THE UNWANTED JOURNEY

Losing a child is an unwanted journey; an exclusive club we didn’t sign up for. In many ways, it is similar to the Israelites wandering in the desert in desolation, waiting to enter into the land of milk and honey. 

Isaiah 43:18 (NKJV) 18 “Do not remember the former things,  Nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing,  Now it shall spring forth;  Shall you not know it?  I will even make a road in the wilderness  And rivers in the desert.

The Israelites wanted to turn back to Egypt. I think we all here have longed for the past when we had our loved one.  In order for one to heal you have to let go of the past and step forward into the future. This is easier to fathom when we know Jesus walks with us as our guide and that we have many others who are like minded and able to help pick us up when we stumble. Once the Israelites were in the promised land they were glad to be there. We need to cling to the promises of God. For they are His good intentions for us. 

Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV) 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

So remember, you can not move forward if you are inwardly focused and stuck in the past. God has a plan for your life, trust and move forward with Him and He will guide you, strengthen you, and bring you comfort, peace,and rest. 

Isaiah 43:2 (NKJV) When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.

TOUGH GRIEF ON FATHER’S DAY

We are now in the month of June and Father’s Day will be approaching in a few weeks.

We lost Jenae on May 30th 2005, and less than three weeks later it was Father’s day. I wasn’t looking forward to that day, but ready or not, it came.

The day felt wrong, strange and awkward. Memories of the last Father’s Day with all my kids present came flooding back. Worst of all, there was no one I knew who I could relate to as a father. A father is supposed to guide their family in grief. Being new to Grief it was hard to navigate. You find yourself asking how to do that.

That is why it is tough to be a father who loses a child. You become isolated due to social standards placed on boys/men growing up. Like stifling a cry when in bitter pain; pretending it doesn’t hurt or matter despite it is all you can think about. Thinking that strength is not showing emotion and is also avoiding talking about the elephant in the room. This has been labeled “The Boy Code” (Google it).

Then there are biases that people think. Like only the mothers really hurt when losing a child. Because the relationship is different the pain is different but men do grieve pretty hard as well. Many people dismissed that I was grieving. When people found out about the loss of Jenae, they would say oh how your wife must be hurting. Very often, men’s feelings can get dismissed and overlooked. Not having anyone to talk to about grief makes it difficult to process and heal.

With that, John 11:35 states that Jesus wept. Jesus saw in person the great repercussions of disobedience and sin from Adam and Eve when Jesus’ friend Lazarus died. Was Jesus weak; was He not strong? No, he was God in the form of man and He conquered the grave! He is stronger than anyone who has lived on this earth. He is our example to follow. God gave us emotions for a reason, and running from them is like sticking your head in the sand, like an ostrich. No matter when you look out from the hole you are hiding in, the pain will still be there. Mourning is a prerequisite to healing.

Jesus is able to comfort and help us. If we are prideful and try to handle our grief and the grief of our family on our own strength, we will fall short. Because it can be hard as a man to have someone who understands to talk to, we do good by surrendering our pain to Christ. It may seem like a platitude in saying Jesus is the answer, but that is truly the truth. It took me many years to find that out the hard way. Jesus has the perfect answer to our grief and man who is imperfect does not. Pray and seek Christ. He will calm the pain like He did the waters and the winds for His disciples.

Following are some scriptures to go to when needing strength:
God bless you and I pray God comforts and gives you and your family peace on Father’s Day.

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

Isaiah 41:10
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Psalm 34:10
Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing.

Deuteronomy 31:8
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Isaiah 43:1-3
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord you God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Joshua 1:9
Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Feel free to share your favorite verse in the comments below…

GRACE FOR THE BROKEN

Jonah 4:2 (NKJV)
I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.

There is grace for our brokenness. Being blameless, Jesus was broken for our sin. He experienced the worst this world had. Through His power over death, he gloriously overcame His brokenness and became whole. Because Jesus became flesh, He understands and intimately knows our brokenness.

He wants to make us whole through His abundant Grace, love, and mercy. His grace is sufficient for all our issues in life. When we fail, when someone hurts us, when we want to give up, when we think we deserve better, in our grief, and in all aspects of life. He is always eager to shower us with His grace, love, and strength.

Being that none of us are sinless, we don’t deserve it. That is what makes it grace. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. This is because we all have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). No matter what you have done, His Grace is waiting for you.

Many of us don’t receive the restoration and grace God is eager to give, because we think we know what is best. We often turn to temporary things, imperfect substances, and philosophies of man. This most times makes life worse. In this, we forsake God, when God knows best! He should be our first priority for healing. He brings lasting change and wholeness. It is the simple truths of God that are miraculously powerful, life-changing, and healing. Long story short; I am guilty and a testament to putting my faith for healing where it didn’t belong. I am grateful God is a God of second chances.

If you want restoration, healing, and Joy, go to God and ask Him for His grace, love, and mercy. He will pour it on you generously!

James 4:6 (NKJV)
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

The subject of grace is vast. We will be talking more in depth about this with examples in the upcoming meetings.
We welcome any comments you have. God bless you.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY?

One of the hardest times of the year can be birthdays. This includes birthdays of your loved one, your own, or others in your family or close friends. Even though there are different reasons, we often dread birthdays, especially the first few years of living a new reality without the ones we love.

This is all normal, a new and unwanted normal. There are different ways to cope. You have to do what is best for you at the time, and adapt as time continues. It is weird in a sense that it is just another day, but in reality it is a day with deep meaning and sometimes intense memories.

First of all; when days like this are coming, be in prayer about it. Ask God for guidance and strength. Ask your family and friends to help you pray! Don’t be alone in this. The body of Christ is supposed to be there for you. If your church won’t support you, find close friends or another church where the fruits of the spirit are evident.

When we first lost our daughter we departed from our normal traditions and decided to get out of town. This helped us to focus our attention on other things. We still acknowledged Jenae’s birthday, and thought about it quite a bit. But it was helpful to be away from work or school where it might be hard or impossible to function. Many might say this is escaping or running from your grief, but it helped us tremendously.

Early in grief, you spend a large amount of time thinking of the loss and past. So you carry this no matter where you go. You can’t run from it. But doing something different and doing some sort of memorial made it tolerable.

Some of our memorials were; posting a online memorial tribute to our daughter online/social media (this allows others to acknowledge your child’s birthday and pray for you), taking special arrangements to the cemetery, making a donation to an organization to help research – in Jenae’s name, wearing memorial T-shirts with Jenae’s picture and a tribute, going out to Jenae’s favorite place for an Oreo milk shake, making a memorial candle, and making a memorial video / song and posting it online. This helped us to remember the fond memories and look forward to our meeting again. Many others will help out charities, do scrap booking, take a scenic drive, eat at a special restaurant, and other meaningful tasks to commemorate the day.

Some prefer to just stay home and grieve all day. Sometimes that is needed when you are dealing with some new areas of grieving. Crying is healing, just as long as this isn’t every day spanning weeks, months or years. Be aware of the evil one trying to load a heavy weight of grief to keep you from focusing on Jesus who is there for us. We must remember if we follow Christ; He is with us, as we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)
10 Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

He knows and feels our pain also (see John chapter 11).

When celebrating the birthdays of others who are close to us without our loved one, there is a certain emptiness when we focus on the situation. If we can focus on this promise of Christ; that He will resurrect us also in death, and that He will reunite us with our loved ones again in celebration together. It puts things into an eternal perspective with much to look forward to.

Romans 6:3-5
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection

Also note that God wants to build us up through His plan for our lives on this earth. We have to be willing to do what God wills and trust Him.

Our hope is that through Christ, our season of grief will diminish on earth, and especially in eternity. Daniel 2:21 states that God changes the times and the seasons. There is joy in knowing that as followers of Christ all things will become new.

MISSING OUR VALENTINE

It seems like every month there is a special occasion that makes us miss our loved one more than usual. Due to Valentine’s Day, February is no exception. Our family has many fond memories of celebrating Valentines together.

As a family we are grateful for the years we had with Jenae, although we wish we could have had more. This is the heartbreaking aspect of living life without our loved one.

In Ecclesiastes 3, it states there is a time to morn, a time to weep, a time to heal and a time to laugh. We should allow ourselves time to grieve. But, after thinking and feeling the same thing thousands of times we need to assess the wellbeing of our hearts. We should analyze our thoughts, emotions, and actions and process these in relation to scripture. We should be aware that we can tend to be too focused on our grief/loss. If left unchecked we can turn bitter and farther away from God.

We should focus on bringing our thoughts into captivity:
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NKJV) 
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ

We need to sort through our thoughts and weed out those that are not of God. Many of these negative thoughts come from the evil one who is out to steal, kill, and destroy. He tempted Jesus, and he tempts us. He will do anything to separate us from God and have us walk away from Him. The evil one will also tempt us to turn to superficial and temporary earthly things; or to the imperfect ways or philosophies of man. We must remember; Jesus is the way, the perfect way. Turning to other things rather than Jesus is forsaking Christ. This is by thinking other things are better or more effective than Him.

Consider that those who are a new creation in Christ should be having the mind of Christ:
1 Corinthians 2:12 & 16 (NKJV) 
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 16 For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

So what is the first thing we do when we find our heart is hard, cold, broken or shattered? Observe what is said in the book of Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 36:26 (NKJV) “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 11:19 also has a similar passage.

Finding this twice in the same book means that this concept was important to God. Observe who is doing the work; it is God! God is Love! Can he not give us a new heart? When we go to Him in prayer for a new heart, He will give it!
He will take our broken heart and replace it with a beautiful new one. Note that He doesn’t mend the old, He gives us a new heart. ❤️ With a new heart comes a changed life.

The second thing to do is to actually pray to God for a new heart. Pray for wisdom and strength also, so that you will be able to keep away from negativity. I know God gives a new heart to those who ask and abide in him. Do not let the evil one bring you down into wallowing in self-pity!
Look to the Apostle Paul as an example. We see in the book of Philippians the joy Paul had even though he was imprisoned and was to be sentenced to death. Paul would not have been joyful if he did not have a new heart. Those who do the will of God in their life will receive comfort and joy.

Psalms 126:5-6 (NKJV) 
5 Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. 6 He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him.

As the verse above indicates. Take heart; grief will last for a season, but Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, is there to give you a new heart. He will help you through your sorrow and bring you joy and rejoicing. Jesus has and will right every wrong.

When we first lost our daughter, I never thought it would be possible to ever smile or laugh again. Everything was empty, but Jesus brought fulfillment. Nothing in this world will do it. Jesus is the only way.

GRIEF IN THE NEW YEAR

In grief, it can be difficult to be optimistic at the start of a new year. We all tend to dwell and long for the past when we lose someone who was a big part of us. Through the loss of our sweet daughter Jenae, we have come to talk with many who struggle with this also. 

In the winter of 2005, my wife and I attended an out of town evangelistic meeting. As I look back we realize this was by God’s awesome grace we heard about it on K-Love. We wanted to attend because Natalie Grant was going to perform there. We were fond of her new song – Held; a song which was written by her friend who had lost a child.

We had been dwelling in that song and the message of loss for a good while. It was hard not to because that song was frequently played at every turn. Many people knowing of our loss were even giving us copies of this song on Compact Disk.

At the event, my wife and I were in the audience waiting for Natalie to come on stage. We guessed that she would be performing her new popular song. Instead, Natalie performed many Gospel songs and then her performance was over. I remember having my phone ready with Jenae’s picture loaded to be held up to the song – Held. This would not happen and we felt sad and disappointed not being able to do this. As popular as this song was, it was amazing to us that she didn’t sing it!! We were actually in disbelief.

Soon after Natalie’s performance, the preacher began his message. Still feeling disappointed we listened to what he had to say. I won’t mention all that was said, but the main theme he reflected on was this; that many there were living a life of remorse/regret and were living in the past. The next statement that really struck me was this; how can God do a new work in you now and in the future if you are living in the past! 

Grief has a tendency to have one focus inward. The preacher’s message weighed on me as I reflected on my life and the loss of Jenae, I knew this message was for us. I knew that letting go of the past would be easier said than done, and would take time. I also knew that I would need to refocus on God’s plan for my life and live it. This was the way in which God wanted to bring comfort, peace, and joy. It was in trusting in God, abiding in Him, and doing His will. This has made a great difference in our lives.

Here are some helpful verses to reflect on:

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NKJV) 18 “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness [And] rivers in the desert.

Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV) 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

After the preaching, My wife and older son were able to meet and talk with Natalie Grant. I stayed back with my youngest son who was only three at the time. Sandra expressed to Natalie how we loved her singing and how dear the song Held had become to us because of losing our daughter. Natalie replied that she was going to sing that song but she had a sudden change of heart at the last moment. She didn’t know why exactly. I for one, know that God was getting our attention and giving us a message. This message has transformed our lives and we were not the same after experiencing this. God wanted us to not wallow in grief anymore and to move forward. It is OK to remember the past, but not at the expense of your future.

Here are some reflective questions to ask yourself:

How can I have a future if I live in the past?

How can I experience comfort and joy if I can’t trust God in His plan for me today?

What will it take for me to live in God’s will for my life?

We should know that God (not us) is truly in control of all things. Because He is, we can be comforted that He directs our paths and gives us the strength to live. We must seek Him and not temporary earthly things or concepts for comfort. Seek Him and abide in Him. Get to know Him more through His word, and pray for guidance and wisdom. Jesus showed us God’s truth living on earth, in the flesh. God is always correcting inaccurate thinking in all of us. Be open and humble to accept this, and God will teach you the truth you need to know.

So in conclusion, I pray that those of you reading this will begin to have more of an optimistic view for today and the future. Reflect on these truths and ask God for revelation. May we finish the race well and spread God’s goodness to others. 

Please leave your comments below and God bless you.