I See You in the Rain

God, I see you in the rain.

I hear you whisper, “I’m here”.

I heard you on our wedding day, as the lights flickered, and we waited for the storm to settle so our guests could get out of their cars and file into the pews of that little Baptist church.

“I’m here.”

I heard you the day we buried Momma. I heard you as the winds stirred and the rain drops dropped, as the hurricane blew in – a downpour mirroring the grief and pain to come.

“I’m here.”

I heard you the day we closed on our house as we looked up to the sky and remembered “It’s rained on every big day so far”. A rainbow forming in the clouds – a reminder to me of both your promise to Noah and your presence in our lives.

“I’m here.”

I heard you on the day our son was born and rain sprinkled against our hospital room window. On a day that should have been marked by a noisy waiting room of family full of anticipation, but was instead marked by quiet, empty halls. Just the two of us, Jonathan and me, welcoming Cooper into this COVID world surrounded by masked strangers.

“I’m here.”

It’s no surprise to me that I heard you again this morning. It’s just an ordinary day, but it’s raining again. We’re feeling the stress and tension that comes with baby raising, and we’re worn out. And through a misty windshield you whisper, again –

“I’m here.”

My heart feels settled, resting in your promise to be with us, always.

When God Doesn’t Give You What You Want

I have this journal I’ve been using for about two years that I write sermon notes in. It started out as a prayer journal for a few days until my last sermon notes journal literally started falling apart. You can imagine after two years of use, this current journal has long since begun to do the same.

My need for another new journal becomes evident on occasion as I’m taking notes on a Sunday morning and a chunk of pages slides out onto the floor of the worship center. This past Sunday was no different – other than the fact that I’ve come to expect these pages slipping out and my hands have gotten a bit quicker at catching them before they hit the ground.

As I slapped my hand down to shove the pages back into my journal, I caught a glimpse of something that instantly brought a lump to my throat. On this particular runaway page was a pair of lungs drawn in pink and purple marker, and under it circled and in all caps was FEBRUARY.

As tears welled up in my eyes, I remembered the day I drew those lungs two years ago. I had been praying at that time for Mom to receive a double lung transplant. Specifically, for her to receive it in February. And I was instantly reminded of what God hadn’t done. He hadn’t provided new lungs. Instead, he let her die six months later. It felt like a gut punch.

As someone who fully believes that God hears and answers our prayers, this is a tough one for me. How do I begin to process the fact that God didn’t give me what I felt our family so desperately needed? What I wanted more than anything?

In my perfect world, Mom would be here. She would be texting me pictures she found on Pinterest to give me ideas for decorating our house. She would be completely gushing over our new puppy and begging Dad to drive her up to Tennessee to meet him. She would be here. With me.

But the fact is, we live in a broken world with broken people who just get sick. And sometimes when broken people get sick, they die. Maybe this makes you uncomfortable. Quite honestly it makes me a little uncomfortable, too. But for better or worse, it’s the truth.

I think this truth is hard for us to swallow sometimes because we have this urgent need for things to make sense and to have purpose. I also feel like we live in a culture that desperately wants to believe God answers all of our prayers exactly the way we’d like for him to if only we just pray hard enough and have enough faith (as if he were some magic genie in a lamp granting our every wish).

A pastor I work with recently said, “We are always expecting God to show up according to our expectations.” While he wasn’t speaking specifically about prayer, I believe it applies here, too. You see, the problem isn’t that God didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted. The problem is that I expected him to move according to my will and in the way I thought best. But that’s just not how God works.

For sure he hears and answers our prayers. I’ve seen him do it. But he answers them in his own, omniscient way, with a bigger picture in mind that only he can see. And I guess that’s just what we have to trust in – knowing that he is in fact all-knowing and he loves us too much to always give us what we want.

I Hope This Makes You Feel Less Lonely

I visit Mom’s facebook page late at night, when I really miss her. Sometimes I half expect there to be new pictures, and then quickly realize that there won’t be. There aren’t new memories to make and new pictures to post. She has no more life left to live. Pulmonary Fibrosis took that from our family.

So there I am in bed, scrolling through the same pictures I’ve scrolled through countless nights before, hoping to see something I haven’t yet. And I always find myself disappointed.

I’ve had conversations with God that go something like “I miss her so much. I just want you to give her back to me.” I said those words last night, actually. But I also realized last night – how cruel would that be? And not because Mom was sick, but because I realized how heartbreaking it would be to reach heaven, to be in the sweet presence of our Savior, only to be sent back here.

I picked up a new book at Barnes & Noble the other day called The Dead Moms Club. It recounts the author’s experience of losing her mom to pancreatic cancer. What I’ve really appreciated about this book is that the author, Kate Spencer, lays it all out on the table. The real, raw emotions that losing your mother to a horrible disease brings out. It’s made me feel like a human being actually understands my story. And it’s made me feel less lonely.

And maybe that’s why I’m writing this rambly, gloomy post – so that maybe someone else could feel just a little less lonely, too. Grief is isolating. But friend, you are not alone. You are not alone in your sorrow. You are not alone in what feels like irrational/crazy/dumb/whatever-you-call-them thoughts.

You are not alone. Because I am here, ready to listen to you gush about how amazing your mom/dad/brother/sister/child/best friend ever was, your favorite memories with them, the words you wish you would’ve said, how much you wish God could just give them back. But more importantly, you are not alone because God is with you. In the middle of your grief. Ready to listen to your questions, your angry words, your deep sorrow. He is near to the brokenhearted, and he saves the crushed in spirit.

Failed Bullet Journaling and My Prayer for 2018

I wandered the aisles of Target last November, bored. Jonathan must have been on a work trip because I wandered alone. We usually make Target trips together after dinner. I eventually made my way over to the journals, digging to find a bullet journal that met my “cute journal” standards, and found none. So I did what any good millennial would do and ordered one on Amazon instead.

I could NOT wait for this journal to come in the mail. This bullet journal was going to be the stuff Pinterest dreams are made of and would solve all of my productivity (read procrastination) problems. I managed to create a really great list of what I should be doing to keep our apartment clean, complete with a few different bullet point styles to designate how often each task on this list was to be done. Spoiler alert: I think the last time I looked at that list was the night I wrote it using my favorite purple and green Paper Mate Flair pens. Welp. At least I tried, right? *insert shoulder shrug emoji*

Fast forward about two months and a few dust bunnies later, I pulled out that bullet journal and my Paper Mate Flairs, and wrote, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12.”

Steadfast. That word. It kept finding a way to grab my attention last year. Steadfastness became such a reoccurring theme in Sunday sermons and summer Bible studies, so it didn’t surprise me at all when the verse I found to doodle in my journal was James 1:12. And there it was, staring me in the face. In my own handwriting. STEADFAST.

God is calling me to this James 1:12 kind of steadfastness. I know he is. He’s only been doing it for about a year, and I’m finally listening.

So my prayer for 2018 is that God would make me steadfast.

I want to be steadfast in my pursuit of him. Quite honestly, I struggle with this. My prayer life and Bible reading can be pretty inconsistent. I’m praying that God would deepen my desire to know him and love him more. That he would help me to develop habits that grow my faith and lead to the kind of steadfastness that James 1:12 talks about.

I want to be steadfast in my marriage. Marriage is hard, y’all. And marriage is so worth the effort. In this season of figuring out married life and how to do it well, I want my heart to always be fully invested, even when grieving makes it hard. My prayer is that God will teach me and help me to love my husband well.

I want to be steadfast in my friendships. I want to have more intentional conversations with my friends that will lead to forming the kind of community that my mom had with her Bunco Ladies. My prayer is that I would make time for these conversations and that I would listen well.

I also want to be steadfast in my blogging. Blogging is such an opportunity for ministry. So much can be gained from sharing and listening to others’ stories. We are all called to share stories of how God has and is working in our lives. These stories can give life, wisdom, encouragement, and hopefully a laugh or two along the way. There is no limit to how God can use a story to impact someone’s life. My prayer is that God would shine through the life stories I share with you. That you will see his faithfulness in my life, even when I’m not consistently faithful to him.

What are you praying for this year? I would love to join you in that. Leave a comment or feel free to contact me via the contact page of my blog. I look forward to hearing from you!

God is in the Grief

I recently read a blogpost that asked the question, “Where do you feel God?”. I sat for a minute and jotted down a few places and ways in which I most often feel God’s presence – sunsets, stars, hiking, music, quiet time spent with him. And then I thought, where do I feel God in my grief? I know that he is there. Right in the middle of it. But it took a little more digging to figure out specific ways in which I have felt God while grieving the loss of my sweet Momma.

I felt his Spirit in the hospital room with my dad and brother as my mom struggled to take her last breath. There was such a deep sorrow shared between the three of us as we held her hands and brushed her hair away from her face. But I also felt a calm stillness that I knew was the presence of my Jesus. I felt a peace in the midst of our sadness.

I have felt God through people. I felt his thoughtfulness in the meals that people brought to our family’s home when we left the hospital.  I felt his joy as I watched a video of mom’s friends releasing balloons to celebrate her birthday. I felt his love in the sympathy cards, notes, and encouraging texts sent by family and friends. I continue to feel his love in the hugs and forehead kisses my husband gives me on days when I really miss my mom. I’m so thankful that God uses ordinary people to make his presence known in such tangible ways. He knows how much I need this, and he’s faithful to provide it.

I continue to feel God in prayer and Scripture. Prayer is not easy in grief. Sometimes I’m irrationally angry, and sometimes my prayers are not more than a few words long. But I know that he is close. And I know that he is listening. I can feel his nearness. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and he saves the crushed in Spirit.” I cling to this verse because it reminds me of the nearness I feel in prayer. It reminds me that even in the loneliness that grief can bring, God is there, and he’s walking through this alongside of me.

Nothing quite prepares you for this kind of loss. The kind that hurts so deeply it can become all-consuming. I sometimes think about  about all the things that my mom won’t get to experience – growing old with my dad, skydiving with my brother, holding and helping to raise her grandchildren – and my heart is broken. But I am thankful that in the middle of my grief, I am able to feel God’s presence in so many ways, and that in his presence I find peace. I am thankful that he comforts me through his Holy Spirit, through his people, and through his word. And I am thankful that my sweet Momma is experiencing his presence in the most real way.