Another in the Fire

On these challenging days when my heart is so heavy from missing my girl and the tears are falling down my face I just want to crawl back into the safety of my bed, throwing the covers over my head.  I grow tired of the palpitations of my heart beating like a steel drum. Anxiety and fear have become the soul-sisters I never knew I had.  Recently, during my quiet time as I thought about how fear and anxiety continue to try to take me down I thought about a song I heard that made me think about the Bible story from the Book of Daniel.

There were 3 Hebrew men named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. When they wouldn’t bow down to the king’s image, King Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the fiery furnace.  He even had the guards heat it up seven times hotter before they threw them in! Can you imagine the king’s surprise when he peeked in the furnace and saw four figures walking around unharmed in the flames, with the fourth one who looked like the son of God! If that were me I would have started running for my life.  What the heck was happening in there? How did another person get in that furnace and most importantly, why weren’t they all burned up instead of dancing around???

I started thinking about the faith and courage it must have taken for the 3 of them to even walk into the furnace!! Oh, the faith they must have had! When things start to get out of control, uncomfortable or quite frankly too much to bear sometimes our first instinct is to run the other way, instead of hanging in there trying to figure out how we can deal with things.

As I heard the song, Another in the Fire, I thought about where I’m at in my grief journey.  The words were a wonderful reminder that I am not alone. We are not alone. Not in the fire. Not in the ocean. Remember the fourth man in the fire – the Son of God!  Just like he was there for 3 men in the fiery furnace back then, He is still here today. I’m not saying we won’t go through the fire or feel like we are being overtaken by the waves but hold on to The One that is holding you. 

King of My Heart

As the Fall begins to usher in cool, crisp mornings I’ve been thinking of years past.  For some reason there is something about the changing of the season that is causing me to become more reflective. Many thoughts and memories have been flooding my mind. Both the good and the challenging. I’m sure some of you may be thinking, “Challenging!!! Girl, I’ve gone through some downright horrible, terrible, bad things in my life.”  Yes, I’m sure you have.  I have too, but bear with me for a moment.

When I looked up the definition of the word challenge, specifically, “what is the meaning of challenges in life?” it says:

challenge noun (DIFFICULT JOB) – (the situation of being faced with) something that needs great mental or physical effort in order to be done successfully and therefore tests a person’s ability

When Melanie went on to Heaven, I couldn’t think of anything worse that could have happened in my life or to our family. There was no doubt that I would need the greatest amount of physical and mental effort ever required of me if I was going to survive this. To say that walking this grief journey is something that tests my ability is an understatement. On some days my ability to simply put one foot in front of the other is more than I can manage.  However, I decided early on that I would not allow the enemy to steal anything further from me and I would meet this challenge head-on.  The only way I knew how to fight this battle was spiritually (Ephesians 6: 12 – 13). My faith and trust in God were all that I had left, and I knew in my heart that God can and will turn this around – somehow, someday for His good. 

Just like many of you, I’m walking this grief journey day by day.  It’s taken my breath away and left me moving like one of the zombies from The Walking Dead.  There have been days when I’ve been curled up in a ball on the couch staring out the window, and other days when I’m walking like a warrior.  Friends, God is a God of light, love and life!  My sister recently reminded me of this – thank you, Jeanne! Our Heavenly Father is Life and He has already taken the keys of death from the enemy.  On those days when the challenges try to take over my heart and mind, I turn to the only one who can lift me like no other – The King of My Heart. So it’s no surprise to me that the words to this song have ministered so greatly to my spirit for months. I want to share them with you today. If you’re feeling challenged, depressed, uncertain, scared, lonely, worn out, and wondering where God is please hit the play button and listen to the words of this song.  Let the King of My Heart, Jesus, touch your life today. You’ll never be the same.

Let the King of my heart
Be the shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life
Oh He is my Song
You are good, good, oh

Let the King of my heart
Be the wind inside my sails
The anchor in the waves
Oh He is my Song

He Knows

I sit here in the early morning listening to the sound of the wind chimes gently swinging off the back deck.  My Amazon Echo begins playing in the background. This morning she greets me with an email message from my girl, “I was just thinking of you today Mom and wanted to tell you that I LOVE YOU!”  Oh, what a beautiful morning greeting this is at 5:00 a.m.  Moments later another email pops up, “I love you, Mom!”  The emails that sporadically pop-up are loaded on here among over 18K pictures. Somehow, out of all those thousands of memories she knows my heart needs to hear from her today.  Or, truth be told, God knows.  He knows that tomorrow is the 7th month since my girl went on to heaven. He knows I’m still wrestling within.  He knows that perhaps I always will. Yes, I know she’s safe. I know she’s at peace. I know she is no longer struggling, but still … my momma’s heart wrestles with her simply being gone from this earth. But He knows.

God knows that I have already spent years mourning the death of my girl.  This was long before she went to heaven.  The child I knew and loved slowly disappeared in front of my eyes as the drugs overtook her mind and body.  After I learned that addiction was a disease, I was able to view things through a different lense, but it still didn’t take the sadness away.  The same is true today.

As I sit here the Lord brings to my mind the words to a song by Jeremy Camp, He Knows.  They resonate within my heart and remind me once again – He truly does know the pain we are suffering missing our loved ones. Especially on the days when the waves try to take me under, I will run to Him. I will seek His face and His heart of love and compassion. He Knows.

Every time that you feel forsaken, Every time that you feel alone, He is near to the brokenhearted. Every tear. He Knows.

Pandemic Grief

Who would have ever imagined in the year 2020 we would have experienced a worldwide pandemic? Wasn’t that something that only happened in the “old days”?

I’ve been thinking about the strangeness of this year, specifically, how different it is walking through this grief journey in the middle of a pandemic. Walking through grief is tough enough under normal circumstances but trying to manage all of this during a pandemic is on a completely different level. It’s been heartbreaking for those who couldn’t honor and celebrate the life of their loved one due to the Covid restrictions put into place. Heartache and grief lingering, left in limbo.  

Yes, grief is like the waves in the ocean but I’m finding out it’s also like a long hike through the wilderness, too.  The path has many twists and turns and is often laden with rocks, some so big that I have a hard time maneuvering around them. Then, there are other paths that are scattered with small stones which are much more manageable. One of the hard things for me is how we’re left to figure out how to best manage through the waves, the wilderness, the mountains and valleys without the direct support of those in our tribe who we love most. I so miss my dearest friends and family who don’t live near me. The time when we most need to be together – hugging, holding, sharing, or simply, just being together, has been prohibited.

Hurdling the boulders of Pandemic Grief has been the hardest, most challenging thing I’ve ever encountered. Each of these boulders have names and some I know better than others:  Sadness, Anger, Anxiety, Disbelief, Lethargy, Foggy Brain, Numbness, just to name a few.  Some of these big boulders are behind me, but I’m not foolish enough to think I may never encounter them again.  I’m sure as I continue moving forward, I will likely go around a corner and there will be yet another one staring me in the face.

With so many unknowns in this world right now I cling to the things I am certain of. I know there is hope during loss.  I know that we can grieve with hope.  It doesn’t mean I won’t be sad sometimes, and it doesn’t mean I won’t cry because I surely will.  My hope and my trust rest in Jesus. There is no other I can run to in the dark of the night with my questions, worries and fears. He’s the one I turn to in the early mornings as I’m looking at the picture of my beautiful girl, next to an urn of ashes. His word is true, and He is my promise-keeper. The Lord is my strength and my shield. In him my heart trusts, and I am helped. (Psalm 28:7). Whether I feel up or down, in the valley or on the mountain top I am going to trust in the Lord with all my heart (Proverbs 3:5-6).  I hope you will let him carry you through this time, too.

I Will Remember You

September 11, 2001. A day in history we will never forget. Ask anyone over the age of 13 and I’m certain they will be able to recall every detail of where they were, what they were doing and who they were with.

When I heard, my friend Carol and I were meeting for breakfast at IHOP. We immediately left and drove to my place where we watched in utter disbelief and horror the atrocities that were happening before our very eyes. At the time, we both worked for a major airline and had no idea if the planes were ours or not. I remember so many emotions – shock, numbness, fear and panic. The same emotions I’m much more familiar with today, which are those anyone walking through grief would feel. I’ll forever be thankful I was able to sit there with my dear friend and not be alone during that time. Our hearts and prayers joined together for the families who were affected.

I have often thought about the heroism of Todd Beamer and the others on Flight 93. In the days following my thoughts often drifted to Lisa Beamer, Todd’s wife and their young family. Yes, her husband died a hero, but I can better understand how she may have felt that day after losing a loved one so young and unexpectedly. She handled herself with such grace under pressure and told of her faith in God, which is how she was able to stand before everyone that day.

Today we will remember each of the heroes and in honor of Todd Beamer, I hope that you will reach out and touch someone’s life. Let them know how much you love them, honor them, and support them. A short text, even if only 2 or 3 words, may make all the difference in a person’s life today. In the words of Todd Beamer, “Let’s Roll.”

Ready or Not…

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thinking about the upcoming holidays.  A lot. It’s only September yet here I am being inundated by thoughts of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Under normal circumstances this would not be entirely unusual for me.  I’m a planner.  I’m one of those people who typically buys Christmas presents throughout the year. My goal has always been to have all shopping completed before Thanksgiving.  While we’re talking about it, I’m also one of those who has the house decorated for Christmas before Thanksgiving!  My rationale in doing things in this way is so I can have everything completed and enjoy the true reason for the season. Yeah, it’s kind of nuts, but since I continue to do this somewhere in there, I must think the benefits far outweigh the stress and pressure I put on myself.  Now that I’ve given you a little peak into my Type-A personality, I guess it’s not too difficult to understand why my mind is fast forwarding to the holidays. 

Unfortunately, this year is not a normal year, for me and so many others.  Due to Covid, I’m sure it will be a very different year for countless numbers of people.  There are thousands who have been out of work for months, and just as many who have lost loved ones for various reasons.  For me and my family, it will be the first time Melanie will not be here.  Sure, there have been years that we didn’t celebrate the holidays together.  Especially during the hard years when she was in active addiction. But she was here, on this earth, where I could drive to see her. We would plan to meet before the actual day. I’d pick up lunch which was usually Chick-fil-A, maybe bring her some warm socks or a hoodie to be sure she wasn’t cold.  Not this year.  No socks. No Chick-fil-A deluxe sandwich with fries.  Nothing.  Which is why I have been pushing down the thoughts of all things holiday, every day, for weeks.

Last year Melanie was walking strong in her sobriety and we were able to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas together as a family.  A first in 7 long years.  We cooked all the family favorites, including baking my mom’s Italian Anise cookies and pizzelles. We laughed and yes, we even cried. I bought fun matching pajamas for all of us and took plenty of silly pictures in our matchy-matchy jams!  I’m thankful for these memories and I’ll forever be thankful God gave us this time together.  Yet, this doesn’t remove the missing and the sadness, knowing that she will not be here with us.  It hangs there like a heavy weight upon my back.  But, ready or not, here it comes.  There is no stopping time and for the sake of the rest of my family members I am left trying to figure out how best to balance all of this.  My little boy deserves a fun, happy Christmas and it is exactly what Melanie would want for him.  I’m positive of this!  She loved the holidays and she wouldn’t want me to be overwhelmed with sadness.  So, I went to the place where I know I can go, day or night, and lay my heart on the alter.

During the early morning as I lifted this care up to my Heavenly Father, He reminded me of the parable in Matthew 6:26 – 34 about the birds of the field. My paraphrase, “if God cares about the birds and the flowers and grass, does he not care more about us?”  The last verse is what really got me, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34 MSG.  For this year I have a new goal. I’m not going to worry about the fact that I haven’t bought one gift and I’m not going to worry about what we will or will not do.  I don’t have any answers, but I’m going to do my best to trust in my Heavenly Father who cares so much more for me than the birds of the field. I don’t want to fear and I don’t want to worry. I don’t know what this year’s holiday season will look like without my girl, but I am certain of one thing – I’m going to place my hope and trust in God who will pave the way for me as He always has. Let the words to this song by Lauren Daigle wash over you, and as she sings, “Even when my eyes can’t see, I will trust the voice that speaks” may you begin to feel the strength of the One who can calm the storm and worries within.

Calling All Maskateers

Mask.  A simple 4 letter word, yet today it’s one that can evoke such strong feelings about a simple piece of fabric. We see them everywhere in a myriad of colors and designs, and of course, there is rarely a day that goes by when we don’t hear about the controversy over whether one should wear one, or not.  I recently read something where the person addressed a group of individuals as “Maskateers”!  I’d never heard that term before, but as they say, if the shoe fits wear it!  In fact, at one point I’m sure I could have qualified as the head of The Maskateer Club, boldly introducing myself with confidence, “Hi, my name is Pat and I’m a Maskateer!”  Oh, but hold on a minute!  I’m not the Maskateer you may be thinking I am.  I’m a Maskateer alright, but one that has nothing to do with Covid and the pretty little cloths that cover my nose and mouth.  Let me explain.

Long before there was such a thing as Covid I was already a Maskateer.  For more than 10 years I applied my mask expertly every morning.  Just as I finished applying my Bobbi Brown foundation over my face, and just after the last brush of mascara across my eyelashes, I would carefully slip my mask on.  This was a full-on mask, my friends, not just one covering my nose and mouth!  It didn’t have pretty colors or designs but was invisible to those around me, which was the best part of all.  It was exactly what I needed at the time and I considered myself an expert in this area.  When I looked up the definition of expert it says: “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area”.   Yes, that described me, and it was also something I was proud to be skilled in!  No one could see it, which meant they couldn’t see the real me.  I could go into my office each day and no one would be the wiser. I bet if I had the chance to speak with you, that many of you would also be a member of The Maskateer Club, too.  I’d find that each of you were also experts in this field, having perfected your skill in this area. In fact, many of you are still active members today.  

The day that my girl went on to heaven I realized I could no longer be a member of this club.  My epiphany occurred as I sat at my kitchen island at 4:00a.m. writing Melanie’s eulogy.  When the realization hit me that I would no longer be a member of The Maskateer Club I was beyond scared. This was a part of me, even if just a façade. But deep down inside I had something else pushing me forward.  Some people call it “your knower”, others call it “intuition or your gut”.  I call it The Holy Spirit.  God was leading me to write my girl’s eulogy and I was believing that He would give me the strength to stand up in front of everyone and share what He had placed on my heart.  I’d like to share a small part of that with you today.   

“As we celebrate Melanie’s life and I considered what I wanted to share with you, I realized in order to do so I would have to be willing to be vulnerable – which is akin to being naked before you all.  Whew, Lord Jesus, now that is a scary thought on many levels!!  The naked I’m referring to is of the heart – full and total transparency.  You see, every day for the past 10+ yrs. I wouldn’t leave my house without putting on my mask.  As time went on, I became an expert at it, applying it each morning, just like my makeup.  Well, unfortunately, since we’re all here in this room I guess I can’t hide behind that mask any longer. The reason for wearing that mask is because Melanie had the disease of addiction.  Addiction is ugly.  It’s raw.  It has a stigma attached to it that brings about judgment, shame and most of all misunderstanding – of you and your loved one!!  I’ll admit for a long time I had quite a different outlook on what addiction was.  But I want you to know that first and foremost, addiction is in fact a disease!  A brain disease.  It’s not something you can just “get over”, “stop using”, “be strong” or “suck it up buttercup”.  It’s not that easy.  I found out early on that if you know someone who has the disease of cancer you would bring a meal, see what you could do to help.  Not so with the disease of addiction.  Addiction doesn’t only affect the addict – it affects the entire family.  About 4-5 yrs. ago as I was praying for Melanie, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and filled me with an overwhelming compassion for her. The anger and resentment that I felt was replaced with compassion for my daughter. It was also a turning point in how I viewed this terrible disease that is an epidemic in our society today.  Thankfully, this was just a piece of Melanie’s life and although she struggled on and off for many years it wasn’t WHO she was at the very core and heart of her being. She was made by God, in His image and with His heart!  And that heart is who Melanie really was!  She was a loving, caring daughter, sister, cousin, and friend, and most of all, she loved Cameron with her whole heart.

Friends, I felt moved to share this very personal piece of my life with you today in the hope that you too may have the courage to remove your mask.  I want you to know that although it’s scary, it is also very freeing!!!   There is so much that comes with having a loved one who fights the disease of addiction – isolation, fear, anger, hurt, and anxiety, just to name a few.  We have been bound by these things for so long and I believe that if they could, our loved ones would encourage us to walk a life of freedom, which will in turn lead to peace.  The day I delivered this I stood in front of more than 125 people, with a great percentage of those being co-workers who were mostly the ones I wore my mask for.  After the service, and in the weeks following I had several people share their own stories with me.  They told me how sharing about removing my mask had encouraged them to do the same.  Friends let me encourage you today to set yourself free and resign from The Maskateer’s Club.  You won’t regret it and I’ll be here to hold your hand as you do. 

Overdose Awareness Day

This post is dedicated to each of you who have lost a loved one to overdose. I see you and I care. I’ve watched the videos, looked at hundreds of photos, and read countless heartbreaking stories of love, loss and grief. Today many will post pictures of our loved ones on social media, fly beautiful purple balloons from our homes, porches will be filled with beautifully hand-painted chairs, candles will be lit and in some states flags will fly at half-staff. We will continue to fight on behalf of others, so they will not have to walk this same road. You are stronger than you think and I am in awe of each of you.

Sending each of you much love and prayers that this disease will be recognized for what it is, and in the days to come awareness and support will be provided to help others.

The Sunflower

There is something about the sunflower that makes me happy. It’s upturned face seems surrounded by joy!  Maybe it’s the bright yellow color, or perhaps it just reminds me of those giant yellow smiley faces that were popular in the 70’s! 😊  Melanie’s favorite flower is the sunflower.  I have found it interesting that since she’s been gone, I see sunflowers everywhere. In the grocery store, on the side of the road and even on my social media page!  Two weeks ago, I received a message on Facebook from someone who was conducting mini photo shoots – in a sunflower field!  I couldn’t believe it was located less than half a mile up the road from where I’ve lived for years!  How did I not notice this before? I’ll take it as a sign of my girl smiling down on me.

Did you know that sunflowers draw their strength from the sun?  On sunny days they will turn their face upward and follow the sun from east to west.  As the sun sets, it will return to its normal position then start all over again the next day.  I think we can all take a lesson from the sunflower.  Let’s turn our faces upward, toward The Son.

Most of us are familiar with the movie, The Lion King.  Oh, there are so many wonderful life lessons in this movie.  One of my favorite moments is when Mufasa is showing his young son, Simba, the big, beautiful countryside in front of him.  He shares with him something his own father told him, “the day will come when I will no longer be with you (physically) but I will always be there, watching over you, guiding you.”  He’s talking about the Circle of Life and if you are a Believer, then you know that God is always there, watching over us. We are never alone. (Heb 13:5)

At some point in our Circle of Life we will lose someone or something we love and treasure.  It may be a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling, a best friend, or maybe even your lifelong job. There are so many kinds of loss, yet regardless of the specific relationship or set of circumstances the feelings are the same.  Heartache. Sadness. Missing. Numb. Disbelief. Anger.  All very valid feelings we must walk through if we hope to get to the other side.

I’ve learned that life can change in the blink of an eye.  If you’re grieving a loss today, my heart is joined with yours.  We can still so greatly miss and love what is no longer a part of this earthly life.  But just because someone is not on this side of heaven doesn’t mean that your loved one is no longer a part of you.  We can carry them in our hearts, everywhere we go.  In another blink of your eye the sun will rise, and we are gifted with a new day.  I would suggest that even in our sadness and grief, let us walk down this road together and lift one another up.  

Each day, no matter how I feel, I lean in toward the One who lifts me up and pushes me forward, knowing the Son is watching over me, guiding my every step. I like to think that He allows the veil to be pulled back and my girl will see her Momma giving it all she has to honor her. If you’d like to leave me a comment below, it would be my honor to pray for you.  May you be like the sunflower today and lift your face up toward The Son and feel the warmth of His presence along with a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Roller Coaster Ride

There’s no heart you can’t rescue
There’s no war you can’t win
No story so over, it can’t start again
No pain you won’t use
No wall you won’t break through
It might be too much for me but
There is no impossible with you!

When I was a teenager, I remember how exciting it was when I got to visit Whalom Park, which was the 13th oldest amusement park in the U.S.  The moment we would get there my best friend, Patty and I would race over to the Flying Comet to stand in the long line waiting our turn.  Once we got strapped in the seat we began the slow ascent up, up, up listening to the clickety-clack of the wooden tracks cracking and popping as we made our way up toward the sky.  Our hearts would begin racing in anticipation of what lay ahead.  Finally, we would reach the top and for a split second we would see the beautiful lake in front of us before we plunged down the track headfirst, hands in the air screaming at the top of our lungs!!  So fun and exhilarating, with a little bit of scary at the same time!  When we reached the bottom, we would turn right around and head back to the line to do it all over again. Oh, the joy of childhood! 

Since Melanie went to heaven my life often feels like the younger me on the Flying Comet. One day I’m cruising along, with the sun shining brightly overhead, a gentle breeze blowing in the wind, and a peaceful spirit within.  In the very next moment, out of nowhere, I feel like I’m being frantically whipped around the corner, hanging off the edge of my seat as I take a curve being jerked from side to side.  My heart begins pounding in my chest and for no apparent reason fear begins to seep in.  Instead of the clickety-clack of the wooden tracks, all I hear is my own heart beating wildly within.  I’m on a rollercoaster alright, but not the Flying Comet.  It’s the rollercoaster of my AMD life.  I now refer to my life in two different segments of time:  BMD and AMD.  Before Melanie Died and After Melanie Died.  Friends, I don’t know where you are on your grief journey, but whether it’s days, months or years I believe being on this rollercoaster is actually a very normal process.

I’m discovering that what’s most important for our health and wellbeing is what we do with these rollercoaster moments that matters most.  For me, I’ve found a few things that help me walk this journey with more peace.  Journaling each day helps me capture my thoughts and feelings as I pour it all out onto the pages.  I usually do this in the early morning hours when no one else is awake yet.  Yes, it means that I’m oftentimes getting up between 4:30a – 5:00a but it’s so worth it.  Starting out my day in prayer, talking to my Heavenly Father, reading from my bible or one of my devotionals helps set my day to begin on a positive note.  If you’re looking for a good devotional my favorite is, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  I’ve read this one over and over again for years and it’s amazing how many times the words seem to leap off the page speaking right to me!  The other thing that gets me down off the whirls and twirls of the rollercoaster life is music.  I love all types of music but during these times I focus on songs by artists who inspire me with their worship.  If I don’t know what I want to play I simply ask Alexa to play The Message on XM Radio.  Oh, that Alexa, she never does me wrong! 😊

If you feel as if you’re on the Flying Comet and being tossed back and forth like a rag doll I hope you’ll take a moment for yourself today.  Order yourself a beautiful journal from Amazon.  Lift up a simple prayer, lean into God and ask Him to fill your heart with His peace today. Turn on the music and turn it up loud! Check out the song to the words I posted above and remember, there is nothing that’s impossible for God! 

A Time For Every Season

This week I attended two funerals. One via Facebook Live and the other in person with only 15 people in attendance, all of us wearing masks and observing social distancing. Both very different but both so honoring of those who are no longer with us. Coincidentally, both people passed away on Saturday, August 15th. Heaven received two beautiful people that day within 90 minutes of each other. They didn’t know one another, but they did have something in common – they both loved Jesus and they were each loving parents to two dear friends. One, a wonderful, loving father who fought a valiant battle of Parkinson’s Disease for many years, and the other a gentle, kind 95 yr. old who was a true Proverbs 31 woman. She fought severe Dementia for about 10 yrs. Having experienced the loss of my own daughter, who also fought a disease for over 10 yrs., I understand what it feels like to walk this long journey with a loved one. I have had such compassion for each of my friends as they have watched their loved one suffer the ramifications of their diseases. My heart has been joined with their heart. It’s so hard to lose someone, whether you are expecting it or it blindsides you; the hurt, the missing and the grief are all still the same. I recently began thinking about this scripture:

“There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. ” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4 AMP

Certainly, I’ve heard this scripture before but since my daughter died things have become more real and amplified for me. My friend who lost her mom, called the service her “Home-Going”. After listening to the pastor I thought that term was so appropriate. Pastor Al gently reminded us that this is not our home. You may be living in your beautiful dream home but that is not your permanent home. Considering how short life truly is, and how it can change in an instant, it made me think of this quote from Abraham Lincoln: “And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” When you think of life in that way it puts things in perspective.

Friends, it’s okay if you’re missing your loved one today. It’s okay to grieve and it’s absolutely okay to cry. Tears are cleansing. But I encourage you to continue to hold tight to your good memories. Say their name – out loud! They will never be forgotten. Put on some music. Dance. Sing through your tears. Lift your hands high to the One that longs to hold you. Take it one day at a time, and some days if necessary, moment by moment. Determine in your heart that you won’t let it weigh you down to the point that you are not living. Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5).

In the Blink of an Eye

We’ve all heard the saying, “what a difference a day makes.” Well, how much of a difference does 180 days make?  Today marks 6 months, or 180 days, since Melanie has been gone so I’ve found myself pondering that saying.  I’ll admit many things have changed during this time – some good, some bad.  Yes, I did say, some things that have changed were good.  Don’t judge me! I hope as you read on, you’ll gain understanding, and if you’re someone who has walked in my shoes I hope you may feel the freedom and courage to speak your own truth.

Time is a funny thing.  So much in life can change in the blink of an eye.  I’ve learned that 6 months can seem like yesterday, yet it can seem like decades, too.  I’ve learned that I can be fine one moment and in tears the next.  I’ve learned I can go days without crying, and then sob without provocation all day long.  I’ve learned that God’s peace and mercy is new every single morning. I’ve learned that the average person is very uncomfortable talking about grief and reluctant to mention the person who died by name.  I’ve learned that those who are closest to you relationally may also not be the ones to offer the support you need.  But most importantly, I’ve learned to have great compassion because I realize that although I am loved, some don’t know what to say or do to ease the pain death brings. My Myers-Briggs and Strengthfinders will tell you I’m a fixer. A problem-solver.  Responsibility, Achiever, Discipline, Relator, Empathy are my top 5-character traits.  When I’m unable to achieve my results, find a solution or fix things I’m beyond frustrated.  So, I have learned to look at this grief-walk from that perspective as well.  I’m sure there are many people who are just like me.  They look at this uncomfortable situation and think there is nothing they can do to “fix this” so instead of coming closer, they draw away.  I’m continuing to learn and realize, that’s ok, too!

As a parent we only want the very best for our children.  Although I miss Melanie so very much, I am confident that she is truly in the best place she could ever be in.  She’s now living a TAP life: Total, Amazing, Peaceful, which is something she never really lived here on earth!  She is walking in Total freedom, with an Amazing Peace, struggle free. Who can object to that?

As her mom, I miss her in ways that oftentimes I can’t describe.  I recently came across a few voicemails from her that I downloaded and forgot about. What priceless gifts!  I have discovered treasured letters, emails and journals which are filled with both sadness and joy, struggles and love.  I am learning to take the good with the bad.  

One moment in February I was jetting off for a lovely vacation and in the next moment I was on the other line with a detective waiting to be told my daughter had died. Yes, life can change in the blink of an eye.  So, I’m learning to take each day as it comes and embrace both my tears and the laughter.  After 6 months, my heart doesn’t jump out of my chest when my phone rings as it used to do when my girl was here.  I’m no longer perusing Facebook just to see if she’s been online to determine if she is still breathing or not.  I’m no longer calling hospitals or checking with the local police. These are the things I do not miss. I am relieved to not have these everyday stresses in my life any longer. This is where I hope you will not judge me.  Yes, I can breathe a little easier. Then I realize the reason why is because my girl is in heaven.  The push and the pull within my heart begins again until I remember TAP. She is Totally, Amazingly Peaceful right now and I will see her again one day.  I miss my girl immensely. There is a void in my life that will never be filled, but I will be forever grateful for the 18 months I had with her before she left me, where she walked strongly in her sobriety and I had my daughter back. 

My mom always said, “God works in mysterious ways” and I believe that is so true.  He has taken one of the worse things to happen in my life and shined light into this darkness.  Even the worst experiences in our lives will not destroy us – at least not forever.  I’m learning it’s possible to both smile and grieve.  To laugh yet still feel sadness.  These are all signs of life and living. The tears and sadness are outward signs of all the love we will continue to carry in our hearts for our loved one.  The only way I know how to get up, putting one foot in front of the other, is by continuing to lean toward the only One who can pick me up when I’m down.  Jesus. He heals our broken hearts and crushed spirits.  If you’re struggling today, I’ll leave you with a song that I hope will touch your heart and help you to “Hold On.” 

Broken Pieces

Today my calendar said, “Melanie – 2 yr. celebration.” Although I may not be celebrating with her, I truly believe she is celebrating her full recovery in heaven! When she died, it was truly heaven’s gain. She is now totally free from her struggle and finally at peace. And just like for anyone who lost someone they love, the missing never ends. I woke up with the words to the chorus of this song, “I Know” by Big Daddy Weave this morning: “I know that you are good. I know that you are kind.” I’ve never really listened to the words before today but once I did it brought my heart some peace as I continue to put myself and these broken pieces back together, with these sweet touches from my Heavenly Father. I hope it touches your heart today, too.

I don’t understand the sorrow

But you’re the calm within the storm

Sometime this weight is overwhelming

But I don’t carry it alone

You’re still close when I can’t feel you

I don’t have to be afraid

And though my eyes have never seen you

I’ve seen enough to say

I know that you are good

I know that you are kind

Back to School

Here in Georgia, we’re getting ready to send our kids back to school.  It’s a hot topic these days no matter what city or state you live in.  Depending on your own personal circumstances, some kids will return to the classroom, others will go with a hybrid schedule and others will begin the year with distance learning from home.  Yes, 2020 has been quite the year and one we will never forget.

When I was growing up, I loved school and I especially loved getting ready for the new year!  My mom and I would take the train into Downtown Boston and go shopping at Filene’s Basement and Jordan Marsh! We made a day of it and after shopping we would then walk over to Chinatown to eat the best Chinese food my lips ever tasted.  I remember rubbing the belly of the Buddha as we entered sending up a wish for a great school year.

Though our preparations for school today are completely different, memories have begun to flood my mind of days gone by.  Even when John and Melanie were little, I loved the whole process of getting them ready for school: shopping for new clothes, shoes, backpacks that would then be filled with colored folders and new pencils.  So much has changed from those days.  Today I’m buying a laptop, a desk and a chair to outfit a digital learning environment at home!  Yet, the excitement of it all still rumbles underneath.  My sweet son, Cameron, is starting Middle School this year.  How did that happen so fast?!  Cameron takes after John and enjoys his classes.  Melanie was a different story!  I’ll never forget picking her up one day when she was in the First Grade. As the teacher helped her into the backseat she leaned in and said, “Melanie is so sweet.  She’s such a social child!”  Oh, no! I knew what that meant!  That was code for, “Melanie talks all the time and isn’t concentrating on her schoolwork!” As the years went by, some things never changed.  She made friends wherever she went, had a beautiful smile, even when they took school pictures after she had lost a tooth 😊 and she always talked non-stop!

Since Melanie died, I have found myself back in the classroom.  The main subject, “Lessons of Life and Death.”  I’ll admit I don’t particularly like these lessons very much.  This type of learning isn’t what I would have chosen for myself.  But, unfortunately, I wasn’t given a choice.  Even though we all walk through life, learning as we go, I wasn’t prepared for some of the lessons I’ve had to learn.  Quite frankly, right now I’d rather be like Melanie.  I would love to just be enjoying life, laughing, smiling, and chatting it up with my girlfriends over a glass of chardonnay, with not a care in the world!  Instead, each day I’m sitting on the front row of class, learning about the lessons of life and death.  

Fear.  Yes, that’s on the list of topics we’re covering.  I’m a reluctant student!  I don’t like this class, mainly because I haven’t wanted to face what it is that’s causing me to feel this way. However, have you ever noticed that the thing you resisted most, once confronted loses its power? That’s how I feel about fear.  I have come to discover that fear is a natural response when an unexpected traumatic event occurs.  Sometimes fear can evolve into PTSD.  When you were a little kid were you ever afraid of the dark?  I was.  I found out that as soon as I had the courage to step out, run into the dark room and turn the light on, there was nothing in that room that could hurt me.  The fears we face today can be confronted in the same way.  The mind is the battlefield and the enemy wants to hold us hostage and keep us in the dark and afraid.  Jesus is the light of my life.  In Him I am finding my weakness made strong. (2 Cor 12:9).  I may even take a step backward. It’s ok! I will continue moving forward, letting His word be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

If you’ve been following my posts, you probably noticed that music is part of the foundation of my life.  It’s become a large part of my healing.  The songs and music I listen to help ease the unrest deep in my soul.  I may even weep as I worship and that’s ok, too. Tears are part of healing.  Embrace them.  Psalm 56:8 says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book (NLT).  I’m so thankful I don’t need sunshine bursting from my heart in order to worship Jesus.  I encourage you to plug this song into YouTube and listen for yourself.  I captured part of the chorus that speaks to my heart and helps me when that fear comes knocking on my door.  

~ Every anxious thought that steals my breath

It’s a heavy weight upon my chest

As I lie awake and wonder what the future will hold

Help to remember that you’re in control

You’re my courage when I worry in the dead of night

You’re my strength ‘cause I’m not strong enough to win this fight

You are greater than the battle raging in my mind

I will trust you Lord.  I will fear no more.

~ I Will Fear No More, The Afters ~

Blanket of Love

My mother taught me how to crochet when I was 8 yrs. old.  It was something we did together, especially during those long, winter days.  We crocheted everything and anything – scarves, mittens, vests, skirts!  My mom, along with my Aunt Martha would crochet around the edge of these special handkerchiefs, some of which I still happen to have today.  I even crocheted a purple vest for my big crush and love of my 12 yr. old life, Donny Osmond! 😊 Oh, my sweet momma helped me box it up in pretty purple tissue paper, which we then carefully wrapped in a brown paper bag, before taking it to the post office to mail to his home in Provo, UT.  Gee, I wonder what happened to that vest when it arrived?! 😊

When I was pregnant with each of my children, I crocheted them their first baby blanket. Each one made with so much love.  I still have them both today.  I had hoped to pass them down to their children.  My son, John, doesn’t have any kids yet so his is still packed away and when Melanie had Cameron, well, I knew he wouldn’t want a pink blanket, so I made him one of his own.

When John and Melanie got older and moved out on their own, I would eventually crochet each of them a blanket to fit their bed.  Now if you know anything about crocheting, you realize that making a small baby blanket versus a king size one is a much bigger time commitment.  Days and weeks vs. hours, but it was something special that I longed to do for them.  In my mind, it was a tangible item they could have forever, and when I was no longer here maybe they would wrap themselves in it and remember my love that came along with each stitch. 

Due to Melanie’s addiction she didn’t spend many Christmases with us over a 10 yr. period. We are very thankful that this past year we were able to share the holidays together and Christmas would be the first time we would all be together as a family.  In late November I decided that I would make Melanie a new blanket for her bed.  I started working on it each night and in every free moment I had.  I started stressing over whether I’d be finished in time and wondered why I did this to myself.  Why didn’t I come up with these great ideas earlier in the year and not in the middle of the crunch of the holidays!  But truly, I loved each moment of making it and couldn’t wait to see her face when she opened this special gift.  When I finally completed it, only 2 days before Christmas, I laid my hands on it and prayed that each time Melanie placed that blanket on top of her she would not only remember how much I loved her, but that she would know and feel the love of her Heavenly Father.  I couldn’t always be with her, but I prayed the Holy Spirit would envelop her with love, courage, and strength to keep walking in His light.

No matter how old Melanie was when Christmas rolled around she behaved like a little kid.  She was always the one who counted all the gifts making sure it was “even”!  She was also the one who shook each box to guess what was inside.  I found out years later that one Christmas she and her brother opened each gift while I was at work and then taped them all back up!!!  She was certainly the mischief maker in the family!  At least on this Christmas morning, she couldn’t figure out what could possibly be in this big box!  She saved it until the end to open and I can still see the look on her face when she realized what it was – her very own, “blanket of love”!!  I had always told my kids that it was called a blanket of love because each and every stitch was made with all the love in my heart for them.  With tears in her eyes and a special look between just the two of us, we understood the meaning behind this gift.  You see, I had made Melanie a blanket of love years before but somewhere along her hard road, she lost it.  For my girl, this beautiful pink blanket was a symbol.  A new start. A new beginning.  She had her family back and the unconditional love of her mother, staring back at her with every loving stitch.

When Melanie died and I received her things the next day the first thing I saw was her blanket of love poking out of the bag.  I pulled it out and held it close to my face.  It smelled just like her!  In the early days after she was gone, I would keep it next to me and reach over and just breathe in her scent.  It made me feel as if she was still here with me. I have since folded it up and have it on a chair in my bedroom.  Many nights before I climb into bed, I lean my face down into her blanket of love and just breathe.  I’m so thankful that even today, it still smells like her. 

Recently, I began thinking about how much comfort that blanket brings to me. Even when I just look over at it, it’s like a small piece of her remains here with me.  Her perfume still lingering on the wool.  Then, I began thinking about how much more our Heavenly Father loves us and wants to wrap us in His arms, bringing us comfort.  His love covers us like the warmest and softest blanket of all. He shelters us from the storms of life, comforting us and keeping us from harm. (Psalm 91).  The days without our loved ones can be circuitous. But even during all the ups and downs I see God making a new path. “Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers through the badlands”. (Isaiah 43:19).  Melanie loved life and she loved me! I saw a meme on social media, and it said, “I can either let the missing you drown me, or I can let it teach me how to swim(Gemma Troy).  Wow! That struck a chord in me and has propelled me forward knowing that Melanie would not want me to drown, so I will learn how to swim!  I will remember my girl’s beautiful smile on Christmas morning as she opened her blanket of love. On the days when I am struggling, I’ll lay my head and heart at the feet of my Heavenly Father as I walk through the valley and be thankful that His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

See the Light

‘Cause it don’t matter where you come from
I know we can get through this
It might feel like it’s been so long
But we keep on keepin’ on
It might feel like an uphill climb
Always some kind of battle
But you got more than you on your side
We’re gonna see the light
You and me
We’re gonna see the light

~ See the Light, Toby Mac

During the summer months one of the things I like most is how it stays light outside until late in the evening. There is something about the warmth and beauty of the summer days that brings a warmth and peace to my soul.  As a young girl growing up outside of Boston, summers were short!  As soon as Labor Day rolled around, not only would you stop wearing white (wink-wink), the weather changed and you were soon digging out a light jacket, as the days began to get a little bit cooler.  Now that I’m living in the South, I love that we can stretch out the warmth of those summer days until at least early November. But no matter where I’ve lived, or how long or short the summer months are I’ll admit there has always been something about the light that draws me in and fills me with peace.   

Recently, the words to the song, See the Light, began coming up in my heart over and over again.  The song was written by my son’s favorite Christian artist, Toby Mac.  I had never heard of Toby until about 4 yrs. ago when my then 7-year-old introduced me to his music. I’ve since become a fan myself.  Little did I know then how similar my life as a suburban mom would parallel with a Christian artist from Tennessee.  What I didn’t know then, and what the world at large wasn’t aware of was that Toby’s oldest son, Truett, was fighting the same disease as my Melanie.  You see, it really doesn’t matter where you come from. Whether you’re famous or the family next door.  A single parent or married for 25 yrs. to your high school sweetheart.  Rich, poor, living in the best neighborhood or living in the projects.  In the church, or out of the church – addiction doesn’t care about those things!  This disease touches people from all walks of life.  Back in October 2019, I remember reading a post on Toby’s social media asking the public to pray for him and his family as Truett died at the age of 21.  The cause of Truett’s death wasn’t immediately publicized and quite frankly, the reason for his death wasn’t what was most important.   A mother and father just lost their firstborn at a very young age.  Death and grief touch at the core of our heart whether it’s a child, spouse, parent, sibling or close friend.  Whether they’ve died from a car accident, disease, or any other myriad of reasons, the pain and hurt are all the same.  Grief is grief.  Sadness is sadness.  What remains most memorable to me was the statement Toby shared (my paraphrase): “God is still our rock, no matter what the circumstances and we will continue to love and serve him”.

A couple of months later, I would find myself listening to the Celebration of Life service for Lois Evans, wife of Dr. Tony Evans and mother of Priscilla Shirer, (author, speaker, actress from War Room, Overcomer).   I can’t tell you why I decided to listen to this because I have no answer.  Yes, I enjoy listening to Priscilla and her powerful messages which are aimed toward encouraging women in their walk with Christ, but I can’t explain why I felt drawn to listen to her mother’s funeral service.  I had also recently begun following Dr. Tony Evans, Priscilla’s father, who is a longtime pastor from Texas.  I learned of Lois’ cancer diagnosis several months earlier and knew the family had been believing God for a miraculous healing.  One of Lois’ sons spoke at the service and shared something that sticks in my mind until this day. He told the story about when his mom shared with the family that she had cancer, and all the things they did both medically and prayerfully to believe for her healing.  Then he said, “Momma was either going to be healed, OR she was going to be healed”!  As it would be, Lois was healed – it just didn’t happen on this side of heaven.  When I first listened to that service, I had no idea that just a few short months later I would be burying my own daughter at 38 yrs. old.  But God knew. 

I look back on this now and I see that He was preparing me for what was about to happen.  He is the Alpha and The Omega – the beginning and the end.  Just like Lois Evans, Melanie was healed.  It sure wasn’t in the way I had expected, but when I think about my girl, I feel a total peace in my heart knowing she is free!  Free from the constant struggle and heaviness that the weight of addiction brought to her for so long.  It doesn’t eliminate the sadness that I feel on those days when I’m missing her terribly.  I’ll always miss hearing her voice on the other end of my phone or looking into those beautiful light brown eyes and seeing her pretty, but sometimes, mischievous smile. 😊  As each day unfolds, whatever it brings, I will continue to go to my rock and place all my tears and cares there.  

I’ve thought more about heaven now than I ever have and I’ve often wondered what it was like when she saw the light of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  As I listen to the words to this song by my brother in Christ, it brings a whole new meaning to me today.  In many ways we are all connected. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.  God never promised us a trouble-free life.  Instead, he promised that he would never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8).  He would be with us as we pass through deep waters and when you walk through the fire you will not be burned (Isaiah 43:2).  No matter what, during this uphill climb, we need to cling to the One that can take us through it all.   I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to Toby’s song and let the words seep into your heart today.  May it help you to feel the warmth of God’s light and great love for you.

Some things will never be the same
Some things are only for a season
And just the thought of letting go
Well, it’s brought you to your knees
So go on and lift your hands up to where your help is comin’ from
And let your burdens, let ’em fade away…
We’re gonna see the light
~ See the Light, Toby Mac

The Lonely Walk

Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever looked around you and felt totally alone even though you may be surrounded by people? According to Websters dictionary the meaning of lonely is: standing apart, isolated, solitary, destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship. This is the kind of lonely I’m referring to.  As the months have gone by since Melanie’s death, I began to feel more alone with each passing day.  How could that be? I live in a home with a loving, supportive, attentive husband and an amazing and energetic son.  I certainly wasn’t alone and didn’t think I should be feeling lonely.  In fact, because of Covid I was never alone – something I desperately missed!!  Although some may challenge this statement (wink-wink), I am an introvert.  I’m perfectly fine with my alone time and draw energy from it.  Unfortunately, due to Covid, we are like all the many other families who find ourselves sequestered at home, teaching school and being together every moment.  How could I possibly feel alone or lonely??

A couple of months ago this feeling began to settle deep into my heart. I realized that I was beginning to feel terribly alone on this grief journey.  Even though I have well-meaning friends who would call or text to check on me, there was oftentimes an awkwardness surrounding the conversation.  Some people didn’t dare broach the subject that my daughter had recently died or ask how I was doing, and even as the weeks wore on many wouldn’t even mention her name, as if she never existed.  Some conversations went something like this: “Hey there!  What’s happening? How’s Cameron doing with online learning?  Any new recipes you’re trying? Gee, have you thought of any new games or ideas for the kids besides video gaming?”  They asked about everything except the one thing that consumed me – the state of my heart and how I was really feeling!  It was as if life had just gone back to normal, and for them, it had.  For me, I had barely begun walking that long road back to whatever my new normal might be.  It’s a long, dark road and I had barely left the driveway yet everyone else acted as though everything was fine.

Loneliness was not a feeling I was familiar with and this grief journey truly can be a very solitary road. Now, this isn’t a woe-is-me statement, but just reality.  When you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, it’s hard to understand unless you’ve walked in that person’s shoes.  Before Melanie died, I thought I understood grief and loss. I thought I was sympathetic and supportive.  I’ve come to find out that it’s such a personal journey and is very different with each of us. Even with a great support system there will be times that no one person on this earth can fill the void and hurt that has come from your loss. 

One afternoon I was sitting outside trying to let the warmth of the sun fill what felt cold and dead inside of me.  It was there on my deck that I began to cry out to God telling him how lonely I felt. I didn’t know how I was going to fill the void that was left behind by no longer having my daughter in my life.  I simply shared my heart out there with my Heavenly Father, who already knows what we’re feeling before we even speak it.  A couple of weeks later I woke up with a song on my heart.  The words were strange and unfamiliar to me as I had never heard them before: “Don’t hang your head. You’ve got my love, love, love”.  What?!?  What the heck does that mean??  It didn’t even sound like a complete thought or sentence! I got up and ran downstairs to see my best friend, Google!  As I punched these words into the Search bar up popped several options with the first one being a song called, Love, by We Are Messengers.  I still wasn’t sure if this was what God meant for me to listen to but as I began to play it, I realized immediately the words were meant for me! 

Everybody hurts sometimes I know that’s what they say
But right now it seems this loneliness won’t go away
Can anybody feel this heart ache?
Is anyone around?

Don’t hang your head when you get lonely
No, I’ll never leave your side
And don’t go thinking you’re the only
One that can’t get it right
Yeah you’ve got my love love love love
Down in your soul
Yeah you’ve got my love love love
And I won’t let you go

Your Mercy is new every morning
Your Grace sustains all of my life
You are the One that I run to
In you I am satisfied

How is it that God continually places these songs in my heart when I need them most?!  I don’t claim to understand it, but I do believe His word (Where is God my maker, who gives songs in the night? Job 35:10). I stand in awe of the love our Heavenly Father has for his children.  Yes, Me and You!  I am ever thankful there is one person who can help soothe, calm and heal like no other – Jesus!  He is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).  What he has done for one, he will do for another.  If you’re feeling alone in your grief walk today, I encourage you to listen to this song up and play it LOUD!  Let the words sink deep down into your soul.  His mercy is new every morning.  It’s there with him that you’ll find you’re truly not alone and it’s also there that you’ll find the peace and comfort we need along this road.

The Big “A” – Anxiety

~ Every anxious thought that steals my breath
It’s a heavy weight upon my chest
As I lie awake and wonder what the future will hold
Help me to remember that You’re in control

You’re my courage when I worry in the dead of night
You’re my strength ’cause I’m not strong enough to win this fight
You are greater than the battle raging in my mind
I will trust You, Lord, I will fear no more
~ Fear No More, The Afters

Fear. Anxiety. Worry.  These words have become my new reality since Melanie passed away.  When my son drops something behind me that I wasn’t expecting I jump like a bomb just went off.  As my husband is taking the garbage out and bangs against the door, I practically come out of my own skin.  When did this happen? How did it happen?

I know many who struggle with anxiety. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I fought and won this battle decades ago and now, here it is. Back again. Knocking at my door. The thing is, I don’t want to walk in fear, wondering what the next bad thing is that’s going to blow up my life. When your child dies and you hear those words, it’s not something that simply just, goes away.  The images in your mind are not so easily erased. I believe that when an unexpected and tragic death occurs, the thoughts and feelings that suddenly seem to pummel you from every direction is actually, quite normal.  Fear and anxiety have even gripped my sweet Cameron.  Every time I’m getting ready to leave the house he wants to know: Where are you going? What time will you be back? How long will you be gone?  There it is again. Knock, knock, knocking on my door. Fear. Anxiety. Worry. You are not welcome here! 

Fear and trust were two things Melanie continually struggled with.  Fear of the future. Fear of people. Fear of failure. Fear of getting high. Fear of not getting high. Fear of not being loved. Fear of not being enough. Fear of not being accepted. She often said she didn’t trust anyone, but in her everyday battle, she did trust, just all the wrong people. This was something we talked about the day before she died. During that last phone call, she had an epiphany and with a very sad voice said, “Mom, you were right. I really am a very bad judge of character.” I didn’t want to be right, but I also couldn’t argue with her. It was true. Unfortunately, it was, in part, due to placing her trust in the wrong people that she is no longer with us today.   

When we cry out to the Lord, he hears us (Psalm 18:6), and he will answer us in many different ways.  So, when the words to the song, Fear No More, by The Afters dropped into my heart, they were like balm to my soul.  A sweet and gentle reminder that I don’t have to fear.  I don’t have to worry.  Have I won the battle? Not entirely, but I’m fighting it every step of the way. I’m determined that each day I’m closer to winning the war and I will remember, “I will trust you Lord.  I will fear no more.” Melanie understood anxiety and she wouldn’t want me or Cameron to become paralyzed with it. This is yet another reason to rise up and say: “God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God’s words are the weapons of our warfare.  This has become my battle cry!  If I’m in a war for my soul, my mind, my peace, I’m going to fight it with everything I have in me.   

Eye of the Storm

~ In the eye of the storm you remain in control
In the middle of the war, you guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm
~ Eye of the Storm, Ryan Stevenson

I first started being awakened in the middle of the night with a song in my heart many years ago.  I thought it was odd, as I hadn’t heard of this happening to anyone else. I was afraid to even mention it to anyone for fear that people would think I’d lost my mind.  Imagine how amazed I was when I came across a scripture in Job 35:10 “Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night”.  Wow! Had that always been there?!  As the years have gone by, I’ve become accustomed to this and began keeping a pen and paper by my bed.  Most times the words to the song come when I’m not quite awake, yet I’m not sound asleep either.  It’s always just a few lines that play over and over in my head until I either get up and write them down or tap a few words into my phone.  There are certainly some nights I want to throw the pillow over my head and roll over.  Just let me sleep, Lord!!! 

Since Melanie went on to heaven, I have had more “songs in the night” awaken me now more than ever before.  I imagine God knows I need more encouragement now than I ever have and for whatever reason, this is one of the ways the Holy Spirit encourages and comforts me.  In case you’re wondering, these are not songs I’ve recently heard on the radio or just listened to before going to bed.  That’s one of the amazing things! God loves me enough to give me songs in the night to lift me up as I walk this dark, lonely journey of grief.

I think of my girl the moment my eyes open, and she’s the last thing I think of before I go to sleep at night. I picture in my mind what it must have been like when she took her last breath on earth and then imagine what it must have been like when her next breath was in heaven, looking at Jesus.  Yes, I can only imagine!  

The day after Melanie died, I was talking with a close friend on the phone. What I remember most about the conversation was that seemingly from out of nowhere a holy anger rose up within me as I told him, “The enemy thought he won last night when Melanie took her last breath but, I’m here to tell you that he didn’t win at all!! I know that Melanie is in heaven with Jesus!!”  Melanie and I had many conversations about the Lord over the years.  She would tell me she wasn’t religious – she was spiritual.  One day during one of the very darkest times of her addiction she was living homeless on the street.  As we spoke on the phone, I asked her directly, “Melanie Anne, if you died today do you know where you’d go?”  With a little bit of a laugh, she answered both quickly and confidently, “Yes, momma, I know exactly where I’m going!  Just because I’m an addict doesn’t mean that I still don’t love Jesus and believe in him!!”.  Ha!  Well, that sure gave me something to think about!!  Just because someone is struggling doesn’t mean they don’t have a relationship with God, nor have they abandoned their faith. 

No one ever dreams of becoming of an addict. Melanie hated that about herself. She just couldn’t understand why she could not overcome it.  Why couldn’t she walk away?  Why couldn’t she quell the cravings that would eventually consume her?  I can’t count how many times she cried and just wanted to be “normal” and live a normal life.  Her heart wanted this but the disease that controls the brain would overtake her heart’s desire. Sad, but true.

I spoke about Melanie’s heart while giving her eulogy.  I especially wanted to encourage those friends of hers who had attended, many who were still actively walking in their addiction and others who were sober and working their program. I wanted them to know Melanie’s heart.  Her true heart.  Not the heart of the addict, but the heart of the girl who still loved Jesus even though she struggled with the disease of addiction.  My girl is walking streets of gold, no longer struggling with the daily pull of getting high.  She’s at peace, and happy.  Walking and talking with her Heavenly Father. I do take comfort in the fact that her struggle is over.  Me? As her momma I will always miss her voice, her smile, our daily talks – about nothing and everything.  It’s in the eye of this storm, where I will continue to rely on the only one who can calm the storm within me.    

When addiction steals my baby girl
And there’s nothing I can do
My only hope is to trust you in
I trust you Lord
~ Eye of the Storm, Ryan Stevenson

The Three Musketeers

How did we get here? That’s a question I’ve often been asked and there are some days I wonder the same thing. I married and had 2 children at a young age, but soon found myself divorced and raising them alone. Growing up together we would often refer to ourselves at The Three Musketeers. As a single mom I worked hard to make ends meet and learned very early on that God was indeed the source of my strength. Jesus was my rock and I learned to trust Him for our every need. Years later when I became an empty nester I remarried and began enjoying a new found freedom. My husband and I both have a love of travel and have been fortunate to visit many beautiful cities and countries in the world. About 4 years into our life together things took a turn for which we were both ill prepared.

Our daughter, Melanie, came to live with us in 2007 and we soon realized she had developed an addiction to prescription medication following a car accident.  Over the next 13 years, there would be many ups and downs, as there typically is when a loved one has SUD (Substance Use Disorder).  Melanie had periods of sobriety, multiple rehab opportunities, followed by more times of sobriety, but ultimately the disease of addiction claimed her life here on earth.  She had been clean and sober for 18 months.  On February 19, 2020 my beautiful girl died from an accidental drug overdose.

As the mom of an addict, I always knew this could happen but it’s a thought you hope never  becomes reality.  It’s the call you expect but hope to never receive.  Parents should not outlive their children. Death is hard, and an “out of order” death is not a journey I would wish on anyone.  Yet here I am.  Although my heart has been broken in ways that is oftentimes indescribable, I have also experienced a peace that truly has surpassed all understanding.  This peace comes from my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  If it were not for him, I would not be able to get up each day, and even on those days that are still raw, I look to the rock that is higher than I.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I hope walking along this journey with me, whatever your struggle may be, will encourage you to reach for the One who heals the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 


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