Where was God?

It is hard to believe but it has been 10 years ago today that my baby brother passed away.  It feels like it was yesterday because I can remember all of the details.  4 months prior to his passing my other brother had passed away.  The ironic part of this day is the fact that we celebrated the life of my father 7 years ago.

When my first brother died  I concentrated on helping my Dad through the reality.  After all this would be his second child that passed before him.  We all have in mind the order of life.  If you are a parent you believe that you will die before your children and not the other way around.  It was hard to believe he was gone even though he had been ill.  In my mind we would grow old and share old stories.  I had been praying and believed that God could heal him.    Why didn’t God answer my prayers?  Why did he allow this to happen?  I was confused.  The days went by and I reflected on the things we had done over the years, funny stories and even the challenges we had.  I talked with my baby brother even more often, after all is was now just the 2 of us.  I didn’t have an answer from God.  We created a new tradition for Thanksgiving and spent it in Maryland with my brother and his family.  We tried just a little to duplicate those dishes that our Mother, Grandmother and Brother were known for.  We didn’t do too badly.  We made it to the other side of Thanksgiving.  Christmas was coming however we would not celebrate together.  My brother and his family were going to Florida.  I wished we all could be together for Christmas.

Early that December morning that call came that turned my world upside down.  The voice on the other end said he had become ill and was on his way to the hospital.  Less than an hour later that same voice called and said he had died.  How could this happen?  He was in the military and had just had a physical.  He was only 36 years old.  It was as if I couldn’t pray fast enough and ask God to step in and heal as I know that he can do.  What kind of logic was this?  What kind of plan did God have?  This was not fair, I just lost my other brother, my mother and sister too.  How was my Dad going to survive this?  This was too much for anyone.  He had a family, the kids wouldn’t get to know there father.  I was angry with God.  Where was the God I had come to know?  I couldn’t wrap my arms around any of this.  I remember telling a church member that I was angry with God and they told me I shouldn’t say things like that.

Well I am here to tell you that God is really ok if we get angry with him.  He knows my pain, confusion and frustration.  He doesn’t give up on me, even though I wanted to give up on him.  I realized he was with me the entire time.  He was my strength because I was weak.  My natural self wanted to crawl in a ball,  in a corner and stay under the covers and weep.  Instead he gave me the strength to comfort others.  He kept me in my right mind to handle all of the necessary business.  He surrounded me with so much love, my best friend came in town, other family friends, the phone calls and the cards were overwhelming.  God waited patiently for me to return to him in my own time.  He still loves me and keeps me.  I may not have my biological brothers but he has placed others in my life that are like brothers.  It took me a minute to realize that.

For anyone that is challenged with the loss of a loved one especially around the holidays, just know that God is still there, he will never leave you.  Understand that grief is a process, there is no time frame in which we can say it should be over.  Everyone will process differently and in their own way.  Sometimes you have to reach out and ask for help in getting to the other side of grief.  You just have to take one day at a time and know that life will be different, new memories and blessings.

I pray God gives you peace, he comforts you in the days, weeks, months and years to come.  Let him go with you in this process and understand that you will have a new normal.  He really is there.

Matthew 5:4 – Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.

Psalm 34:18 – The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.

 

 

Blessings,

Terry

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Holidays without Mom

The first holiday without my Mom was Thanksgiving. In fact it had only been a month.  It felt strange because she always planned the meal weeks ahead.  She checked out new recipes and tried to introduce something new.  I have to admit I am truly pretty traditional I want the usual, Turkey, Dressing, Sweet Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Greens, Rolls, Ice Tea, Pies, Cakes and Ice Cream.  Mind you this is the only time of the year I eat like this.  The Diet starts in January.

Mom had it all down to a science.  She used the conventional oven and then the microwave for other parts of the preparation.  She had a color scheme, table clothe, napkins, etc.  The house not only looked great but it smelled good as she was preparing each dish.  I can remember having to put the leaf in the table and watching her teach my children how to set a table, creating place cards for each guest.  There were times when I thought she was doing too much.  We just wanted to spend time hanging out with each other, after all once dinner was finished somebody was headed for the couch.

No matter what anyone says there is nothing like your Mom.  So how did I handle this holiday?  I finally reminded myself that I was not “Delores” (Mom) and that I didn’t have to try to make everyone else feel better.  I was hurting too.  I missed my Mom.  Even though I know that we will all die it’s still something when it actually happens.  Next on the agenda was giving up the notion that we had to have a 4 or 5 course dinner.  After all who was I kidding, I was working full time and had teenagers (who were not experts in the kitchen).  The bottom line we needed to eat so whatever was prepared would be fine.  That idea alone lifted about 20 pounds off of my shoulders.

Then the pressure was eased a little more when we received an invitation from a friend for all of us to join her family for Thanksgiving dinner.  I convinced my Dad that we would have a good time and we did.  We acknowledged him as our elder, he had a place of honor which I know made him feel better.   Good food, games and laughter.

You might think how could we have such a great time.  There are a few reasons:

My faith in God, he gave me strength, wiped away tears, touched my friends heart to extend the invitation.  Knowing that my Mom’s spirit will always be with me.  Seeing some of her characteristics in each of us put a smile on my face.  Growing up I would hear people say “You are just like your Mother”.  I would get tired of that line and just wanted people to see me for me.  That year I accepted that compliment and believed it was a blessing for that recognition.  She imparted so much wisdom over the years in her own way.  There were moments that I just reflected on a few of her teachings.  Mom enjoyed the holidays so she would want us to continue enjoying them as well.

To be honest my emotions went from one end of the spectrum to the other.  I had to keep reminding myself that she would want us to enjoy the holiday.  I said and thought all of the right things that I learned in church.  After all I had  faith.   Yes I wanted to cry and did so in private.  I kept pushing forward because the world didn’t stop;  life, time were still moving forward.  Part of me was angry because I wanted to have her here to see her grandchildren graduate from high school, college, marry and start their families.

Christmas came and I really didn’t want to decorate but I did for everyone else.  What I learned: I was stronger than I imagined because I  was still standing.  Over the years I gave myself permission to allow others see me cry.  I became vulnerable and accepted the kindness and comfort that was being offered.    I had to think about new traditions.  Taking one day at a time was all I could do and do it well.  I wanted to talk about my Mom, but who would want to listen to all of the stories?  My siblings were struggling as well and didn’t always want to talk.  I wanted the pain to go away now, but it didn’t.  I had to go through the process without knowing a time frame.

Just take one day at a time and accept the fact that there will be a new normal.  Accept your emotions and have the faith and believe in God that he will be with you when no one else is around.

You can make it.

Blessings,

 

TerryPeace

Holiday without Grandmother

It is hard to believe but it will be 26 years next week since Grandmother as I called her or Granny as she was known to my children passed away.   This was my Mother’s Mother or Mother Dear.

We had placed her in a nursing home because we were unable to care for her at home.  It was not my desire to see her there but it was the best choice.  The day we took her she stopped communicating with us and then she passed a week later.

I wasn’t ready for her to go after all my son was only 10 months old and my daughter was 3.  I wanted them to know their Great Grandmother.  I was proud that there were 4 generations of my Mother’s side of the family.  The Holidays were always special but I wasn’t so sure about this First Thanksgiving.  It was not going to be the same without Grandmother.

Thanksgiving was quickly approaching, Mom and I both worked full time.  She thought about the menu, not that we had to think too hard because we had the traditional, turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, greens, rolls, jello salad, tea and desserts.  For the first time Mom and I seemed to struggle getting everything together.  There was so much to do.  We couldn’t figure out why things were not coming together. All of a sudden the light bulb went on.  We never had to cook everything.  Why?  Grandmother had retired and actually started days  before preparing food.  My job was always to pick her up with the food that she prepared and bring her to my Mother’s house.

Timing is everything with one oven.  What goes in the oven first, what needs to be cooked at 350 versus 400, how long do we need to cook each item.  The oven is only so big and the pans will not all fit at the same time.  At that rate who knew when we would actually eat.  Finally, we were able to laugh and give ourselves a little slack.  Nobody else seemed to be bothered.  We decided that we were ok not having home-made rolls this time.  The reality was the fact that first I would have to find Grandmother’s recipe and then attempt to duplicate.  That was not about to happen the day before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving was a little solemn,  one place missing at the table.  We wanted to make sure that Mom was ok.  Yes it was my Grandmother that was missing but it was her Mother.  I had no frame of reference for what that felt like.  I couldn’t imagine not having my Mom.    We talked about what we remembered about Grandmother, we took food to one of her friends that lived in her old apartment building.  It’s what Grandmother would have done.  We decided that for Christmas we would choose just a few desserts and not the entire menagerie as usual.  We would invite Aunt Frances (mom’s step-mother) for dinner.  We talked about things Grandmother had done, things that she would say.  Mom decided to connect with some of Grandmother’s friends, took baked goods, sent Holiday cards, invited to lunch, and made visits.  We continued over the years and made it feel like Grandmother was still with us.

In her obituary she was described this way:  She was a true realist, with strong opinions.  Her personal views were shaped by her staunch belief in the power of individual accomplishment and sacrifice.  Though she always showed great tenderness and compassion, she will be remembered more for her steely inner strength.  Mary lived independently, depended on no one but herself and dictated her own fate long before the feminist movements of the 60’s and 70’s.”

This was my Grandmother, Mary Gilbert.

Just know you can make it through the Holiday without Grandmother.

 

Blessings,

 

Terry

 

 

 

Holidays

We are going into the Holiday Season.  It is hard to believe it is really just around the corner.  It feels like we just celebrated the holidays.

The weather is changing, the stores have decorations for all of the fall/winter holidays.  People start talking about family and their plans.

Well for many people this is one of the hardest times of the year.  Why you might ask.  For persons that have lost loved ones it seems a little bit harder.  After all, the holidays are about family.  The most challenging time is the first holiday without that family member.  For some it gets a little easier but for others it may still be a challenge.  I’ve been asked a number of times how did I make it through another holiday.

Over the next few weeks I will share stories of just how I made it or didn’t make it.

Each scenario is a little different, different family member and some growth on my part.

I hope this may help you, a family member or friend.

Just know it will be ok.  Maybe not perfect but it will be ok.  Stay tuned.

Blessings,

 

Terry

 

Partnerships and Authentic Friendships

Since my last post,  I have encountered God once again letting me know that we, including me need to remove the mask that we wear.

First, I heard a sermon taken from Mark 2:1-5 that talked about the power of partnerships. To summarize:

  • We need to learn how to depend on one another
  • Allow other people to carry us,  there will be times in our lives when  we need to humble ourselves and be carried.  We don’t always have to be the stronger person.
  • It really is ok to not be ok

Secondly,  My devotion was about Authentic Friendships

  • These are more than just surface level chit-chat.  Instead genuine, heart-to-heart sharing
  • Sharing our hurts, confess our failures, disclose our doubts, admit our fears, acknowledge our weaknesses and ask for help
  • We pretend, role-play, superficial politeness

All of this is to say that we wear masks so many times.  I know personally that through some of the toughest situations, job loss, divorce, death of family,,  when persons asked how I was doing my response was “I am fine”.  I don’t know if I was trying to convince them or myself that I was fine and going to make it through.

How many times have we heard the statement that “real” men don’t cry?  Young boys are not encouraged to express their weaknesses and feelings.   Did you ever fall off of your bike, scrape your knee, felt the pain only to be told to get up and it doesn’t hurt.  We are being encouraged to speak positively.

My question to you is have we forgotten to give ourselves and others permission to be authentic and express true feelings?

Just this week I was asked how I was doing. Instead of saying that I was fine instead I expressed my true situation. Actually I had a moment that made me a little sad. Don’t know what triggered the feeling, but I was thinking about all of my family that have passed away.  It was ok because a co-worker  reminded me that it was a blessing to have such good memories that I missed them. I had the conversation and move forward with my day. It was a relief.

Being vulnerable, being me was OK. It was freeing, taking off the mask.

It is so important as we go through life that we remember that we can’t go it alone.  We need partners along our journey.  It helps if we can consider those relationships as authentic.

I hope you can take off your masks and know that it’s ok to be vulnerable.  Let someone carry you.

Also remember that God is your partner and friend.  He wants us to come to him just as we are.  We don’t have to put on a mask for him.

Blessings,

Terry

 

 

 

Authentic You

Good Evening or Morning depending on your time zone.

Are you being authentic?  Does the real you show up everyday or is it an impostor?

Last week I went to the movies with a friend to see “Girls Trip”.  In the movie one of the characters had what you would consider to be a very successful life,  speaking engagements, a published book, TV show, etc.  She was beautiful and appeared to “have it all” and was happy.  By the end of the movie she admitted to a room full of strangers that her life was not perfect, there were problems in her marriage and she did not “have it all”.  More importantly she had to share with her long time friends the real challenges she had been facing for years.  She had been wearing a mask for years.  She discovered that her friends were in her corner and very supportive.

How many times has someone asked you “how are you doing”?  For some of us we have been conditioned to say we are fine, everything is ok or some other combination of words.  When something has happened in our lives, problems at home, on the job, health issues, death in the family, financial struggles to name a few.  Are we honest with others about where we are in the moment.

What would happen if we were really “authentic” and said  how we were feeling in the moment we were asked?  I don’t think the world would end.  No one would laugh.  Instead what if you were honest about where you are in the moment and received a hug, someone prayed for you and your situation, provided a solution to the situation, blessed you with a gift of some sort, shared a similar story, cried with you, shared encouraging words or was just quiet and listened.

Can we be vulnerable in our pain and struggles?  Can we remove the mask?  Do we block our  blessings?

What if we give others permission to care about us, have compassion and support us through the challenge.

Remember on the other side of the coin that if you don’t want to know the honest answer don’t ask the question.

Striving to be more authentic.

 

Blessings,

Terry

 

 

 

Your SHAPE

What is your SHAPE? You may be thinking why would she ask my shape, my body type, what size am I.  It doesn’t have anything to do with anything and it’s none of her business.

SHAPE means something different:

S – spiritual gifts

H- heart

A – abilities

P – personality

E – experiences

Rick Warren refers to our SHAPE as a guide to our purpose.  Those parts God wants to use for his glory.  He put us together.

You may think you have experienced some challenges, you may not think you are successful,  you may have made mistakes, had setbacks so how in the world could  or would God use me?

I have thought the same thing and then I had to admit it’s not about me.

We are all different, unique in our own way.  Some short, tall, good with their hands, good with computers, can run extremely fast, a great pitcher, funny, singers, compassionate and the list goes on and on.

I am unique everything about me is special. No matter what God still loves me.  I have been shown favor.  I have overcome.  I am still standing.

My story may be the only example of God’s goodness.  My story may be the hope for someone that has lost all hope.   My smile may cheer up the person that received bad news. My attitude may encourage someone to continue the fight.

We may never know the impact we have on another person.   It could be on our job, at our place of worship, in the grocery store or even at the park.   Just keep using your Unique SHAPE and God will do the rest.

 

Shapes

 

Blessings,

 

Terry