Darkness in the Sun

“I love the sun,” said the young woman.

“As do I,” said the young’s woman mother.

“I turn my face toward the sun to feel its warmth.” said the young woman.

“As do I. People probably think me stuck up, but when I go outside, I always turn my face upward toward the sun,” replied the young woman’s mother.

“I agree. But mom…”

“Yes, my daughter?”

“The darkness never leaves.”

“Please explain, my darling.”

“The mind… my mind… the darkness is overwhelming.”

“What kind of darkness?”

“It’s not the darkness of night that is vanquished with the rising sun. This darkness is different.”

“How so?”

“Sometimes it creeps in unexpectedly; other times, it crashes in like a tsunami, destroying any remnants of peace and my grasp on sanity becomes hard to hold onto with the force of it.”

“I don’t know what to say. Is there anything I can do?”

“No.”

“Tell me more then; maybe it will help if you talk about it.”

“It isn’t a place of compromise. I surrender every time or it’ll strike me harder otherwise.”

“I can’t imagine.”

“Sometimes… sometimes…” words accompanied by a single tear.

“Yes?”

“You’re the perfect victim. Call me crazy, but for you I empathize. With each and every blow, I sigh, saying I’m sorry for how you feel inside.”

“Who is saying those words?”

“The part of me that is tired… I’m trying… trying to shake it… trying to control it… trying to eradicate it… I’m tired.”

Silence… a hug.

“Even though it haunts me, I’ll make it out ’cause I live a nightmare.”

Silence…

“Waking in my dreams, looking for someone to hold. I’m told, “I’m sorry for how you feel inside. I’ll pray for you tonight.” I’m tired.”

“Does it ever end?”

“No. I’m outwardly free, but inwardly a prisoner of my own mind.”

“The sun brings warmth?”

“Yes, but I’m fading like a flower…”

Hug tighter.

“I love you, stay with me,” whispered in the young ear.

“I love you too, I’ll always be with you,” whispered in the old ear.

Let Me Be Your Shelter…

Each will be like a refuge from the wind And a shelter from the storm, Like streams of water in a dry country, Like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land. Isaiah 32:3

“Like a bull chasing the matador is the man left to his own scheme, Everybody needs someone beside ’em. Shinin’ like a lighthouse from the sea.” Song: “Brother” by NEEDTOBREATH (Link below)

Coming out of the store a few days ago, I ran into a man I know. He asked me how I am. I made the mistake of actually telling him how I am.

“Where’s the Yvonne I know?”

“She was buried with her daughter. You asked me how I am. Don’t ask if you don’t want to know.”

It’s common – or used to be standard fare – for me to answer the “How are you” question with “I’m okay.” But you want to know the raw truth? I’m not okay. I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay. Normal was obliterated on December 24, 2019 at approximately 2p.m. when I discovered my daughter. What I remember is kneeling beside her, praying to hear her heartbeat, holding her hand, kissing her cheek. I didn’t want to leave her. I was there in the beginning, and I didn’t want to leave her at the end. Everything ceased at that moment. I couldn’t tell you how many people came in the shed; I couldn’t tell you what was said. No birds chirping, no wind through the trees, not a sound pierced the tunnel I was in; I don’t know how much time ticked by as I knelt beside her. At that moment, it was just her and me.

Since then many thoughts have barreled through my mind… questions… Did I do enough; did I love enough; did I search enough; did she know how loved she is; did I give enough… so many questions with no answers. For those who know me, my most oft questions begin with “Why.” If I’m told something can’t be done, I respond, “Why?” If someone is angry, “Why?” stumbles out. Why has that been my go to? For me, I always believed if I knew the why, I would know the root cause and therefore, could find a solution, an answer. I ask “why” no more.

Then there came reflection… each person, no matter who they are, wants to feel love, be loved. When we fail to understand that, we lose ourselves to a world filled with ugliness and evil. We find ourselves struggling with life’s storm, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis… We search for a shelter, a lighthouse to guide us back to safety. We search for someone… anyone who knows… yet we so often fail to reach out because we feel no one knows, no one cares, everyone is too busy… Are you that person? Know someone like that? Do you assume that friend, that son or daughter or spouse, that coworker is strong enough because you’ve always seen them as such? That cashier, that person who cut you off while driving; that rival; that person who let their dog poop in your yard; that person sitting in church five rows from you; that person sitting in the theater three seats from you munching loudly on popcorn: that teenager clothed all in black: do you assume they’re not worthy because of the outward actions or appearances? Could they just be jerks and self-absorbed? Absolutely, but that probability doesn’t negate the deeper question: do you ever dive under the surface to learn more? Do you ever consider coming along beside the person to walk the journey of life?

My favorite scene from a movie – my absolute favorite – comes from “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” The scene finds Sam crawling to his friend Frodo. The pair had been through fire, battles, floods, near-death experiences; the friends were hungry, bone-weary tired. They were so close to where they needed to be, yet it seemed farther away than it ever had. In this scene, after Sam crawls to his friend, Frodo; he takes him in his arms. He begins speaking to him, “Do you remember the shire Mr. Frodo?” Sam then describes how it will be spring soon; he reminds his friend of all the beauty spring produces in the shire. “Do you remember the taste of strawberries,” he asks. “Yes, Sam.” He continues and tells Sam that there is no veil between him and the ring of fire. Frodo is exhausted to the point where he doesn’t think he can make it, or that he can accomplish the task thrust upon him. Frodo is terrified. “Then let us be rid of it, once and for all,” begins Sam with firm resolve. And there it is, the best line ever to be written or spoken: “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you! Come on!” Sam then picks up Frodo, puts him over his shoulder and carries his friend, Frodo, the rest of the way up that desolate mountain to accomplish the task at hand. One step at a time, he carries his friend.

That scene is my favorite because it is so raw and filled with love… Sam knew he couldn’t do what had been assigned to Frodo, but he knew he could be his shelter at that moment and carry him.

We all need a shelter, a friend, a light to shine so we can find our way in the darkness. First and foremost, that always includes Christ, but in Him we are given a task to help each other, to love each other, to come along beside each other and say, “I can’t carry this for you, but I can carry you.”

The most treasured words my Shelby ever said to me were, “Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for always loving me.” I knew I couldn’t carry her pain, her suffering, but I could come along beside her, take her hand, and when necessary, carry her. Now she is held by the only one who loves her more: her Savior, Christ Jesus.

But have I done the same for others? Have I rejected a person before diving deeper; have I dismissed someone God put in my path; have I done enough to be a shelter for someone else? Please don’t comment on the questions I’ve asked myself, because the questions are for me to answer. Instead, ask yourself the questions.

One of the many thoughts that have blown through my mind as a hurricane wind blowing through an old oak is what now do I do? My precious Shelby always felt so alone, so isolated, as if no one understood, no one knew. Maybe if I had been more open during our journey to family, friends, anyone, she might not have felt this way. I don’t know, because as much as I want to, I can’t go back. I can’t change what was; I can only move forward and pray that I have the strength to be a shelter to all who God puts in my path, and when the opportunity arises, I pray I have the strength to say, “I can’t carry your burden, but I can carry you.”

Who has God put in your path? Who do you know who needs shelter? Who do you know who needs to be carried?

All of us need shelter from time to time. If you can’t find that shelter, message me, I will be that shelter with God’s strength.

https://sofmissions.org/

https://laurenskids.org/

 

 

 

Grace…

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

Grace… five letters combined to form a word that is so small yet so profound and filled with meaning and love. It seems that in today’s world, we have so little grace toward each other. It seems that way even within the Christian community as well.

I always thought I understood grace. Grace: the ability to show love and kindness to someone wholly undeserving, as Christ exemplified grace when He willingly sacrificed himself for the whole of humanity, even though we are the most undeserving lot. And this is grace on the biggest scale of all, but what does grace look like in the smallest of acts. Again, I thought I understood grace, but it wasn’t until December 24, 2019 that grace smacked me upside the head, knocked me out and helped me back up again, even if at this point I’m only on my knees and not fully standing yet.

God’s grace was there in so many ways… His grace allowed me and my husband to find our daughter. I know it seems all wrong on the surface because wouldn’t God’s grace have kept her hand from pulling the trigger? The short answer is yes, but even if He doesn’t… this is a conversation for another day. That day, we found our daughter, not a stranger… the two people who love her more than any other humans, except maybe her brother. She could have left; she could have been in another state, she could have been anywhere else other than home. God’s grace allowed us to be there in the beginning when she entered this world, and to be there in the end, when she left this world. There’s more grace there than I deserve.

God’s grace was there when a sergeant with the sheriff’s office heard the call go out and even though it wasn’t his call, he came. Not because he could do anything for her, but because he knew us. He knew me, my husband, and our daughter. It’s hard to explain, but when I saw him, there was comfort there because he cared enough to come comfort us even though he knew he couldn’t help her, his presence helped me.

God’s grace was the law enforcement personnel and the… I can’t remember the title, but the woman who came to sit with us, to explain the process to us… her and the law enforcement personnel who came to work the scene. Their compassion, the way they spoke to me and my husband. They weren’t judgemental. They didn’t grill us about what we could’ve, should’ve done. There were questions that had to be asked of course, but in the asking, the grace was there in the way they dealt with us.

God’s grace showed up later that night when my oldest sister rang the doorbell and just hugged us. When she learned of her niece’s death, she got in her car and drove six hours just to hug us, cry with us, pray with us. Although we welcomed her to stay, she didn’t.

God’s grace showed up when two men from our church came that night. One is the music director with whom our daughter loved, and whose family embraced Shelby and took her in as one of their own. He was the one who married Shelby and her husband almost two years earlier. The other young man did not know Shelby, but he knew her brother. Their tears flowed with ours, and their prayers saw us through the night.

God’s grace was exemplified when I had called my closest friend earlier that afternoon and asked if she could go to our son who had remained at school for the holiday break. I didn’t want him to be alone when I told him of his sister’s death. Without a moment’s hesitation, she drove the six hours north. Telling my son of Shelby’s death… I knew his life would never be the same. I dreaded that moment… we had been through so much as a family and he loves his sister with a love that can only be described as unconditional. The sound that emanated from his soul when the words hit his ears… As his mom, it utterly broke what was left of my heart to know that there wasn’t anything I could do to take away his pain, but my friend was there. She was there to comfort, to hold, to take him to her home so we could get him the next day. God’s grace showed up in her love for my son and our family.

God’s grace showed up when my family surrounded me with their love, their hugs, their tears… at different times, my sisters came, my mom came, my dad and second mom came… our son’s cousins came. Each in their own way helped carry the emptiness and the excruciating pain that filled our hearts.

God’s grace was there in the form of another dear friend who drove an hour to come take me to church the Sunday after Shelby died. Sitting next to me, she held my hand… she too loved our Shelby.

God’s grace showed up in the details of planning Shelby’s funeral, from a dear family friend who helped with the writing of the obituary to the admiral who approved the burial to the fly over at her funeral. The funeral home staff… the grace they showed in their handling of every detail.

God’s grace was on full display in each person who attended her funeral, from those who knew Shelby to those who did not, but wanted our family to know they cared, they were praying… it seems a small thing to attend a funeral, but for me, it meant everything that without being asked to attend, they came.

In the days that followed, God’s grace was there in the cards, phone calls, messages, flowers we received. God’s grace was there when I was told of a person – who not too long ago had been so unkind for reasons unknown – reached out to let me know he too understood because he had buried his son. God’s grace allowed me to see past the surface and to see this man’s heart, and in so doing, I have come to appreciate this person for his willingness to share his story and the memory of his son with me.

The shed that held Shelby’s final moments – one we had been planning to take down but hadn’t done yet… God’s grace was there when I asked a friend for his help… without hesitation, he reached out to another who allowed him to borrow the equipment to help with its removal. He spent three days helping us remove the shed. The first day, three other friends were there to help as well. The second day, when he came, I was sitting in the partial shed, looking at the piece of wood that still bore the blood stains of Shelby. I asked him if he could help me remove that section before proceeding any further. I can’t explain it, but I didn’t want anything to fall on that section. I didn’t know what I was going to do with that section yet, but I knew at that moment I had to get it out. He smiled and said, “okay.” He didn’t judge; he didn’t tell me not to. With grace, he said okay.

God’s grace was there when the young man who helps with our yard – if you could call it that at this point – offered the use of his trailer to haul away the shed. He not only allowed us the use of the trailer, but took the debris away – three loads. This young man also helped with our dogs when we had to go to California later to go through Shelby’s belonging and bring back her car.

God’s grace was there when another friend also helped us with our dogs. More than that, she listened, prayed, cried with… she went with me to get Shelby’s belongings that had been collected the night of her death.

Through the compassion of another sargeant who helped me through the process of collecting Shelby’s belongings and retrieving the incident report, God’s grace was there.

Through another friend, God’s grace opened doors to help I need to move forward. This man has allowed God to work through him to create an organization to help veterans (sofmissions.org)

God’s grace is abundantly evident in my husband… this man who I am wholly undeserving of has held me, prayed with me, wiped my tears and snot, has read the Bible with me, has taken my hand, has set aside his own grieve to give to me… God’s grace comes through everyday through my husband.

There were a million other ways God’s grace has appeared since December 24, 2019.  So while it may seem  that God turned His back on us that day, He did not… He turned His face upon us and provided grace and a peace that surpasses all understanding, but of all the acts of grace we were the recipients of, the most precious one of all is the grace Christ gave at the cross, because that grace – through His love and mercy – means I will see my Shelby again, and she is finally at peace in His arms and then enemy can no longer touch her.