Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Mighty Fortress

Today is Halloween. I have never much cared for the holiday since I researched the history of it when I was homeschooling my children. I like to think instead of Reformation Day and Martin Luther and when I think of Luther, I can't help but think of "A Mighty Fortress."  I have always loved that hymn even as a child. I think it was the music more than the words, but as I have gotten older the words have become so sweet to me. 
I will never forget the Saturday after September 11, 2001. We were planning on visiting Lancaster Bible College where Tess was attending and see a concert by Steve Green. We questioned going because of what happened but then decided we needed to spend time with her--because of what had happened!  The concert was in a medium sized chapel on campus. It was a somber crowd that gathered and Steve Green sang acapella  "A Mighty Fortress."  I had chills and was in tears by the time he finished. Of course Amy was with us. She loved music, she loved going places, and she loved seeing her big sister.
Today I was reminded of that time.  Today I was also reminded, thanks to Facebook, of my blog last year on this day. You can read it here.
Last year I was still so full of grief over Amy's death and so many others at that time. Even our beloved dog had died.  We had just attended a funeral of a dear friend of the family and he was a Marine, like my dad. I said in my blog that I wondered if the next military funeral we attended would be my father's.  
Well, my parents have both been very ill. My mama has chronic congestive heart failure with only 15% use of her heart. My dad is in the hospital now with what they think is pancreatic cancer. His diagnosis does not look good. I am flying out on Monday morning to be with them for two weeks. I hope I can help them plan for the immediate future and be a source of comfort to them. But it is only for two weeks. It is hard living so far away.
Psalm 46:1 and 2 says, 
"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble. 

Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;"

God is and always will be my source of comfort. He has taken me through the valley of the shadow of death with Amy and He will see me through whatever valleys lie ahead with my parents. 
"A Mighty Fortress" kept going through my head today. I love the last lines to this song...... 
"Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever."

His kingdom is forever, where, if we have Him as our Savior we will live with Him and those who have died in Christ before us, forever and forever.

Steve Green singing "A Mighty Fortress" 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Two and One Half years

"Sorrow....turns out to be not a state but a process," penned CS Lewis in his book A Grief Observed."  
This statement was the opening of chapter 9 titled, "Enduring" from The Scent of Water..... Grace for Every Kind of Broken by Naomi Zacharias, the book I am presently reading.  
As I am a great fan of CS Lewis' writings I eagerly read A Grief Observed  soon after Amy's death.  I didn't get much from it. It was too soon, too near the recent loss of Amy for me to find the comfort I was looking for. I didn't want to hear that grief was a process. I just wanted to not be grieving!  I just wanted Amy back.
Now I understand what Lewis was saying.
My life changed 2 1/2 years ago on April 8, 2013. I will never be the person I was back then. I will never know what it is like to not have some kind of sorrow inside of me at all times. Amy was too much a part of me to ever feel whole again. But can I find peace? Can I feel joy? I am finding out that the answer is yes! I heard a song a few weeks ago that says, "Earth has no sorrow that heaven can't heal."   My sorrow will be healed when I get to heaven. So for now on this earth I will let Jesus fill me with His joy and His peace even though a part of my heart will always be missing Amy. 
A few chapters later in Zacharias' book, she relates about a huge hole in her backyard that her dog kept digging, no matter what she did or filled it with. While she was out of town her landlord planted a large tree in the hole. I quote from the book here:
 "She grinned and quipped, "It seemed like the perfect place for a tree, don't you think?" Yes, it was the perfect place. The answer was not to cover up the hole. The solution was not to pretend the hole wasn't there. And it wasn't to leave the gaping chasm glaring back at us.  In this case, the answer was to give it purpose."
This is what my life has needed since Amy's death. My grief will always be a gaping hole. I tried to pretend it wasn't there, I tried to cover it up and I tried to fill it with busyness. But what I really needed was purpose. 
I spent so much of my time caring for Amy and loving on her that when she was gone I felt as if my purpose in life was gone. I often talked to friends about what God had planned for my life and they would say, "You're going to be a grandma. Maybe God just wants you to take care of your grandkids." But I never felt like this would be enough. 
Back in the early spring of this year I was complaining in my head about the condition of our church library. (It is also where we meet for Sunday School.) No one has done anything to it for quite a few years and books were stacked everywhere and it was just an eyesore.   I felt like God telling me to do something about it instead of complaining!  I gave it a few weeks thought and then talked to the pastor and others and I soon started to work!  The secretary showed me a "closet". A very large walk-in closet that contained boxes of books stacked chest high that had been donated to the library! Thousands of books! This has become my purpose for the last nine months. I only spend a day a week, 3-4 hours on that day, but I am finally seeing progress. I will still probably need another 3-4 months to complete this task but God has given me a purpose and a vision for the future of not only the church library, but turning the "little" closet into a children's library. It needs repair, paint, wallpaper, and much love. But I know that God will give this to me as he has each week when I go in, sit down, look at all the books, bow my head, and ask God to give me wisdom! 
Will turned one year old last month! Marissa Amy will be 6 months old tomorrow. I take care of Mari (as we call her) 3-4 days a week for 6-8 hours a day. My grandchildren give me purpose too. Here is a recent video of them together.


Will is walking and Mari will soon be crawling as she now gets up on her hands and knees and rocks back and forth. There will be a new grandchild in March. God gives me joy through them. Yes! Joy! I have purpose and I have joy.

Will is ready to make a mess!   
My sweet Emily with little Marissa Amy

 It's been 2 1/2 years and I still miss Amy dearly, but God is healing the wound. There will always be a scar, but I am healing. About a month ago I started reading through the Psalms and yesterday my Psalm for the day was Psalm 30.
Verses 2-5 and 11-12 say exactly what is in my heart:
O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, And You healed me.
O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave; 
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. 
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.