Dealing with the Pain

            It’s mid-November and the book release date is getting closer.  So many emotions rush through my mind and affect my body.  Memories come flooding back once again as I review the proof and add pictures.

            Those memories create two different reactions.  A smile comes to my face as I remember the good times when Jenny was still alive.  Joy returns to my heart as I think about what made her special.  Just the other day I thought of something she said that always made me chuckle.  Our normal response when a person sneezes is “God Bless You”, or just “Bless You”, right?  Well, if Jenny sneezed and she didn’t think anyone was nearby to hear it, she’d say to herself, “Bless you me”.  She wanted to make sure she was blessed after every sneeze and if no one was there to do it, she’d do it herself.  That’s just one example of why she was special.

            As I write those last words, I have to pause and fight back the tears.  Memories can bring joy and in my case they also bring sadness.  While looking through my albums for pictures to include in the book, there was no denying that for a couple years, my pictures don’t include Jenny.  Her anger toward me and Bill kept her from visiting. 

            How I wish I could go back and do some things differently!  If I knew then what I know now I would have responded to her anger with love, instead of letting my hurt feelings dictate my reaction.  I wouldn’t have put off finding out what she was so mad about.

            We all know that the past can’t be changed. Jenny is gone so I’m stuck with those regrets.  I miss her.  Tears once again caused me to take a break from writing.  My emotions are all over the place as I try to focus on the task at hand. 

            What’s the theme to this blog?  I really don’t know.  All I do know is that my daughter is gone and I miss her.  Is writing this book and bringing all these emotions back to the surface worth it?  Absolutely!  Through my tears and pain I continue to heal.  A person never totally heals from something like this but it does get easier, for the most part.  Trying to bury the pain only makes it grow stronger and wears me out.  Dealing with it is difficult at the time but in the long run, it gets easier.

This pain will be with me the rest of my life but that doesn’t mean I have to let it rule my life.  By reliving the pain, now and then, I slowly take control of it.  I slowly regain control of my life.  I refuse to let the past dictate my future.  The best way to do that is to confront it.  Not always easy but worth the effort. 

 

 

Better Now Than Before?

            Someone once said we improve with age.  In some areas I agree, in some I don’t.

            As the mother of four and grandmother of six, you could say I have some experience with raising children.  When I put that theme up against the “improve with age” theory, I must admit that I agree.  In some ways, the grandmother I am today is better than the mother I was.

            What caused that change?  Well, wisdom usually comes with growing older and I believe I have gained some wisdom through the years.  Wisdom and experience go hand in hand and the checkmarks in my “experience” column are more than I expected.  Jenny’s death put an unexpected and unwanted checkmark in that column.

            The mother I was, tried to control her kids with anger and yelling.  The grandmother I am, nurtures her grandkids with love and understanding.  The mother I was, let her insecurities dictate many of her actions.  The grandmother I am, makes every effort to build up my grandkids (and kids) so they don’t have the same insecurities.  I can’t undo the mistakes I made raising my kids but I can learn from them and not repeat them with my grandkids.

            What else can I credit for the change in me?  The biggest influence was trading in my religion for a relationship with Jesus.  When I finally realized that nothing I do can make God love me any more or less than He already does, the burden was lifted.  I no longer had to prove myself worthy of His love, forgiveness or blessing.  In reality, the truth is that I am NOT worthy of any of those things.  He gives them to me simply because He wants to.  He loves me with a love that is hard to comprehend. 

            I often wonder what my relationship with Jenny would be like now if she were still alive.  Would she like the improved me or would she still be angry?  That is a question I’ll never get an answer to but that’s OK.  I know that when I see her in heaven, all the barriers between us will be gone.  That gives me great comfort.

            In the meantime I continue to work towards improving myself day after day.  God’s mercies are new every morning (Lam 3:23 NLT) which makes all the difference in the world.  The love and mercies He has for me are the same He has for all His children so there’s no excuse.  We all can be better now than we were before, if we want.

                       

           

           

Life is Too Short

             As I mull through the various blog topics in my mind, sometimes new ones present themselves and I add them to my mental list.  This morning I saw a facebook post that hit me right between the eyes.  The words in that post were exactly what I wanted to talk about.

            The post was titled “Life is Too Short” and goes on to say ‘Grudges are a waste of perfect happiness.  Laugh when you can, apologize when you should and let go of what you can’t change.’

            In a roundabout way, this is one of the points I try to make in my book about Jenny, her death and what God did with all of it afterwards.  Life IS too short.  People you love may be taken way long before you think they will be.  God will not warn you before He takes a loved one home.  He takes them according to His will, whether we are prepared or not. 

            So, what can we do about it?  As the post said, grudges are a waste of perfect happiness.  To me that means that staying angry at someone hurts me more than it hurts them.  They can go on with their lives but I am stuck in the past, dwelling on the pain they caused me way back when.  They can enjoy life but I’m stuck reliving the pain over and over again.  All this happens because I decide to hold a grudge. 

            Grudges are born when there is unresolved anger and unforgiveness.  Satan thrives on that.  He’ll latch on to those emotions and have a field day if we let him.  The only way I know to beat him at his game is to let go of anger and always forgive.  That way he has nothing to latch on to and wreak havoc.   Our happiness does depend on whether we decide to carry that grudge or not.  I suggest the “not” part.

            From my experience, the best way to diffuse anger and avoid a fight is to apologize, especially when you are at fault.  Fessing up and apologizing are excellent ways to stop Satan in his tracks.  His influence in the situation is depleted when a sincere apology is given.   Don’t play into his hands but stop him before he can escalate the problem. 

            Our human nature wants us to think we are in control of our lives but in reality God is in control.  Our hands are tied when it comes to changing people or our situation.  The only part we can control is our attitude and reaction to our circumstances. 

            Do yourself a favor, let go of what you can’t change.  Don’t dwell on past hurts or mistakes you made.  Confess those mistakes to God and He’ll forgive you.  Ask Him to heal your hurts and He will.  ‘Let go and let God’ is a common yet important piece of advice. 

            Do yourself another favor and don’t hold a grudge.  Forgive.  Life IS too short. You don’t need to carry all that unnecessary junk around and you certainly don’t want to live the rest of your life with regrets because the person you were feuding with is suddenly gone.  Trust me on this.  I’ve been there, I am there.  I know what it’s like to lose someone before the feud was resolved.  As the survivor, my advice is: holding a grudge isn’t worth it.

Jesse’s Side

             As a young boy, Jesse’s biggest concerns were the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing.  He and his dad shared that passion and indulged it together on many occasions.  As Dan taught Jesse all he knew about the outdoors, Jesse gobbled that information up and carefully stored it away for future use.  Many hours were spent together talking, laughing and learning which led to more fond memories than could be counted.

            As Jesse grew older, his love for the outdoors never faded but a new love entered his life.  Serving in the military became his other passion, one that filled him with purpose.  At the age of seventeen he joined the army and started what he thought would be a lifetime career.

            Jesse loved the physical training and conditioning the army required.  He loved serving his country and he loved the guys he served with.  The bond they shared goes deep even today.  His job may have been a “pencil pusher” but he was the best pencil pusher around.  Pride and character were evident in everything he did.  Jesse never saw any action overseas but his buddies knew that he wanted to be there with them.  They also knew that with him doing the paperwork required, they were in good hands.

            Spending time together away from work was a normal part of their lives, as with any group of friends .  Being guys, the usual sports attractions caught their attention and spending time around a table watching the game or fight was something they never hesitated doing. 

            They also didn’t hesitate to drink and drink a lot.  The whole group did, so what was the big deal?  Jesse was drawn into that way of thinking but also knew that drinking and driving weren’t a good combination.  He had drill the next morning and he didn’t want to be hung over.  He didn’t want to let the other guys down.

            The best laid plans usually don’t work and this time was no exception.  Despite Jesse’s best efforts to avoid a tragedy, one happened.  All the precautions he put into place were thrown out the window.  He drank too much, he got his keys back and he got into his truck and attempted to drive home.

            When he woke up the next morning in the hospital, his life had turned into a nightmare.  He was handcuffed to a hospital bed and a doctor was stitching up his forehead.  The law enforcement officer standing guard over him spoke volumes. What had he done?  He drove drunk and killed someone.

            The decisions Jesse made that night to drink and drink some more led him to black out yet still get behind the wheel.  That poor choice changed the course of his life forever.  At age twenty-nine Jesse was a convicted felon.  That sure wasn’t in his in life plan.

            Most people in Jesse’s situation would deny they were at fault, blame someone else or somehow try to get out of taking responsibility for their actions.  Not so with Jesse.  The morals his parents and the army instilled in him rose to the surface.  He stood up, straight and tall, and took responsibility for what he did.  He wasn’t proud of it but he still owned up to it. 

            Not many people have enough inner strength and character to do that.  I applaud him for how he responded to this tragedy.  I’m thankful Jesse heard the Lord calling to him and that he answered that call.  Jesse may be in prison but his faith is shines every day.

           

God’s Plan

            As I continue on this journey, I realize that not everyone understands or likes what I’m doing.  In the past, that would have bothered me, a lot.  Now by God’s grace, I am able to let it bounce off and continue on.  As long as I am obeying and pleasing God, it doesn’t matter what people think.

            Making that statement and actually meaning it can be two separate things but I mean what I said.  I used to be a people pleaser but that has changed.  God got a hold of me and now His opinion is the one I look for first. Galatians 1:10 tells us Paul’s thoughts on the subject.  “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.  If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” NLT

            The first action I took that didn’t sit well with some was after I forgave Jesse I embraced him and his family.  I reached out to his parents partly because they were victims, too.  The actions of their son put them into a situation they never thought they’d be a part of.  In the world’s eyes, they were guilty by association I guess.

            Through the pain of my loss, God reminded me that they lost something, too.  Their son would spend the next few years in prison and be labeled a felon the rest of his life.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning what he did by any means.  He broke the law and took someone’s life but I can’t imagine the guilt and embarrassment that caused his family.

            One of the first comments I made to Jesse’s mom was that I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes and she wouldn’t want to be in mine.  She agreed.  The events of that night brought our families together whether we liked it or not. 

            Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has plans for each of us.  The plan of salvation is for all who believe but in addition to that there is an individual plan for each of us.  I believe the plan God has for me includes embracing Jesse and his family.  I also believe it includes writing this book and sharing my story with others, hoping that someone will be touched, moved, healed or changed by it. 

            God’s plan for me is not necessarily the same plan He has for my friends and family.  One day they will accept that.  In the meantime I’m learning to put God’s opinion first, period.  It’s not always easy.  Rejection comes from all directions but with God’s help, I can keep going despite any opposition. 

Two Sides to Every Story

No matter what the situation, there are two sides to every story. In the case of my daughter’s accident and death, there are two obvious sides, hers and that of the drunk driver.  Most people can guess what my side would be.  Pain, anger, grief and questions are just a few of the emotions that I went through.  As the family of the victim, we were treated with kindness, sympathy and concern.  Love, prayers and support flowed in our direction on a daily basis for quite some time. 

Meals were made and brought over that first week. Cards, flowers and donations were given in hopes they’d dull the pain.  Looks of compassion and sorrow were in the eyes of friends and family who joined me to grieve.  Boxes of tissue were kept within easy reach in just about every room.

It’s easy to imagine what the grieving family goes through but what about the other side?  What do they go through?  Does anyone even care?

As this season of my life unfolded I found myself getting to know the family of that drunk driver.  What I learned surprised me. The emotions I felt were very similar to those they endured.  Their pain was real, just like mine.  They had their own version of loss.  As a family and individually they cried, they mourned, and they kept tissue close-by as well. 

What loss did they mourn?  Well, to be precise, they mourned for two reasons.  One was that an innocent young woman was dead at the hand of their son.  The other was because their son would have to spend the next several years behind bars, away from his friends and family.  No, their loss wasn’t as severe as mine but it was nonetheless a loss and they are entitled to mourn for that.

With all the emotions we shared, I was spared one that they had to endure –     embarrassment.  I can’t imagine how it felt to be the mother of a son convicted of homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.  How did she look people in the eye after the news got out?  How did she hold her head up high when the disapproving glances came across the room? 

I’m not exactly sure how she did it but I do know her character played a big part in how she reacted.  She is a strong woman, even stronger now and I admire her.  When many mothers would have turned their backs on their child, she stood right by him, supporting him all the way.  It was his poor choice that got them in that predicament but she wasn’t going to abandon him for that. 

When she and I talked for the first time we agreed that neither one of us wanted to be in the other’s shoes.  We felt each other’s pain and shared in each other’s sorrow.  God was there with us and helped us through.  Walking with Him has made this journey easier and I wouldn’t want to take this journey without Him or her.  There are two sides to every story.  When both sides can come together and work together, the pain and sadness seem to fade faster.  Put God in that mix and it is just that much better.  Please remember that no matter if you are the victim or the offender, there is always another side to the story. 

Regret and Resentment

            This blog may be a little different than the rest.  The emotions come from a different kind of pain.  When I left my ex-husband ten years ago, I planned on moving out alone.  I wasn’t going to tear any of my children away from their father or demand that they chose sides.  Much to my surprise, Jenny wanted to come with me. 

            I didn’t object and embarked on searching for an apartment with two bedrooms, instead of one.  God blessed us with a place that I could afford and we still had plenty of room.  We did have to sacrifice a few things but we survived.

            During the year we lived in that place the divorce proceeded slowly.  I made sure Jenny got her driver’s license, her first beater car and her senior pictures.  We had plenty of food, heat and as much time together as our schedules would allow.

            Also during this time together I made some poor choices.  As soon as Jenny could, she moved in with her father, leaving me alone.  The rest of my children also put great distance between themselves and me.  They didn’t like what I was doing.  They resented the fact that I was divorcing their father. 

            I admit that some of my actions during that time were sinful.  God convicted me of those actions and I repented but He never convicted me of divorcing my husband.  I regret the poor choices I made and am thankful for God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.  I regret the pain my poor choices caused my children and continue to pray that someday they’ll get past the resentment and forgive me, too.

            I have apologized to my children several times for my behavior.  Bill, my husband, has also apologized for his part in the whole thing.  Despite the remorse and apologies, Jenny wasn’t able to express forgiveness before she died.  She took her anger and resentment with her to the grave.  We were at odds when she left.

            Now that she’s in heaven, she no longer has that resentment but I still carry the regret of not being able to reconcile with her before she was taken.  I have three other children who keep me at arm’s length and I pray that one day they’ll chose to end this feud and forgive. 

            I miss my kids and grandkids.  I want to be a bigger part of their lives than I am right now. I want them to accept Bill and not hold anything against either of us.

            Life is too short to carry a grudge and be unforgiving.  It doesn’t matter if the feud is with a friend, family member or complete stranger, get over it.  I know it hurts and that pain goes deep but you can put the pain in God’s hands and ask for His help.  No pain is so deep that God can’t heal you.  Don’t let resentment and unforgiveness weigh you down.  Don’t set yourself up for regret later on.

            Satan wants families to be torn apart and he uses resentment and unforgiveness to put a wedge between family members.  Break the chains that Satan has on you and do what God commands – forgive!  Only then can families and relationships be restored and the enemy conquered.  Only then will the resentment fade away, families be restored and God be honored.