The Sting of Unanswered Prayers

No.

Sometimes, the answer is simply “no.”

Every school has that one professor who is renowned for the breadth and depth of their knowledge. Sharp minds and sharp tongues frequently travel in packs. My second year of law school, I voluntarily subjected myself to such a professor, Professor George Pugh.

On the first day of class, I chose a seat toward the edge of the classroom – tucked safely out of the line of fire. So, I thought. By this time, Professor Pugh was later in his years and was losing his eyesight. Unbeknownst to me, his central vision was declining, but his peripheral vision was as sharp as his mind – and his tongue; and, I found myself in his line of vision and his line of fire. Read more

Coping with Life’s Labor Pains

Time is such a funny thing. Not sure about you, but I couldn’t wait for time when I was younger. I wanted to do everything before its time.

Then time speeds up. Where’d it go? We find ways to turn back the hands of time. How can we get it back? There’s not enough of it.

There is one phase of adulthood when time shifts – when you have children of your own.

From the moment, a mom-to-be gets the news of an impending bundle of joy, we shift into “mom time.” All of a sudden, we count everything in units of weeks. “How far along are you? – 16 weeks.” “When are you due? – 4 more weeks.” Even after the baby arrives, we start off by ticking weeks. “How old is your baby? – 5 weeks.”

Then we blink our eyes and time has flown. Babyhood melds into the terrible twos into childhood into the tween years into the terrible teens. And time marches on; except sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes time stands still . . .the phone rings . . . the news is sudden, sharp, staggering.

In a terrible twist of time, moms are so ingrained with “mom time” that even death has no power over it. “How long has it been since Brooke’s accident? – 47 weeks.” In five short weeks, an entire year will have flown by in slow motion. Then, like when the girls were toddlers, time will advance to months – 12 months, 13 months, 18 months – and eventually to years.

If I could turn back time …

Despite my protests,time marches on. There will likely come a day in this Land of After when I will have lived longer without Brooke than the time God gave us with her. That morbid milestone looms around the bend with my brother. Jay was 27 years old when he died and has been gone for 21 years come May. In a few short years, I will have lived longer without him than with him. But just yesterday . . .

All of this seems like an eternity. Time crawls. Time careens.

The reality is that the time we have on earth is just a little while. Gone in the blink of an eye. When foretelling his death and resurrection, Jesus used terms translated “a little while” to describe how long it would be before his disciples would all be reunited in eternity. Jesus describes our time here on earth in terms that any mom will understand – “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” John 16:21-22

We are all suffering. We all endure the anguish of laboring through the trials of this world. Yet, we are offered a renewed world where the pangs of this world will become distant memories. A place where time has no power. I can only imagine the joy that my baby girl feels having been relieved of the hurts and losses of this world. Her absence increases my current pain, but I have the hope that we will celebrate together when my labor is over.

Our hearts will rejoice. We will be filled with a joy that time can’t steal.

I’m already on record admitting that I would turn back time. I’d turn it back to a day that I can’t even recall and play it over like a broken record. And in my shortsightedness, that is exactly what it would be – a broken record of time never progressing through the stages of labor toward the glorious moment of “birth.”

When grief and loss are still raw, the bad news and good news is that time marches on. Sometimes, it crawls. Other times, it flies. Grief warps our sense of time. The question that we should be asking – how are we using our time?

Have the losses of life gripped you such that you are frozen in time? Unable to make progress. Stuck?

Like an expectant mother has options for coping with labor pains, we too have options for coping with life’s “labor pains.”

Breathe:

When stress strikes, we hold our breaths as if by doing so we have some power over time. There are a number of breathing techniques for invigorating the body or relaxing the body. I’m no expert in this area, but Dr. Andrew Weil has some suggestions. I cannot vouch for all of the suggestions, but I’ve used the 4-7-8 method – it works. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths (www.drweil.com)

Prayer/Meditate:

Committing even a few minutes of time to calm the mind and body can have long-lasting impact on your overall well-being. This practice can be as simple as sitting quietly and repeating a prayer to yourself. You can choose a Bible passage upon which to reflect in the quiet time that you’ve carved out. You can even combine it with the next option and make reflection on scripture a part of a journaling practice.

Journaling:

Keeping a journal may have saved my life – certainly my sanity – following the loss of Brooke. This isn’t the first crisis that has sent me scrambling to scribble down my thoughts and feelings. Looking back at different points in time, writing has been the safe place to “download” thoughts and feelings that simply occupy too much drive space.

One beauty of journaling – it doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t have to use proper English or even complete sentences. You can use stick-figure hieroglyphics if that is what you choose. It’s a judge-free zone. You can record memories. You can dump your feelings – good, bad, indifferent, scary, raw – onto the paper so that they can be sorted out later.

Exercise:

Pick your poison – any movement is better than no movement. Like journaling, it doesn’t have to be fancy. Add some steps to your day – park at a distance from the door when you arrive at work or the store; take the steps instead of the elevator. Join an exercise class or get a streaming service so that you can work out right in your own living room. Take a dance class. Go curling! (I swear this is harder than it looks and it is a ton of fun).

The more fun you make it, the more likely you are to do it.

Music:

Crank up your jam! Create various playlists designed with the intent of lifting your mood. Better yet – let a service like Pandora make the playlist for you. Just tell it one of your favorite songs or artists and Pandora will personalize a radio station just for you.

Those who have endured it can tell you – I can’t sing. They will also tell you that it doesn’t stop me as often as it should. True confession – I’m that girl who sings at the top of her lungs at the stoplight or into a hairbrush when no one else is home. Give it a try. There is something healing about singing it out.

Make Connections:

I’m an introvert. I could spend days without ever engaging in contact with another human. Yet, even I know that man cannot survive in isolation. Humans are social creatures who require varying degrees of interaction with other humans in order to thrive.

If you are one of those extrovert types, then socializing isn’t much of a challenge for you. You typically have a full dance card. If you aren’t sure which one you are – most extroverts probably stopped reading a long time ago as they were busy chatting with someone.

Best advice -like exercise, the more fun you make it, the more likely you are to do it. Join a club or group that engages in an activity that holds some excitement for you – a gym, book club, quilting bee, small group with your church, a curling league, a tennis league, a supper club, a cooking class, a writers’ group . . . the possibilities are endless.

The more challenges life throws at you – the more critical it is to find ways to cope. Sometimes, you can’t cope on your own. That’s okay! We all need help at different points. If that is you right now, then I beg you to seek help. Acknowledging the need for help is not a sign of weakness – rather it is the ultimate show of strength.

If you have additional coping ideas – please share in the comments!

Life is too short to “labor” without using all of the coping methods at our disposal. There’s no reward at the moment of “birth” for having gone “natural” over “taking an epidural.” The only point is to labor through the pangs of this life as we best we can so that we can bask in the eternal joy that awaits us.

It is that hope of eternal joy that keeps me going. The more that I learn about just how glorious eternity will be, the more that I am buoyed through the trials of this life.

This life is a mere blip of time when compared to eternity. There will come a time when  the anguish of the anxieties that now plague us will be erased – simply wiped away.

That promise of hope is yours – claim it!

 

SDG

Does Your Faith Sizzle or Fizzle?

Do you ever feel like a fake? Phony? Fraud? When it comes to faith, I sometimes feel this way. I look around and see other believers who are “on fire.” Faith just seems jump off of them like a three-alarm blaze. Their souls fully engulfed in towering flames. Singing praises even when challenges threaten to dampen the flames.

Their faith sizzles.

That’s not me. At least not right now. Maybe never. My faith questions and probes. My hope is hiding under a heap of ash on a lot of days.

My faith fizzles? Read more

How to Live Life Out of Order During the Holidays

How many times have you set a schedule to have it squashed when the time arrived? Meticulous plans marked in ink, only to be crossed out? Appointments abolished because someone or something didn’t cooperate with your carefully choreographed calendar? Sometimes when timing is off, we say “good miss.” Or something better supplants our plans and we enjoy the unexpected change.

Other times, it just feels out of order.

Today marks 38 weeks since we lost Brooke on a back road in rural Mississippi. Read more

Who wants to be the “King of Pain”?

There’s a little black spot on the sun today, that’s my soul up there
It’s the same old thing as yesterday, that’s my soul up there
There’s a black hat caught in a high tree top, that’s my soul up there
There’s a flag pole rag and the wind won’t stop, that’s my soul up there
I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running ’round my brain
I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign
But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain – 
The Police

“I’ll see your despair and raise you two gloom.” Doesn’t it always seem in this game of life that we are constantly “sweetening” the pot of suffering. A never-ending round of one upping our fellow players. Who wants to be the big “winner” anyway? Who wants to walk away from the table with a wad of woe – peeling each one back like a crisp hundred-dollar bill to spend on future rounds of “Who Has it Worse”? Read more

How to Fill the Empty Seat at the Thanksgiving Table

When tragedy strikes, it becomes a line of demarcation. Like the rings in the trunk of a tree, each misfortune leaves a permanent mark on our souls. There is “before” and “after.” Time marches to a different cadence in the Land of After. The calendar ticks off “should have beens,” “could have beens,” and “would have beens.” The calendar in the Land of After chronicles time with “milestones” and “firsts” nonexistent in the Land of Before. Read more

If we could peek into the heart of God, what would we find?

Does life sometimes come at you all at once? Have you experienced life at that breakneck pace that steals your focus? Where you are mesmerized by the dizzying spin of life’s compass?

Not even two months after we had lost our seventeen-year-old daughter, Brooke,  life was happening at a rapid-fire pace. Read more