Monthly Archives: May 2008

Things I am learning

Walking through a deep and dark valley can be a learning curve. So many of us are going through many ‘valleys’, of many different kinds. Take your pick.  Mine is really no different from yours. A trial is a trial is a trial, and each of us are given the measure of grace to deal with what faces us at every moment.

 I think that there are treasures to be gleaned in our darkness, if we will look for them. Hosea says that God will give the valley of Achor (which means ‘trouble’) as a door of hope to his people. The very lion that sought to kill Samson provided the framework for the sweet honey that sustained him later on. It can be the same for us as we fight the lions in our paths and overcome them. We can learn to squeeze honey out of the rocky, confined, troubled places in our lives.  (Deut 32:13, Psalm 81:16)

So, I am learning things I didn’t know. Treasures, nuggets, wonderful truths. Many of these are just at the beginning stages and I would not even know to articulate them.

But here are some:

  • Prayer isn’t just pie-in-the-sky. I used to be a little sceptical when people said they could feel the prayers of others carrying them. Now I know it to be an absolute truth in my life. I have felt it for myself.
  • I have said it already. There are so many different kinds of troubles that people face, and mine is only one of them. Your troubles really are no less to you than mine is to me. For you, it might be unthinkable to be where I am now. But because this is where I am, this is where my provision of grace is. God is faithful that way. He meets us where we are at and is precious enough to give us what we need to face the next minute, hour, day. We can make it through anything, if God is with us…and he is.
  • I couldn’t say this with absolute certainty in the first shell-shocked weeks following Jenna’s passing, but I think I can say it now…there is a fellowship with Jesus in our suffering that goes deeper than what we would have experienced had life remained peaceful and simple and calm. 
  • Walking a hard and painful road opens you up and gives you a heart for others that are hurting. I am grateful for that, because I can always do with a little bit less self-centeredness in my life.
  • As a body of believers, we need each other. I would not have made it thus far without people ministering to me, praying for me, or giving hugs and listening ears. And as I am being comforted by the Lord through his people, I am learning in turn how to be a comforter and how to pour out that same comfort on others.
  • My life-changing event has made me re-evaluate who I am, where I am going, what life is about. I have had a change of focus from the here-and-now to the eternal.  I am hoping that it will teach me to live my life on purpose, to choose well, to make Jesus and Jenna proud. I don’t want to take anything or anyone for granted. I really want to step into everything Jesus has for me. All. of. it. I have nothing to lose…

His mess

I was driving to bible school this evening reflecting on my life. I have certain stubborn patterns of doing (or not doing) things, patterns that I simply loathe, yet I continue in them despite my desire to do the opposite. I have yearned for change in those areas for the longest time. When Jenna died I thought to myself that perhaps her death would be a catalyst for change, yet the change is not coming as hard and fast as I would have liked it to.

In short, there are things in my life that have needed my attention for a long time. There is a brokenness in me, even before Jenna left us, that I have cried out for God to fix, time and time and time again.

I am sure I am not alone in this. Many of us have a trait or a habit or two that we wish God could just snap his fingers over and take out of our lives. Things we have wrestled with, cried tears over, things we would toss away in a heartbeat if we could. I was staring one of those things in the face today.

Soooo. I was driving to bible school tonight and thinking about my life. I am a mess, God, I told him. Instantly I heard his sweet voice reminding me: “If you are a mess, you are my mess.”

A visiting pastor once told us this story. He was preaching one Sunday when his toddler son came waddling down the aisle towards him, arms outstretched. It was in the days before disposable diapers and in those days diapers didn’t always…um….hold their contents as neatly as they do nowadays. 🙂 The boy was a mess, literally. The pastor was irritated. Where was his wife? How could she let the boy come down the aisle towards him like that, in such a state? There was nothing to do but to pick the little guy up and to take care of the situation. But as he complained to the Lord about it, God whispered something to him that he never forgot: “When he is a mess, he is your mess. When you are a mess, you are my mess.”

My heart lifted immediately when the Lord reminded me of this. He is so faithful and precious. I can trust him. I am his mess and he is going to clean me up little by little. I just wish he’d hurry up and get it over with sometimes!

Just ramblin’

I sit here at the computer with very mixed feelings. There is peace, there is sadness, there is joy…all mingled up together.

Peace, because I can truly say that God is good. Yesterday during worship at church he visited me and I could almost imagine him smothering my face with kisses. Jesus loves me this I know…

Sadness because I simply miss my girly-girl. I keep up with many blogs of women who lost their babies after just having a few hours or days with them. Their precious babies had been diagnosed with a fatal condition while still in the womb and these amazing women decided to not terminate their pregnancies but to enjoy their little ones however long their time on earth would be. They knew their time with their babies would be short, so they relished every single moment. They took professional pictures, they recorded video clips, they literally ‘drank in’ every smell, every sight, every touch, every thing. I did not expect Jenna to leave us so soon and sometimes I wish I had ‘soaked’ her in more and taken the time to deliberately imprint every facet of her in my brain.

Yet, honestly, I can’t say I have many regrets. I was a hands-on mommy. I took time to cuddle Jenna as she watched tv, to play doll-house with her, to let her climb into the bath tub with me even though it cramped my style a bit and I often wished she wouldn’t notice me taking a bath (I like to wallow). We cleaned house together and read books together and played hide-and seek. I have many wonderful memories, even though right now I wish I had recorded them better. The missing remains though and will remain until I see her again.

There is joy, because I can see that my future holds promise. There is the hope that all my longings for God to do something great inside me might actually not be a crazy and unrealistic dream. He is in fact, a God of redemption like he says he is. He might not redeem this situation in the way I would want him to but I can trust that the end result will be everything that is good and lovely, because that is who he is.

Our pastor ministered at a church in a neighboring town last night, and we went along. We lived three houses down from that church when we first moved to the US, and our oldest son started his school career at their private christian school. So we have known pastor Rob for many years. We were at the funeral of his daughter almost 6 years ago, after she was killed in a car crash with a drunk driver.

Rob couldn’t make it to Jenna’s memorial service and last night was the first time we spoke to him after our loss. Talking with him last night was like taking a deep, cool refeshing drink of water after a hot and thirsty day. He understood! We talked about how we now have a deposit in heaven and how it turns one’s gaze away from what is temporal and makes one so much more focussed on the eternal. Heaven is so much more real now!

We talked about the missing. Rob said the sharpness of the pain edges off with time but the missing remains. Hubby shared how he had just had the most vivid dream of Jenna the night before, in which he was just hugging her and kissing her and loving on her. How precious that dream was while it lasted! Rob could relate. (I have yet to have a dream about Jenna, and I am slighly envious.)

Rob talked about how the pain of losing a child just cuts through you like a knife, slicing you open. But it is as if God comes into that deep open wound and ministers his comfort to you there, and when the wound is sewn up and healed, his presence remains in that deep place. He said that he now knows God in a deeper way than he would have if he had not known the pain…

We talked about how grief changes you. We expressed the trust that it is all for a wonderful purpose. I shared a bit about my study on the deep. (I wrote about it here and here…I think I almost could preach a sermon on it now. 🙂 ) I left Rob’s church full of joy and hope, grateful to have had a face to face conversation with someone who really knows what we are going through, and who loves and glorifies Jesus even in his pain. On the way home I started singing an improptu song about losing Jenna in my head. It sounded good at the time but it is actually a bit corny. LOL. I want to write a song one day, however, to express all these things.

One thing that I hope for is to become more intentional about my walk with God and my interaction with people around me. I am a very easy-going person who often just flows with what life brings. I am not very goal driven, nor do I think I will ever be. I joked with a friend the other day that I am a type Z – which is as far away from a type A as you can get.

I will never be a type A, but I am hoping and praying for balance in my life. I want to be more intentional about how I spend time with God, my children, my hubby, my friends. I don’t want to lose myself in the computer, or any other flavor-of-the-month thing. I want and need God to help me use my time wisely.

Psa 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

A heavenly perspective

I want to write but once again I don’t have a clear idea of what I want to say. Hopefully my thoughts will start flowing once I start writing, like it often does. If this is too rambly I simply won’t publish it! 😀

Last weekend we were facing the 3 month anniversary of Jenna’s heavenly birthday. Hubby and I were out of town in the company of my mother-in-law, our pastor and his wife and another dear couple from church. We were just killing time in the early part of the day waiting to go to a meeting in the evening.

Killing time when you are remembering your last day with someone you treasure, is excruciatingly hard. It is easier to be busy and not to notice the passage of time. It is a small mercy that Jenna died at the same time that we have our church services here. Instead of being acutely aware that yet another week has passed without Jenna, I spend every Sunday surrounded by my church family, worshipping Jesus and being filled with a renewed sence of his peace and his goodness.

Anyhow, so last Saturday at around this time I was re-living my last day with Jenna. The time we spent shopping for a pair of shoes for daddy. Jenna sleeping in my arms in Woolies, and later resisting my efforts to buy her the South African dress that caught my eye a few weeks before. Buying treats and goodies for the flight home the next day. Opening one packet of candies in the store, and watching the muffin enjoy them while she stood in the shopping cart. (I still have that empty candy container). Seeing Jenna follow the patterned lines the tiles made on the floor of the mall as we exited, and secretly enjoying the fact that one young couple pointed at her and smiled and said something to each other about her cuteness.

Cuddling her for the last time next to the pool at my sister’s house, her wet body wrapped in a towel, her head tucked under my chin, and my inward laughter at her for once again insisting that the towel covered all of her, despite the fact that her feet kept trying to pop out at the bottom. Our last precious conversation in the bathroom about ‘curly hairs’ (Jenna’s word for hair accessories). Sensing her little presence next to my right leg for the last time whilst I was standing in my sister’s office sorting through our photos before going home the next day. And then she was gone.

I wanted so badly last week to do something in memory of Jenna. To let a balloon go…anything. I didn’t push for it though since there were other people to consider. We were just aimlessly driving around when we passed a bead shop. I asked hubby if we could stop and go in. I have a watch face at home that I want to make into a bracelet, but there wasn’t anything in the store that caught my fancy. I simply had to get something for Jenna though, just to do something in her memory, so I bought two beads for a ridiculous $4 each, in the hopes of incorporating them in my watch bracelet. My mother-in-law whistled under her breath at how over-priced they were, and I don’t blame her a bit. But I wasn’t in my right mind. I was missing my girly-girl and I wanted to do something physical to show it. Whether I will use them I am not sure. I don’t even really like them but the color matches my other beads and they had pink roses on them that reminded me of Jenna.

That night, I begged God to re-connect my tied tubes so that perhaps I could fall pregnant again and have another little girl. Jenna was my companion in enjoying everything girly and I find it so hard to walk past the pretty shoes in Walmart or the little pink dresses and to realise I won’t be able to shop for her again. So I do shop…but instead of twirly dresses and barbies and little tiny doll house accessories I now buy pink flowers and foil balloons for her grave, and beads and small things that can serve as a reminder of Jenna. I even went back to Bealls and bought a pink velour night gown for myself, since the last time Jenna and I shopped there she couldn’t get enough of rubbing her cheek against their luxurious softness.

All of this just brings home to me how I am still so caught up in this physical world. I want another daughter, to enjoy and shop for. I need the physical expressions of letting balloons go and putting flowers on her grave to demonstrate the fact that I love and miss Jenna. There is nothing wrong with that. Yet I am aware that these are all temporal and worldly things, in a world that is actually more spiritual than we often realise. A spiritual world where Jenna now resides.

It is a struggle sometimes to turn my gaze from the here and the now and focus on the eternal. I can feel God calling me to come up higher with him, and sense a call to enter into something which is just as real as this world can ever be. Something heavenly…a heavenly perspective. To adopt another girl so that I can recapture a lost dream is a yearning of my heart right now. But I think that God is asking me to seek his kingdom first, to focus on what he is calling me to rather than to try to restore what I have lost in this world.

Perhaps actual physical restoration will come, in its time. I will absolutely rejoice in that if it happens. Yet what I truly want goes deeper than that. I want to fulfill God’s call in my life. I want to be able to say, like Paul that I have run my course, and I have finished my race. I want to run with all I’ve got and I only want that in my life which he has intended for me. I don’t want to take a side-road and take my focus off of Him.

What’s in a name

A few weeks ago I sat here at the computer digging into the meanings of my name and those of my kiddos.  I did some research on their names before they were born, but a refresher course was nice. Since the kiddos have biblical names, E-sword’s Strong’s Concordance feature is a great tool. You can study the root words behind the names to get an excellent grip on what they mean.

I was reminded how each of the boys’ names are so perfect for who they are. When I did a study of the etymology of my middle boys’ name a few years ago, it blessed me so much that I printed it out and put it in the front page of his homeschool portfolio that year.

My name is a compound of my grandmothers’ name: Susanna Maria. So I looked up both names. Susan means ‘lily’ in hebrew, and comes from a root word that means to be bright and happy.  The connection between the root word and the flower has something to do with the whiteness (as in brightness) of a lily.

Maria means bitterness, or stubbornness. Some people say it is akin to the word myrrh which is a very bitter substance but releases a very sweet fragrance when crushed. I like that explanation for the name, though I am not sure how accurate it is.

I like the thought that in my bitter, crushed brokenness, a sweet fragrance may come forth. I like the thought too, that my life might stubbornly blossom into a pure lily despite the bitter sadness I have had to bear.

Jenna’s name can have two meanings, and I like them both. It is either a pet form of Jennifer…which means white and smooth, or ‘white wave’ in Celtic. Alternatively, it is a derivative of Jenny, which comes from Jane, which is the female form of John. John means “God is gracious”, from a root word that means to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to favor, to bestow, grant graciously, have mercy upon…

I can understand it to mean that God, in his gracious mercy, and infinite kindness gave me a precious little gift in Jenna. Oh, what a sweet treasure she was! I enjoyed her so much and miss enjoying her now. It really sucks. Yet I am hoping that in celebrating her life, and in my efforts to cope with her death, His presence will wash over me like a wave and make me like Him.

update

It feels like ages since I have written! I am still here…but my computer is on the blink. Getting access to hubby’s laptop is not easy since he works on it a lot. I don’t quite have the differences down between his apple/mac and my windows system. I told you, I am quite eeegnoramous when it comes to computers. (Some people don’t believe me, no matter how many times I say that. 😀 ) 

I am going to have to make this a quick post, but feel like I have lots to say! Let’s see if i can condense it into anything readable. 

Somebody mentioned in my comments recently (I LOVE all your comments by the way, they are such a source of comfort to me) that the 3-month mark was a milestone to her. I can relate to that. It really sinks in that Jenna has left us for the rest of our stay here on earth, and that she is not coming back to us.

My middle son is going through a difficult time of missing his sister right now. He was home with her all the time while his brothers were in school and misses her acutely. He expresses the same kind of despair that wants to overwhelm me at times, when I consider that this will be my lot, for the rest of my life. The void that Jenna has left will be with us until we see her again, and the boy asks: “How am I supposed to keep living with that brokenness in my heart?” I know enough about Jesus to know that there will be times of sorrow but that joy will come in the morning. I understand what my son is expressing but I also know that there is a sun beyond those clouds even though I can’t see it. I realise that only a real and living relationship with Jesus can minister hope to his heart right now. I am taking him to see our pastor this afternoon.

It really hits me hard that I have lost my only daughter at the moment. Not only do I miss Jenna as my sweet little muffin, I grieve over the fact that, unless God intervenes (and if that is his plan for us)  I will not get to have the precious earthly relationship with a daughter like I have always longed for. I am at a loss for what to do with all Jenna’s girly things. I am not ready to let anything of hers go yet, but should I eventually turn them over to little baby Emma, (Jenna’s best friend Joseph’s sister) whom Jenna would have loved so much, or do I hold on to them in the hopes of one day adopting a little girl of our own?  

I do not know what God has for us and I am not going to pre-empt anything. I do not want to create any Ishmaels of my own. Just like we waited for God to bring us our promised Jenna in his time, I will wait to see what the future holds. Though everything in me cries out – I am not young anymore, time is of the essence, I have to act now if this is to become a reality, I refuse to try to build a dream if God isn’t in it. I don’t want to make a fleshly attempt to restore what was lost. God knows where we will be 10 years from now, and if my dream for a daughter is one that must die, so be it. 

I was sitting at bible school last night when our pastor said something about the tenderness and compassion of Jesus that ministered to me. I imagined myself in the shoes of the Jesus I know, looking down at me, Sumi, as I go through this trial. If Jesus is everything that is lovely, if he is meek and humble and merciful and tender, I can just imagine his compassion and tenderness towards me through this. He does not willingly afflict the sons of men. I realised again that he has allowed this for a reason, and though I can not see it yet, I know that the end result is everything that is lovely and good. Just knowing who Jesus is assures me of that.

 

 

 

To elaborate…

I said on Sunday that I was going to write and update. 🙂 I didn’t, and a friend reminded me tonight that she had been waiting to see what I was going to say. She got the verbal update but I might as well write down what I would have written on Sunday, had there been the time.

I woke up really early on Sunday morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. I knew the Lord was drawing me to go and spend some time with him so I went outside to the trampoline with my bible and my journal. I started reading from Lamentations 3…you know…that well-known scripture that says:

This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness.

It is a verse I always quote to friends who are going through a tough time. I always thought it was a very encouraging verse (and it is). But for me, on Sunday, I felt as hopeless as they come and could not see the mercy of God in my situation. Despite what the verse said, I felt consumed.

All I could see before me was a life without my precious little Jenna, a life filled with pain and longing and unfulfilled dreams and wishes. But it wasn’t only having Jenna here with us and having a little girly-girl to spice up our lives that was an unfulfilled dream. I could handle being without Jenna if I knew her death counted for something in my life. I want so much of God, I want to be consumed by him. Yet all I could see was the same old patterns, the same old Sumi, with no evidence of any lasting change in my life yet. It was beyond discouraging…I felt utterly hopeless.

To lose Jenna, and not grow from it, is my biggest fear and would be a greater tragedy than her leaving us all-too-soon.

As i thought about how lonely this road of grief is, I was reminded of a teaching my pastor gave not too long ago on ‘The Principle of Aloneness’. He mentioned the scripture in Isaiah 51:2:

Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him. For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.

Abraham had to leave everything he held dear and follow God completely. He had to embrace an aloneness, a set-apartness that he couldn’t find in the midst of his family, his culture, or his friends in Ur. But because he went out on a limb with God like that, he was blessed, and God was able to add things to his life and his character he never would have received otherwise. I was encouraged that in this alone-place God will comfort (the hebrew word there means to sigh or breathe over) and cause my wilderness to become the garden of the Lord, a place of joy and singing.

Further on in the same chapter, it is written that: He hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over… Some of you may have read the post I made on ‘the deep’ about a year ago. It is one of my favorite posts ever and still speaks truth to me today.

The word ‘deep’ is described in Strong’s Concordance as an abyss or subterranean water supply, but it comes from a root word that means to agitate greatly, cause an uproar, destroy, put in commotion, disturb, consume, crush, discomfort.

It is a paradox, but God is able to use this very place where I am so crushed, so discomforted, where my soul is in such an agitated uproar, as a means of bringing his salvation to me. It can become the very thing that helps me to cross over from this place I have been stuck in so long, to the deliverance that waits on the other side. As I cry out to Him and pour out my heart to him and seek his face in the middle of this horrific mess, he meets me, like he did on Sunday morning.  And in meeting him like that I am one step closer, going from (a little bit of) strength to (a little bit more) strength, and from glory to glory.

My hope is that my ‘depths’ might even become a way for others to pass over…that as I come through this I will be able to minister to others who are facing ‘depths’ of their own and show them the way across.

Sooo…God gave me new hope on Sunday.  I could put my chin up because he told me I was going to make it in the long term. A day will come when Jenna’s death won’t just seem like a tragic, horrible waste. It will bring forth his glory, and I will live to see it.  

My mother’s day was much better than I had expected. The days preceding it were actually much worse. People rallied around me and loved on me and most of all Jesus had ministered to me and given me my hope back. Isn’t he faithful?