Death, 5 Years Later

Death, 5 Years Later

My parents died in a plane crash on June 24, 2011. In addition to my parents, were my two dogs, Ally and Brady, and brother, Austin. My brother and Brady survived and I am forever grateful. As you can imagine, there has been a lot of healing that had to take place from the crash, both physically and emotionally. My emotional healing has been somewhat long and grueling. The fact is a “tornado” named Death came through my life and my foundation, of all I knew, destroyed.

 

 
In My 2011, Joplin, MO encountered a catastrophic tornado that is known to be one of the deadliest tornados. I’ve never forgotten when I watched, on the news, the devastating effects this tornado left on the town. Others were moved to action as they went to Joplin to help survivors clean up and rebuild from the destruction, my mom being one. I remember getting pictures sent over text along with stories of people she met, prayed, and cried with while she was there. What was once a news story started to become very personal to me as I watched my mom go from watching a news story to leaving her home to be with and help people in Joplin. My mom spent her last days among dirt and rubble and hurting souls. I loved her for that, but little did I know I was about to be alone

 

 

 

A day after she came home from Joplin, I faced my own personal “tornado” named Death. The effects this tornado left were excruciating: the death of Mom and Dad, family gatherings, family traditions, mom’s home-cooked meals, the dogs barking and being annoying, a home, a future with them, a life I knew and loved so much. This tornado was terrible and hit without warning on June 24, 2011. There I was, standing among the wreckage left from this tornado feeling alone, lost and hopeless. I was terrified. I was terrified that my foundation could never be rebuilt and I would never be happy again, but like he did for those in Joplin, God provided through my husband, family, and friends. These people love the Lord and, because of that, were able to love me well by carrying me when I could hardly move (sometimes literally), provided shelter when I desperately needed rest, allowed me to cry, grieve, and just be a flat out wreck when I didn’t want to face another day of this pain. For lack of better word, they helped me clean up the wreckage to make room for God to rebuild my foundation. I thought that everything I knew about God was destroyed in this tornado, but instead, everything I knew about God was being renewed and restored to a right view of God. In a terrifying time of life, I am finally learning that God is kind, loving, and for me.

 

 

 

After 5 years, my wreckage is cleaned up, my foundation is firm but my house is still being built. Each new stage of the building process brings a twinge of grief and pain as I’m reminded of my parent’s absence and the reality that life will never be blissful and carefree like it once was. I may not be able to ever live life carefreely but I’m beginning to wonder if that’s ever how God intended me to live. This world is temporary and even though living carefreely isn’t possible, living freely is and I’m learning that’s the best way to live … free!

 

 

 

“They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”

Isaiah 61:4

 

 

 

Picture: Mom in Joplin, MO in June 2011

What Anxiety Taught Me

What Anxiety Taught Me

“Long, I am woman who speaks but one language, the language of the fall – discontentment and self-condemnation, the critical eye and the never satisfied.” Ann Voskamp speaks my language in her book One Thousand Gifts. A language of the fall I know all too well and have been guilty of speaking often is anxiety.
I was born into chaos, which resulted in anxiety. Anxiety and fear are as natural as breathing is to me. In fact, in some weird way, I find comfort in chaos because peace represents “the calm before the storm”. As a result, I’ve trained myself to expect the worse as a way of protecting myself from pain. You may be asking yourself, “how can you protect yourself from pain?” and that’s a good question. I don’t really know because, quite frankly, there is no way to truly protect yourself from pain even if you prepare for it in advance. I tried and it always failed. In fact, after years of living in fear and with anxiety, I’ve finally discovered the key that may just get me out of this bondage, this way of living I know all too well.
Gratitude. You see it plastered all over social media about having gratitude, be joyful, choose joy. It sounds so simple and even appealing but it’s not simple and the action of getting there isn’t always appealing, especially if you are someone living with anxiety. Think of the most recent time you had anxiety or felt anxious. For me, it’s my health. I constantly fear tragedy happening to my body like it did my parents. Like me, your anxiety may be a result of tragic life experiences which makes dealing with anxiety tricky because there is truth and validity to why you are anxious. Now that you’ve thought of the most recent time you were anxious, think about how this anxiety manifested in you. For me, I become sad, preoccupied and overwhelmed by it. In fact, every good thing that happens is always tainted with this anxiety and fear I’m facing at the moment, so my joy is deflated and the moment it gets filled up, I deflate it again as a way of protection. I’m a slave to my anxiety. I’ve spent years in this cage, fighting to get out, desperately seeking for answers and help. Bottom line, anxiety leaves you feeling fearful and desperately alone so how can we get out of, what seems like, this never ending battle? Gratitude. Let me expose anxiety for what it really is…a thief that steals your gratitude for everything around you. Think about how much we miss when we are so focused on that which we are anxious about … the beauty of the sky, birds chirping, another day, freedom, health, laughter and the list goes on. Maybe I’m just the only one like this, but when I am anxious about something I miss (sometimes willingly) the beauty and joy around me. The thing about anxiety is you can’t will your way out, but you can have gratitude for everything beautiful and wonderful around you. It’s gratitude that will help you find your way out, that will make your blurred vision of thankfulness clear again. We can live life in the “what if” or we can live in the “even if” and have gratitude for what is here now. It seems simple but it’s a choice, an active one, which makes it hard because you are going against your natural tendency to live out of anxiety.
Today, let’s choose gratitude by opening our eyes and looking around at all that is beautiful and wonderful as a smile.

 

Feeling is not for the Faint of Heart

Feeling is not for the Faint of Heart

Earl Grollman said it best, “grief is not a sign of disorder, a disease or sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”

I spent this Memorial Day weekend at Walloon Lake. Like Kid Rock says, “it’s summertime in Northern Michigan” 😉 and there’s nothing quite like it. I used to love Walloon Lake for the beauty and peace and family memories made but now, well now I love it for so many more reasons. Walloon Lake holds some of the best memories I have with my parents. In fact, Mom and I used to say that Walloon Lake is the closest thing to Heaven on earth. It wasn’t just about the lake house or the lake itself but about what it represented for our family. It was the one place we could go and forget about our phones, our to-do list, our problems and just be with each other and laugh. We laughed a lot while we were there. It was our family’s escape, our place. It truly was our heaven on earth.

Now that Mom and Dad are gone, it’s not the same but it’s still sweet. I like to bring my kids up here to experience the joys of life I got to experience with my parents. This past weekend, I got to sit on my parents dock with some peace and quiet and just think and feel their absence. It’s easy for me to want to rush out of feeling pain (the immediate emotion their absence brings). My pain is always met with the reality that my pain can never be fixed. I can’t exchange my pain of grief for what once was. I don’t ignore my feelings but lean into them. I choose to feel and, let me tell you, feeling is not for the faint of heart. I allowed my mind to run wild and my feelings of pain to follow and so, sitting on my parent’s dock, I dreamed …

If mom was here, she would be in the kitchen cooking and my girls would be helping her. I bet I would be in the kitchen too. Would she and I have a moment with each other where we realize how blessed we are or where she looks at me and gets teary eyed remembering me at the age my girls are? She would be in heaven over the joy of them. She would love them so much. If dad was here, he would be grilling or taking everyone out on the boat. I’m sure he would be singing a song he made up about himself, Papa. The girls would get a kick out of him and mom would just roll her eyes at how taken they would be by him. Would we have jet skis? I bet mom would be in rage if we had jet skis, but I’m sure the boys would break her and we would get them, but we would have to promise not to take the kids out on them … Jason and the Austin’s would have to have a jet ski up here. Oh, I would work out with Mom and Sister on the dock every morning while the kids slept and…

My dreams were met with sobs when reality comes crashing in like a freight train. None of my dreams can come true. No matter how hard I work, how long I pray or how much I do, they are gone and they aren’t coming back. It’s terrible to want something or someone so bad and yet there is nothing I can do except cry, feel pain and cry out to God in complete desperation, “it hurts. This is so hard and so painful”. He knows and meets me there with peace but not the “everything will be alright peace”. Instead, he meets me with the “I will never leave you or forsake you” peace. It’s days like these I am thankful that I can be hurt and full of grief and longing for them where He always meets me with grace, peace and understanding that this really is hard. I’m walking through the fire that could nearly kill me but I’m doing it.

And who says miracles don’t still happen…