Grief is such a personal journey. Of course people always have their opinions of the right and wrong ways to grieve. The length of time one is allowed to grieve. The truth is that it is as unique and personal as our own fingerprints. The world does not stop for the broken hearted. A person is expected to put on a happy face, keep their brain focused and just keep going on. There are moments a person who is grieving really wants to just scream at the top of their lungs. There are times a person really wants to retreat to a corner and sob. As life continues around the individual seemingly in fast forward there is a standstill within them as the scar of losing a loved one has to form over the open wound. Our scars make us who we are. With each wound in life we are faced with the decision of how do we face tomorrow. I am so glad to have a God who meets me right at the depths of my grief. He mourns with me just like he did with the death of Lazarus along with Mary and Martha. (Found in John chapter 11) He knew full well that he was going to bring Lazarus to life and even better the promise of heaven in his future. Still “Jesus wept” and met them in their grief. He is the only one who truly understands where I am at. There is no true comfort that comes other than from my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This writing came from a rough day of grief over the recent loss of my father. There have been many signs and comforts that I believe have been a direct gift from God. The day after he died my girls and I were driving to the one appointment that we kept for that week. The sky was beautiful and sunny with just a few white fluffy clouds. As we were traveling my oldest daughter, Michaela, cried out “Look it’s a smiley face cloud!!” The youngest, Cora, shouted from the back seat “Wow!” The cloud was on their side of the car so I had to duck my head some to look out the passenger side window. Sure enough it was the perfect smiley face. There were holes in this big white fluffy cloud for the eyes, nose, and a giant upward curved mouth just like what one would make with punctuation on the computer. The sun was behind the cloud so the facial features beamed with brightness as the rays poured through. I immediately stated “Maybe that is from Papa!!” The girls in unison said “That is what I thought too!” We all three felt a peace and had no doubt that the sculpting and timing of that cloud was a direct gift from Jesus and my dad. The other gift has been hearing the stories of how my father’s life has touched so many others. As a pastor for thirty seven years he has been with so many through their worst of times and best of times. He led many to know and trust in Jesus. You see my father was far from being a rich man as far as the world’s definition of riches. His treasure was the investment in all the lives of the people he ministered to. His work in this life was truly everlasting eternal work. He is in heaven today because of his belief in and relationship with Jesus. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 The day he died he was still conscious when the emergency crews arrived at my parents home. He had immediate CPR, medications, and equipment to revive him as he breathed his last. I truly believe that he had a glimpse of Jesus, heaven and all that he had spent his life sharing with others displayed before his very eyes. There was no turning back for him. The grief of missing him hurts. As a medical professional there has been a struggle within me of letting him down. The awesome thing is that I know that we will meet again someday and that God’s timing is perfect. He had finished all that God had planned for him on this earth. He finished his race well and very strong. Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
A few years ago when my two daughters were younger I often found that my time to do our family shopping was after nine o’clock in the evening. Working full-time as a nurse, church activities, dinner, homework, the ever daunting task of laundry, the time after the girls were in bed seemed the best time to shop for the family food and staple items. One winter evening I bundled up and traveled on down to our local Wal-Mart to purchase the family necessities. This particular store is strategically arranged with the pharmacy, beauty supplies, and pet supplies at the polar opposite corners of the store from the milk, cleaning supplies, and paper products. With a lot of shiny objects in the middle to distract us mommas. This particular evening my cart filled quickly with large items like paper towels, laundry detergent, and toilet paper. Feeling distracted like a squirrel as I passed the clothing department I thought “Oh I need some new undergarments!!” Something I truly loathe spending our hard earned money on. As I perused these isles my indecisiveness and frustration of spending money on me ensued. I fail to remember if I actually bought a brassiere that evening. A very significant event happened within that bra isle. I decided to turn my full cart around mid-isle. Not an easy task in the narrow passageways lined with products. The brassieres were displayed in the manner of using peg boards with hooks at this particular location. There were long slinder silver hooks hanging ever so delicately in the balance of these peg holes. You might have already guessed. As I turned the cart caught one of these delicate hooks. The hook then turned to an amusement park slide for the bras sending them to the floor. It must further be noted that the brassieres were arranged smallest sizes up top of the display with the largest cup sizes gracefully adorning the bottom of these series of peg hooks. Of course it was a bottom hook that I displaced with the largest cup sizes now scattered onto the floor. It must also be noted that the color happened to be black. Black undergarments at times may carry the reputation as a bit more risqué’. Quickly looking around to see if anyone noted my clumsiness I started to toil with the question, “Do I pick them up or just move on before I cause more damage?” Of course I would not have slept that night if I had just left my mess so I squatted down in front of my cart, fixed the hook back into its proper place, and hung the bras onto the hook. There no harm done and back to shopping.
Now I do usually have a list when shopping, but even with the words in front of my eyes I still forget or I remember items that I forgot to put on the list to begin with. A reason for retailers to strategically place items on end caps and in the checkout isles in hopes to increase purchases by us forgetful mommas. This being said I ended up tracking back and forth through the store a couple more times due to items being as scattered as my brain. While pushing my cart along I could not help but notice some stares. The feeling of people looking sometimes can be extremely powerful. While scurrying along with my full cart I passed a middle aged man. He sized me up from top to bottom and had the creepiest, most perverse look on his face. Of course my thoughts immediately went to “What on earth is his problem? I have a winter coat on all buttoned up, little to no makeup left at this time of time of day, I could not look that good, gross!!” As I continued to shop with my full cart I remembered gum. Gum is a necessity to me for those coffee breath or too many onions on the salad moments. I passed another man. This man was a bit younger yet looked at me in the same creepy up and down way. My thoughts then go to, “Momma must be looking good tonight. Girl you still got it!!!”
Finally finishing my shopping I proceeded to the checkout lanes. I began placing item after item onto the counter. Once the cart was empty I pushed the cart toward the checker so that I could pay for my purchases. It was at that moment that a strange movement caught my eye. After doing a double take there it was. It was as if the world went into slow motion and with a deep drawn out voice I utter “IT’S A BIG BLACK BRA!!” Laughter then ensued, the kind of laughter in which there is no sound nor air movement at all. My mind is the type that thinks of situations in funny animation, in song, or as both. The bra was not only hanging, but also dragging the ground so it had a swinging and dragging motion as it traveled as the figurehead at the prow of my shopping cart. In my mind it took on full animation with eyes and a mouth that spoke with a French-like accent. I envisioned that bra dancing at the end of my cart screaming and singing, “I am free!!! So this is what the rest of the store looks like!!! I was enslaved by the snare of that hook and now I am freeeeeeee!!! Just look at meeeee!!!” Then the vision of those two men in particular came back to me. Realizing that it was me that appeared to be the perverse one quickly humbled me from my previous line of thinking. Of course still trying to breath from my non-sound and non-breathing type of laugh I go to the front of my cart, snatch the bra and hand it to the cashier. Bless her heart she sweetly asked “Would you like me to ring this up for you?” Still consumed by laughter I shake my head “No”. Had I not had a winter coat on it would have been more evident that the size was not appropriate for my needs.
Through the years God brings this story to mind again and again. He has used this silly incident in my life to teach me so much about myself, His Word, and my own heart. How often does our own sin in our life cause a sinful reaction in others? We then respond with yet another sinful thought or action. I could not see that bra on my cart due to all the “stuff” filling the inside of my cart. Of course it was purely a crazy accident that the bra was there in the first place, but as we go on I will explain that sometimes that black bra can be from what we have placed in our lives and hearts. We may have sin that we are so calloused to that we have no idea it is there, but everyone around us can see it. My first sinful reaction to the first man was that of judgment. Matthew 7:1-5 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” The second man my heart became full of pride and vanity. Proverbs 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” It wasn’t until I completely emptied my grocery cart that I was able to see the error of my way and why I was getting the reaction from others that I was. The same goes for our hearts. As we give more and more of our thoughts, addictions, habits, cares, worries, struggles, idols, our everything to Jesus the more He reveals the truth of our own heart. He will love, heal, and forgive any darkness of sin (the black bras) that we have if we just give it to him. As that bra had been ensnared by the hook we are ensnared by our sin. There is no greater freedom found other than surrendering it all to Jesus. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Journaling has never been my forte’ with having atrocious handwriting. A positive of social media has been communication with friends and family. God has always revealed Himself to me through everyday life and I had never really shared what He puts on my heart until posting on face book. My love for writing and putting these thoughts into words has developed through sharing with my friends and family. As my journey through life continues with a growing relationship with Jesus Christ the more free I have become. It has been encouraged that I share my journey with more than my friends and family. My prayer is that as I learn more and more of the freedom found in Jesus that God can use the words I type to encourage and bless as many others as possible.