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,

Blot out my transgressions.

2. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

And cleanse me from my sin.

I cannot just change my attitude (if you don’t believe me, ask my husband). I have to let go of my selfishness, and let God change me from within. When I start feeling anger creep in (that hot Italian temper), I have to give myself a 5 minute time out to pray. I desperately need those 5 minutes to take some deep breaths, and meditate on Psalm 51..

Have mercy on me.

Wash me.

Purge me.

Make me hear joy and gladness.

Create in me a clean heart.

Restore me.

Uphold me.

Deliver me.

I can feel when my crooked, tarnished heart is in need of a checkup when my attitude is crooked and tarnished. And if I want to be honest here, I need to do this daily. I need to start my day asking God to uphold me, and I have to end my day asking Him to forgive me.

A fun thing I do with my girls when anyone in the house is acting yucky is sing the Doc McStuffins theme song (which brings into attention our behaviors), then pray about what’s going on. My 5 year old will say, “I am the clay and You are the clay maker. Fix me, and forgive me, Lord.”

She shows me up all the time..

Does your heart need a checkup?

 

 

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365 Days

It’s been 365 days, 525,600 minutes and not a second goes by where I don’t think about you and miss you dearly.
You would have been 1 today.
I’m left to wonder what your favorite food would have been, or what your first word would have been, or when you would have taken your first steps. Would your eyes have stayed blue and your hair blond, like your daddy? Would you have had a crooked smile like your big sister? Would your eyes have been big, like mine? I can only imagine how cute you would have looked in your Christmas suit, especially since it would have been your birthday, too. And then I think about how I would have had to wipe frosting off your sweet face after eating your first birthday cake.
All the firsts that I will never get to experience with you.
All the memories that were never made.
They were all taken from me when you took your last breath.

It’s been 365 days since you came into our lives and 354 days since you left, and sweet boy, it’s been an amazing year.
Not long after you went to Heaven, I had so many people (people I didn’t even know) tell me how you have impacted their lives.
I had people from across the world telling me how they’ve prayed for you and how they grew closer to Christ because of you.
My home church became so united through prayer for you; I saw mountains moved because of the unwavering faith displayed by our church family.
Friends became believers. Family members became believers. Hearts that were so hardened to the love of Christ are now softened and ripe to accepting Him in. Because of you, Heaven has become an eternal home for so many people, and I know this is just the beginning of what God is doing through you.

You continue to inspire me, sweet Luke.
To be more patient. To be more loving. To be more generous.
To look at the world and all of God’s creation through eyes of thankfulness, awe and wonder.
To take a step back and always remember that even in the darkest of times, His light still shines.
And the darker it seems, the brighter He is.
This year, because of you, my sister and our dearest friends was baptized.
This year, because of you, your daddy and I renewed our wedding vows.
This year, because of you and because of God’s great love, we adopted a little girl.
This year, because of you, we have grown stronger in our faith, stronger as a family, stronger as individuals, and are able to truly see God at work in the midst of heartache.
While there are a lifetime of memories I will never have with you as my son, I will always remember your sweet face.
I will always remember the way you smelled and the sound of your cry.
I will always remember the way you made me feel holding you for the first time, and holding you as Jesus called you home.
I will always remember your first breath as you were delivered, and your last breath in my arms.
I will always be thankful for the impact you have made in me, and the impact you continue to have in others.
I don’t know what you would have looked like today, on your first birthday, but I am certain that you look amazing in the presence of God.
Written: December 24th, 2014
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