Walking With You ~ Clinging in the Pit


This week’s WWY topic ~ Clinging in the Pit

Whether or not you are new to loss, talk a bit about early grief. What was it like, clinging for hope in the pits of despair? What did you cling to for hope? How did you survive the early days? What helped? What do you wish you could share with someone new to this walk, clinging in the pit? If you’re in the pit, currently, share your struggles. What can others do to encourage you?

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I haven’t written many new posts about the depths of despair…the days of fresh grief. Much of what I have to say has been written. But, tonight, preparing this post, I am taken back to a few of those days, playing in flashes, like scenes from a movie.

It’s 16 (Faith and Grace) and again 14 (Thomas) years ago

I am in the bath tub, tears streaming, as the water fills. The quiet sobs rising from my depths. My head leans against the cool side of the tub, too weak to hold up as the next wave rushes in. I’m not really in the tub at all, but in the midst of a tumultuous sea, as wave upon wave filled with the unspeakable pain of grief wash over me. I have no fight in me. In a heap, I hang my head and let them come.

Life is a haze. Everything covered in the film of broken dreams, an ache I never knew existed. Nothing matters. Nothing that used to seem so significant holds value. Numbness for the moments when pain subsides. Everything is lacking life and color. And, although I cling to hope and truth the best I can, there are moments when the grief is bigger than anything else…or that is the way it feels.

I crawl to my bible, tears streaming in the middle of the night. I don’t always feel like it. It’s like climbing a mountain in a hailstorm with 10 tons on my back to get to the bible. I know it holds the only hope of comfort there is, yet my arms are so heavy, it takes more strength than I can muster just to lift it.

Somehow, I do, and the tears stain the pages, as I cling. Sometimes I feel His peace wash over me like a soothing balm as His life-giving words combat the hopelessness that deceives. Sometimes, I have to learn to believe without seeing, or feeling. Still I cling, weeping on the pages.

I know He’s my only hope. The waves are strong. Sometimes it feels like I can’t breathe. I don’t leave my house. I don’t open the door or answer the phone. For two months…after we buried our twin daughters. My mother and Ginny take turns staying with me while Tim is at work. I am rarely left alone. I know life will never be the same. The hardest place to go is church. Not because I’m mad at God, but because being there brushes the most tender places of my heart…the heart that lays torn to shreds, ripped and raw. Worship. The music, stings. More than stings…my bedraggled heart cannot take it. I’ve talked to friends who felt the same…in grief. The heart is too tender…for anything that touches those raw places.

There were days Tim would come home to find me in a heap in the corner on the kitchen floor, crying like a little girl. After the loss of my mother six years ago, I would wake up curled up in the fetal position, crying. He would hold me until I could breathe again. When I woke up from nightmares in those early days, he would remind me where I was, and that it was ok. Again, I clung in the dark of night, when I wondered if He really met her and carried her home. Jesus whispered truth to my aching heart…shining light in the dark, truth to quiet lies….when again I crawled to Him, up the mountain, in the hailstorm. Tim held me when I cried through worship.

Sometimes, all these years later, he holds me still. And, still, I cling when doubt and pain rear ugly and big in front of me…weak, small me. Jesus whispers, “Fix your eyes on me. I am Who I say I am. I will never leave you, nor forsake you. I didn’t leave you in the darkest valleys…in fact, I was growing beautiful fruit watered by your tears. And, I didn’t leave Faith, Grace, Thomas…or your mother. I carried them home…and I am carrying you now…every step, every breath.”

Guess what…no matter how you’re feeling right now, He’s carrying you too. Even if you can’t feel Him…even if everything your eyes see in front of you on this earth spells hopelessness and despair. Cling to His promises…cling to His truth.

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From the Threads of Hope Study: Getting Out of the Pit

I have been in the pit, and through this ministry, I spend a great deal of time with others who are in the pit of grief. And, when you’re in the pit, it’s tough to think of anything other than the pain and sorrow weighing down on you, being heaped upon you as you sink further in.

Corrie Ten Boom – “There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.”

I love that…and I could also relate to what Gwen Kik shared:

After Hope died I felt as if I were hanging in a pit. The only think keeping me from falling to the depths was my grasp. On the edge of the pit was our Lord, offering His hand but I would not look at Him or reach for Him. I would only hold to the hem of His robe. Some called that faith. I called it desperation. He was all that I had to hold on to.

I hung there for many months before I had the courage to even look at Him. I remember the day clearly that I climbed out of my pit, into His arms and had a good cry. That was the beginning of my letting go.

When in the pit, we may not have the strength, desire, or will to even reach our hand up to take His…to even lift our head to look into His eyes, to even open our mouth to whisper…”help me, hold me, carry me”. Even that may be too much. Just breathing is a lot to ask in the smothering depths of the pit.

What I love most about Gwen’s picture is that the Lord is sitting outside the pit…waiting for her…offering His comfort and reassurance. Even when we can’t feel Him, even when we reject Him…He is there…waiting with unyielding love to gather us in His arms and wipe our tears.

I also love that Gwen says she clung to Him out of desperation. I think there’s too much emphasis placed on the strength of our faith. Faith isn’t about us…it’s about the God we trust in and what He is able to do. It’s not about how big or well we believe…or anything else we do. It’s not about having strong faith…and a faith that barely holds on out of desperation is not considered weak faith. Faith, after all is just knowing that He is the One to hold on to…it’s trusting in what we do not see. It is the “substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen”. Call me crazy, but holding on to the little tiny threads of His robe while grasping in desperation in the pit…where you cannot see the hope, the light, the promise…that’s the most beautiful faith of all. The dirty, messy, nitty-gritty faith that comes when the world is falling apart and there are no answers.

At least, that’s what I learned from my own time in the pit…

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.   In My Father’s house are many mansions;if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John 14:6

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Last week, it was such a blessing to read about your sweet babies and to see the beautiful encouragement many of the mothers offered to one another on this walk. That is what this is all about, sharing our hearts and encouraging one another…so that each mother knows we are not walking this path alone. Thank you for the privilege of walking with you. I hope you will join us again this week. It’s a hard one, peeling back the layers. But, take heart…you are not alone.

Love and grace to all…

*Link your post below, or share your heart in the comments. And, please take the time to visit those linked here. Thank you!

 


I’m No Moses

I’m no Moses.

Would never claim to be.

I’m just a girl muddling through the best she can, clinging desperately to the hem of his garment.

But tonight, in the midst of some serious feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy, Moses is on my mind.

Quite possibly, I’ve never felt so ill-equipped, and yet completely called to do something all at the same time.

I wonder if that’s how Moses felt, standing by the burning bush, remembering his sins.

I’m no Moses.

Would never claim to be.

In fact, I’d be the first to tell you all the reasons why I’m not the woman for the job.

I know my weaknesses well.

Like Moses, I could list them, in response to His voice, my feet resting bare on this hallowed ground.

Like Moses, I stand asking, “Who am I that I should go…?”

And, He answers, “I will certainly be with you.”

I’m no Moses.

Would never claim to be.

Still the Who am I’s tug relentlessly, knowing the broken mess that I am.

Like Moses, I am filled with “what-ifs”.

The small still voice, whispers through the darkness of doubt…

My daughter, I delight in making beauty from broken messes like you.

His answers are everywhere. Yet, I remain full of questions.

And, clinging still.

 

Experiencing the Miracle of Gratefulness…Some Sort of Perfect Storm…Clinging

I have hesitated to write this post…knowing the minute I speak of this publicly, I open myself up for spiritual attack or to fall miserably on my face. Probably both.

But, I’m too encouraged…

invigorated…

full of peace and joy…

strengthened…

in awe…

and grateful…

…not to share this.

Over the past few weeks, something miraculous has occurred in my heart. God is changing me, and I am in awe. I’m not sure if it’s an answer to prayers being lifted up on my behalf….or if it’s the miracle of learning eucharisteo as I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts…the simplicity of offering a steady stream of thanksgiving directly to the Lord, in everything, watching my own list growing each day…embracing the gift of right now. Gratefulness is a powerful thing. How could something so simple bring such unlimited joy and cover our lives with such grace?

It could also be the fact that my friend Dinah seems to have left behind pieces of her legacy within me and others who love her…inspiring me to be more, to be free, to be the person He created me to be. I can see her now, among the “cloud of witnesses”, encouraging us from heaven, cheering the loudest. Strange how in the midst of the missing, something else has risen….inspiration, strength, courage, grace, freedom. How can that even be?

Perhaps it’s the perfect storm of all of the above. After all, He makes all things beautiful in His time. Perhaps it’s all coming together just as He planned it.

All I know is that, while the circumstances of this imperfect life have remained the same, I am changing.

A heavy burden is lifting. Granted, it’s only been a recent change. But for right now…I’m going to embrace this gift and give thanks for it.

I am sleeping at night and have all week (This hasn’t happened much in the past four years). Good sleep. Enough sleep.

I am resisting the temptation to eat unhealthy foods, and not complaining about it.

The gratefulness is replacing all desire to complain and wallow. It’s taking away the attitude of “I don’t wanna” and replacing it with “I get to”…taking away the desire to resist what I know I should be doing, replacing it with a big “Cowboy up, Chicken Little, and do the next thing!” (In case this message wasn’t clear enough, my pastor threw in a bit in last week’s message about how we look like two year olds throwing a temper tantrum when we whine and don’t do what we know we should do…and God looks down and says, “Get over it!” Don’t get me wrong…I love me some grace and mercy…and God gives both generously. But there is a time when a loving Father says…Let’s move on…it will do no good to stay here and wallow. In other words, “Get over it!”) I’m not speaking about grief. That’s a different thing all together. I am talking about the things I make excuses for…not giving Him all of me, not doing my devotions, having wrong attitudes, going to other things, like food, for comfort.

I didn’t even consider how powerful simply focusing on the gifts God has given in each moment would be in every area of my life. In high school, I had an Algebra teacher who used to always say, “It’s a great day! You get to do Algebra! You don’t have to…you get to.” When I was a teenager, it was a bit annoying. That man, a lover of Jesus, who was also my pastor back in my baby Christian days, knew the gift of gratefulness. He had the right attitude. I feel that same fervor for life seeping into my heart, renewing me. When I feel tempted to say, “I don’t wanna”…it is quickly replaced with “I get to…live this day, go to my job, cook for this family, help this child with his homework, listen to that child play his guitar, wash these dishes, settle into this bed at the end of the day beside this man that I love.” I get to!

Another day…really?

Is being transformed to…

Another day! Really!! What a gift!

Crazy, huh?

I’m embracing it.

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One more thing…on the subject of “clinging”…

Have you ever considered the word “cling” in The Old Rugged Cross? I never had…until the day we stood side by side, singing at Dinah’s funeral. Tim’s guitar music gently guided, and I sang the words. And, when I reached the chorus, my voice quivered for a moment as I sang,

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

“I will cling to the old rugged cross…and exchange it some day
                                             for a crown.”

A crown which I will lay at His feet. I remember when Dinah and I talked about how He will turn our struggles, and our clinging to Him into crowns one day. Crowns we can lay at His feet in an act of worship. She had just gone Home, and I stood in  her church, singing about the crowns and the clinging. And..He met me there.

You know, He always meets us there. Where ever He asks us to go, He is faithful to meet us there.

And, He’s here, right now…in the laying down of my trophies, in the learning to cling to the cross ever closer.

In all of it, He is there.

A New WWY…a Picture of Grief and Why He Told me to Cling

There’s a new Walking With You post up on that blog…a post where I get honest about grief. God choosing the word cling for me this year is making even more sense as I reflect this morning.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus…look full in His wonderful face. And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim…in the light of His glory and grace…

Cling

I’m always late to the party.

And, this time is no exception.

When 2011 dawned, many people were writing about choosing a word that would encompass this year for them. Maybe it’s a word that God had whispered to their hearts…a word holding a promise of what was to come…or a word that held a special meaning, a message just for them.

I don’t know who started this practice, and truth be told, I just heard of it this year. As a lover of words, myself, I’m not sure how I’ve missed out on this for so long. Even after reading about other people’s inspiring words for 2011, I didn’t choose one for myself. Not right away. I’m a procrastinator like that. Hence…the always being late to the party…or where ever else I happen to be going.

Besides…there was a stirring in my heart that the word needed to choose me….

You know…if there was even going to be a word at all…

I put it aside like a faithful procrastinator…too busy to contemplate the perfect word. I’m the type of person who can’t choose a restaurant to have lunch, and I almost always regret what I choose to eat…wishing I would have chosen something else. It’s hard enough to make decisions and commitments that I have to make. I certainly wasn’t going to seek one out. And, especially not such a weighty decision as what word would encompass and define this entire year. No, thank you.

But, when something seeks you…

When God tugs at your heart, stirring in your depths, pursuing your wandering gaze, demanding your attention with a persistence that is both relentless and full of gentle speaking grace…

Well, now…that’s a different thing entirely….

A word began to form, deep inside my depths. Such a quiet whisper, I’m not sure how I even heard it. It resonated, barely a thought, but already part of me. Small and still, but clear and resolutely there all at the same time…

Cling

I tried to shake it away. Cling? That’s going to be the word…my word?? What does that even mean? Even as I asked, I knew. The word had already staked it’s claim. My spirit knew. Even in the knowing, I resisted.

But, when He pursues you…

With one word….

With one breath…one thought…one look of His eyes…

Sometime in January, my in real life friend, Lynette, called. My little prayer warrior friend, the tiny woman with four boys who prays mighty prayers. Lynette had heard a teaching on the radio about the concept of choosing a word to focus on for the year. Allowing God to speak to your heart and mull it over, chewing on what He has to say about that particular concept in your life.

I smiled knowingly….in awe of His pursuit, but not surprised. He is faithful like that…

Again, the word Cling sprang immediately to my heart…but I didn’t speak it with my lips. I heard myself say instead that some blogger friends had been talking about this very thing. She and I committed to pray about the word God would have us focus on for the coming year. We would then share the word with each other and encourage one another with what God had to show us.

I did pray…

But, each time I came to Him, the bold whisper….His answer…was there before I could make the request. Even as I prayed about other things, it was there…bubbling up…piercing through. How can a whisper be so certain, so full of authority, so unrelenting?

Really?

That’s the word?

Finally, as I drove in the car alone one day last week, listening to JJ Heller’s hauntingly beautiful, naked-hearted voice, pondering all the anxieties that plague our hearts…all the weighty things of this world that entangle us, stealing our joy, stifling and choking the very life from our lungs, all the broken places that keep us from being the people we were created to be…His word…the word He was offering to me…nay the word He had bestowed upon me…the word that had chosen me…pierced through my thoughts again, with it’s attention-demanding whisper.

Cling…

I yielded, allowing the word to claim me with it’s embrace, washing over me as I embraced it right back.

What would I cling to as I flail through the coming year with all my imperfections? For comfort, for peace, for joy, for wisdom….would I cling to my stinky onion layers, or would I reach for Him? Would I cling to the hem of His garment as if my life depended on it? There is a lot of letting go involved in the act of clinging to Him.

Not wanting my own thoughts to pollute the truth He wanted to speak into my life, I typed the word cling into the bible gateway search….

He spoke…

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (New King James Version)

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
(emphasis and italics mine)

If there were nothing else said, that would be enough. The above words are enough for my heart to ponder for a lifetime. Scripture to base not only this year on…but the length of my days…being led by those words.

Yet…there is more…

A loving warning should we choose to cling to something else…

Joshua 23:11-13 (New King James Version)
Therefore take careful heed to yourselves, that you love the LORD your God. Or else, if indeed you do go back, and cling to the remnant of these nations—these that remain among you—and make marriages with them, and go in to them and they to you, know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you, and scourges on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land which the LORD your God has given you.

Instead, may this be the cry of my heart…

Psalm 101:3 (New King James Version)

I will set nothing wicked before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not cling to me.

And, may this be my daily prayer…


Psalm 63 (New International Version, ©2010)

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.

If I’m not clinging to Him, what am I clinging to? One brings life, and the other death. Much to ponder in the coming year, and for the length of my days.

And, yet…such beautiful simplicity.

One, whispered word….

Cling…