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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