Angels Among Us

Angels Among Us

When I began blogging, I wanted to use this avenue to encourage people who are struggling. Having some, well, maybe, a lot of experience in that area I thought I could be useful there. Here lately, I found myself needing encouragement too, a voice to remind me to keep trying, or to help me stay focused on my goals. My Mama used to be the captain of my cheerleading squad; the one who taught me to never give up and to hold onto to my faith. She’d tell me stories about people who kept going no matter what, and sometimes when I was glum she’d break out with that fabulous little song called “High Hopes.” You remember, the one about an ant and a rubber tree plant.

Mama went to heaven on a hot summer night in 1998, leaving behind her devastated daughter to hold on to her memory and her lessons. What she taught me stayed with me, her words reminding me God didn’t give me an off switch, and the fight to survive doesn’t end until your last breath. God gave me a strong will, and Mama didn’t let me forget it, making sure it was embedded in my mind. Her strategy worked until my husband died. All bets are off now.

When Dan died, I learned God sent angels in the form of other widows who could empathize with what I was going through. The first angel I found actually sat across from me at work—I called her just a few hours after I became a new widow; I can still remember parts of our conversation that horrible morning. Two more angels came into my life a few weeks after Dan’s death, and another angel, who doubled as my cousin and who knew all too well about the pain, was only a phone call away.

I now believe God sends us angels during other difficult times too, especially when your mama is no longer with you. Not all of us have or had a good mother. No, not all mothers are the same, but I got lucky there. When I was growing up, she was my mama, my protector, my teacher, the disciplinarian, but when I became a woman, a deep friendship developed.

When the bad times come now, I can no longer get a dose of her wisdom or encouragement. I could use some of those—the keep-at-its, the “you come from strong stock,” and “it’s always darkest before the dawn.” Yeah, no doubt some days are darker than others.

However, I am grateful for those angels who helped me during my, so far, darkest period, and since losing Dan, these angels have increased in number. Not all of them are widows.

The last few weeks have been difficult, and I want to hear Mama’s voice. I can still remember the sound of it when she spoke, when she sang, her laugh. I want to tell her what’s going on like I used to do. Knowing that’s impossible, God placed a few more angels around me who are echoing her words, almost like channeling, being the voices of reason, of inspiration, telling me, “you’ve come this far, don’t give up now,” or “He will get us through all things.” On the stormy days, the ones when it seems like lightning is popping everywhere, filling my heart with fear, it’s hard to remember giving up is not an option; sometimes it’s hard to trust in the power of God.

A few of my angels have been busy making me remember what Mama taught me, even though they never knew her. There’s no way they’ll ever know how much their listening to me or texting just a few lines, reminding me to get back up and keep trying or to ignore the junk when dealing with difficult people has meant to me.

I miss my Mama, and though I can’t be with her, I do have strong women in my life; some are family, some are extended family, all of them I cherish. No one can ever replace Mama, but these angels have and are making my walk alone easier.

If people important to you are no longer with you, don’t overlook the angels who’ve come into your life, speaking words of wisdom, encouragement, and strength. Listen to them and stay focused. Most of all, never, ever give up!

To all the mothers and to those beautiful angels in my life, Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

A Psalm of Lament

A Psalm of Lament

Some people who read this may not agree with me, nor like what I write in this post. That’s okay. We each have a path to walk, a journey to complete, and our life experiences make up who we are and become. Some of us have trod, or should I say limped down roads filled with ditches and potholes, and we’ve wondered where God is, why did or is He allowing so much pain in our lives.

The pain is real and deep, the discouragement high, the disappointments astronomical. Our tears give away to anger, especially in grief and in particular complicated grief, and we wonder where God is, why He deserted us during these hard days.

If you’re a believer, you may hear it said, often from well-meaning people, and possibly those self-righteous who know or sense you’re suffering, but who want to make the pain go deeper, we should never get mad with God, nor question Him. It wasn’t until I took a class on Psalms while working on my masters in Biblical Studies that I learned people do get angry or question God, crying out to Him, as the psalmist wrote in Psalm 88:14, Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?

My life has not been easy, but it hasn’t been dull either. It wasn’t until after Dan died, forcing me to face significant battles, most of the time alone, that I found myself wondering if God hated me. Research informed me I’m not alone in these feelings, which are usually felt by those who’ve endured or enduring extremely difficult circumstances. Hearing pastors and others comment on anger and questioning added to my frustration, deepening the hurt.

Most people think of Psalms as praises. Taking the course on the Book of Psalms introduced me to the psalms of lament. Psalm 88 hit home for me. As Craig Broyles wrote, “The psalm consistently attributes the cause of the affliction to Yahweh himself, as demonstrated by the many verses that begin with you and your (vv. 5 – 8, 14, 16 – 18) (Broyles, 1999).

Say what?

Have I been so depressed, felt so defeated I thought God was my enemy? Yes, I’m not proud to admit. Did I think God was always punishing me? Yes. Is He going to send me to hell for those feelings? No. I now believe God strengthens us during the bad times (and by now, I must be one tough old bird!), and we learn from each trial things or traits about ourselves useful to us later on down the road.

Life can be hard, with many bad turns. It can change quickly, and sometimes all it takes is a phone call with bad news to destroy your world. Since Dan died, I’ve lost a few friends, and a few relatives turned their backs on me, but they were replaced by new friends and reconnecting with other family members. Out of the bad times have come good times, less stressful and making life more pleasant than I ever thought possible when I was in the midst of my deepest woes.

It’s easy to forget the good things when you’re going through a rough patch, but even then, there is so much to be thankful for each day. One of my high school teachers had a poster on his door that displayed this simple thought, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” Sums it up pretty well, I think.

If you’re struggling with difficulties, trying to keep your faith, stay strong and as the old song says, take one day at a time. If you’re a believer, read Psalm 88. You will see you are not alone. I think God put Psalm 88 in the Bible to let us know that fact. He is still there, still listening, still caring, and always working.

 

Featured Image Photo Credit:  102045603 – 祈るビジネスウーマン © aijiro — Fotolia

Reference:  Broyles, Craig C. (1999). Psalms, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series. Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books.

 

© Dee Hardy | Encouraging the Discouraged, 2016. All rights reserved

 

Final Moments

Final Moments

This weekend I repeated a joyless task I would prefer not to do. I put flowers on Dan’s grave because his birthday is Monday. I’d much rather for him to be alive and well, with me treating him to a birthday cake and supper. Kim, Cindy, and I change out the flowers throughout the year, usually on holidays. It’s all we can do for him now.

It took a long time for me to get to where I can remember our last day with Dan without tears, without longing, and without anger, feelings common among the grieving. When I put it altogether, God’s mercy and love for us in His plan to take Dan home was evident. His invisible Hand moving people around or placing them where He wants them for reasons we can’t comprehend until much later. Let me explain.

Dan’s final day with us was on a Sunday. It was during his second hospital stay in just one month. I always spent the night with Dan when he was in the hospital, but not that day. He was doing better, so much better he would be going home in a few days. Prodded by Dan because he knew I was dealing with a severe sinus infection, I decided to go home before dark.

Dan was quieter than usual that morning, but he perked up when Cindy came by and stayed with him for a while. Kim, who worked the night before, came later and stayed with Dan until late. She worked at the hospital as a RN in ICU. She was also a member of the Code Blue team, which consists of certified clinical personnel trained to respond to Code Blue announcements on the hospital’s paging system. Upon hearing these, they rush to resuscitate patients who are in cardiac or respiratory arrest.

A few words about Kim and Cindy: they inherited Dan’s dark hair, olive complexion, some of his mannerisms, but their strength is their own. I don’t believe strength is genetic. We learn how to be strong from the people who influence us. My mother, my Aunt Sarah and Aunt Fran, my cousins Carolyn, Angie, and Edna, all of whom are strong women, molded my life by me just observing them. Life changing events, trials, heartbreak, and other ordeals shape and toughen us to face whatever. The first few days after Dan died, Cindy and Kim, though dealing with their own grief, propped me up because in my mortally wounded state I couldn’t stand on my own. They’re strong, intelligent, and well educated, and on my list of phenomenal women whom I admire and who inspire me.

That Sunday seemed like any other day—just regular conversations, jokes, and laughter with no concern, with no inkling it would be our last times with him. We were there that day, there with Dan letting him know we cared, then not long after Kim left, Jesus took Dan home.

God made sure we each had those final happy moments with Dan, and he with us. I believe His Hand was at work in yet another way too. Kim was on the schedule to work the night Dan died, but at the last minute, a coworker asked her to switch nights, freeing Kim to spend the evening with Dan. It also freed her of being at work when the Code Blue went out for him. She would’ve heard his room number over the paging system, she would’ve thought, “That’s my Dad’s room number,” then she would have raced to his room, and outside of it, a couple of coworkers would’ve held her back while the others worked frantically and unsuccessfully to save his life. God spared Kim, a Daddy’s Girl since she was old enough to follow him everywhere and talk his ears off, from that trauma.

An old Jewish proverb says, “If God lived on earth, people would break His windows.” Even in my darkest days of grief, mad with God for not letting Dan live longer, I couldn’t deny His hand at work that day. We each have a certain amount of time allotted to us—meaning there’s a predetermined date for each of us when we must clock out; we’ve completed our work. God and I have a major disagreement concerning Dan’s allotted time, as I wanted to keep him with me much longer. I am grateful for the twenty-six years, two months, and nineteen days we had together. I wouldn’t trade one second for anything.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart! You will always be one of God’s greatest blessings to me.

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Photo: kerzen3012a © Fiedels – Fotolia.com

 

 

© Dee Hardy | Encouraging the Discouraged, 2015. All rights reserved