Thursday, October 8, 2015

Out of the "Furnace"

I've just spent the last hour or so rereading this entire blog. Honestly I can't remember feeling or thinking half of what I wrote. It's amazing how that happens. It's been fun to look back and see all the little gifts that God gave me through the process. It's encouraging to see where I am compared to where I used to be.

I've been out of this particular "furnace" for a while now. Of course there are times I'm sad and of course I still miss her, but overall, I'm doing well. God, as always, "is so good". I'm thankful that at the moment I don't have a furnace to go through.

...

Instead I have watched friends that I love walk through their own furncaces. The kind that I pray I never have to walk through.

I've witnessed the epitome of fear and faith in the same instant.

I've begged God to take these people out of their furnace. I'm still begging actually.

I've sobbed, screamed and prayed like I've never done before.

I've thanked God for the healing that has already taken place.

I've asked God to heal broken hearts.

I've longed to take away their pain.

I've praised Him for the wonderous works He has performed through these furnaces, and the works I know are still to come.


These "furnaces" change people. That's the point right? Tonight I thank God for how He has changed me and how He is changing the people in my life.

And I want to encourage everyone else...

If you feel like you are in a "furnace" right now, please know that there is a purpose for it. I know it sucks. I know you don't want to be in it. But if you let Him, God will grow you into something you could never have imagined.

O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness you
have done marvelous things.
Things planned long ago. 

Isaiah 25:1

Sunday, October 12, 2014

"I can hear..."

At this time 3 years ago my "hero husband" was standing (or sitting) guard over my mom during her last night here on earth. It's something I will never forget and it's probably something he will never fully understand my gratitude for.

I can remember that my dad, Margaret and I were so overcome with exhaustion but didn't want to go to bed. I can remember being curled up on the couch and my whole body crawling with that feeling of I NEED SLEEP!! Danny volunteered to sit with her while we got a few hours of sleep. Cindy had told him everything he needed to look for and that he was to text her the second things started to change.

I remember being woken up, seeing his face and knowing what it meant. I immediately went out to the living room to crawl into bed with her for the final time.

We woke up my dad and Margaret, and Cindy was there by that time.

...

I can't get these memories out of my head tonight (well, this morning) no matter how hard I try. On one hand I want to so that I can sleep. But on the other hand I don't want to because it takes me back to a time when she was still here with us, even if it was just barely.

I can hear all the music:

The Getty's (which is the soundtrack of those 5 Hospice weeks as a whole)
Elvis Presley
Leslie Gore's "It's My Party" (her favorite song)
Countless hymns
"O Crimson Flow" (which I still can hardly listen to)
And of course the video for "Dance Your Shoes Off"

I can hear the oxygen machine.

I can hear the altered breathing.

I can hear the laughter.

I can hear the saddness.

I can hear the fear.

I can hear the tears coming to the surface in my own body, but not being able to release them.

I can hear her breath slowing.

I can hear God whispering to my heart, "she's with me now."

I can hear her breath stopping.

I can hear the cries of the people who loved her the most in this world.

I can hear the news that her prayers were answered: she didn't die in the dark. The sun had officially risen.

I can hear the birds singing, which was one of her favorite sounds.

I can hear my heart breaking and the tears finally flowing because I had just lost my very best friend.


...


Even though I can still hear those things (especially on nights like this), I can also imagine her with the One she loved more than anything and the One she lived her life for. And truthfully, although it's hard at times, that fact makes up for all those other things I can still hear.

I can also hear that same One urging me into His word this morning to find comfort.


"...weeping may endure for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." 
Psalm 30:5b


"Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, 
because of your love and faithfulness."
Psalm 115:1


"They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away."
Isaiah 35:10

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Mother's Fingerprints

While it’s pointless to say that a mother leaves her fingerprints on your life (whether for the good or for the bad), it is still true.

The last few days I have spent either sick myself or taking care of my sick daughter. In the moments of my sickness and pain all I wanted was to have my mama here to take care of me. I’m discovering that desire is never going to go away. But in those moments where I was taking care of Ansley all I could think was, “I hope I am caring for her the same way my mom cared for me.” She loved and cared for me in a way that showed me she loved me with her whole being, while still never crossing over that line to “child-worship”. We all knew who owned the biggest piece of her heart…and it wasn’t me, or my dad. It was Jesus. That may seem strange to some people, but it’s the way it should be and I never felt slighted for it. (although the fact that I never had to share her with siblings probably helped ;) ) That is how I want to love my kids. I want them to know how unbelievably grateful I am to God for giving them to me, but I want them to grow up loving God more than anything and that won’t happen if they don’t see that from me.

We’ve done a lot of hanging around the house because of this bug and it’s given me an overabundance of time to think as Mother’s Day approached. I’ll be honest: if it wasn’t for Ansley and Zach I would just skip this day altogether. I know this day is hard for many different people for many different reasons. This is my 3rd Mother’s Day without her, but it feels just as painful as the first. There is just a gaping hole that no one can fill. I’m not asking for pity, believe me. I sometimes feel guilty for how upset I still can get. It’s just that in some ways this day really sucks.

Ok, here’s the backstory on the whole point of this post:

A cupole or so before my mom died I was working on a house project. I was converting our office to a playroom. Normally my mom and I did these projects together, but she was just too sick by this point to help. So my dad and I did this one together while my mom slept in my bed. (that is still a picture that is seared into my brain) At one point she got out of bed, came in to check on us and for whatever reason just touched the paint to see if it was dry. I don’t think I can explain why, but her doing that was just so “her”.

Well those fingerprints on my wall became very special to me. I never had any desire to cover them up. It was her addition to our project and it was just perfect.


A couple months ago Danny started a new job where he was going to work from home. That meant the playroom needed to be converted back into an office. I’m not exaggerating when I say I sobbed when thinking about covering up my stripes and especially her fingerprints. (The whole project itself had special Spiritual significance to me - if you want to read about it you can here: http://furnaceofaffliction.blogspot.com/2011/08/parable-of-playroom.html )

Danny told me he had a plan though…and today he gave me the perfect Mother’s Day gift. (It's kinda hard to see them, but I think you'll get the idea) Danny also has a way with words, just like my mom did. 




While I am so glad that I have these fingerprints, I am even more glad to see how her fingerprints on my life have helped shape the person I am becoming. Thank you God for that woman. I can't wait to see you both. 



Saturday, August 3, 2013

"I love love love you"

This is a phrase I have heard and read countless times in my life. It was how my mother usually signed any letters/cards/notes that she would write to me. I eventually began to reciprocate and it was a special saying between us. In fact it's something I've begun to do whenever I write in the kids blog.

Ok, now to the other side of the story: I've always thought tattoo's were cool, just because of the detail and how beautiful they can be and I'd thought briefly about different ones I would want, but there was never anything I thought was important enough to me to have it put on my body for the rest of my life. In the last few years of my mom's life we joked about getting pink ribbons, but that was when we thought it would be a symbol of the battle she had won.

Fast forward to the end of last year/beginning of this year - I can't remember exactly when it was. One of my closest friends, Mandy had a dream. One thing I love about Mandy is that she always shares with me any thoughts she has about my mom. I can't explain why it means so much to me, but it does. There we were, late at night, sitting in Starbucks, crying together because she had described her dream to me. The part of the dream that sparked this idea was that in the dream we were walking and my mom came to me and told me how much she missed me and how much she loved me. I'm not sure if it was an instant idea or if it came later to have this phrase tattoo'd on my wrist. Somewhere I could look down and see it at any time. I began doing some research on different artists, but more than that I began praying about it. I knew that this would a bit of a divisive subject so I only talked to a few people. I didn't need others opinions getting in my way. I try to live my life being led by the Spirit and most of the time I can hear and understand Him pretty clearly. Well, let me rephrase - I have learned very well when He says no. It's very clear and almost audible to me. I did talk to my dad about it and he thought it was a wonderful idea. I prayed and thought about it for a few months and then made the call to the artist I wanted a few months ago. In 3 different ways it put me at ease that he was who I was going with. 1. He was booked til July. That was still a couple months out. I figured he must be pretty good if that was the case. 2. I liked that it could be done right at our birthdays since that is obviously a special day for us. 3. It gave me even more time to pray about it.

So last Friday, my husband and my 2 best friends came with me as I "got my ink" :) It didn't hurt as bad as I was expecting, although it didn't exactly feel good. It took way longer to find the perfect placement than it did to do the actual tattoo. It took 6-7 minutes top. Graham (at 8th Day Tattoo) was great. So helpful and patient as we made the decision on where to put it. W. e had sent him a copy of a letter from her so that he could transfer her exact handwriting on to my arm. The fact that it is her words and her handwriting makes it doubly perfecy

Never once have I feel a moments hesitation about this decision. I have felt nothing but peace. And believe me, I do not have peace when I'm doing something the Holy Spirit has told me He doesn't want me to do.  I've told so many people over the past week how this is something I'm "never" going to grow out of. This isn't some "decision on a whim". This is something profoundly meaningful to me and I love having it to look at it. No matter what happens in my life, she will still have been my mother and she will still have loved loved loved me. How could I not want to be reminded of that every day?? It's been a week and I still look at it a dozen times a day and just smile.

I am so grateful to my friends and family who have supported me in this decision. (They may not have necessarily agreed with it, but they still loved me.) It wasn't made lightly in any way shape or form.

And I love love love my amazing mama!!!





Monday, June 24, 2013

Sleepless nights...

Missing my Mama more than I can stand...

As much as I want to sleep, I dread the thought of laying in bed and not being able to stop thinking about her. (so it makes perfect sense that I would sit on the couch and write about her :/ )

Sunday, April 7, 2013

"Getting to the Other Side"

For many months now I have felt that on any given day (heck, any given moment) I'm being submerged in 2 completely separate "furnaces" simultaneously. There have been some very dark moments, days and weeks. I've been so overwhelmed about life and so indifferent to life all at the same time. Really, there have been too many emotions, feelings, thoughts to even keep track of.

I know that I am not alone in this. Life is hard for everyone at some point. It just so happens that right now is the hardest time in my life and I've been feeling like there is no way out. I take that back. I know that there will be an end to it, I've just been wondering if I'm going to be able to survive it.

*** Enter God's grace and love ***

Our church had been advertising the "Fresh Grounded Faith" women's conference with Jennifer Rothschild and Kathy Trocolli for quite a while. I had wanted to go, but because of other things decided it wasn't the best idea. However, a couple weeks ago a sweet friend insisted I attend and told me I had a place to stay too :) After talking with Danny, he also insisted I go. It had been one of the roughest weeks to date and as always God's timing was impeccable.

So Friday night and Saturday morning I (along with a thousand other women) go to hear Jennifer talk about "Steps to getting to the other side (of whatever hardship you are in)". It was exactly the message I needed to hear at exactly the right time. God had readied my heart and my mind to speak His words of love and instruction to me. The passage she was teaching from was Mark 4:35-5:1. You may not be interested in all the steps, but I'm sharing anyway because someone else might need to hear this message also.

1. Accept Jesus Invitation (v. 35)

He asked the disciples to go to the other side of the sea. He always initiates the spiritual change in our lives. We may think we are doing it, but it's Him who actually is. He has always been the pursuer and He always will be. He doesn't "send us" to the other side. He wants to go with us.

2. Leave the Crowd Behind (v.36)

Our "crowd" of anger, bitterness, busyness, drama, victim mentality, fear, bad habits, insecurity, negative attitudes, perfectionism, etc... manipulates our hearts and our mind. It is the personification of faulty thinking.  We were asked that if we had friends like these would we really stay their friend? So why do we keep them so close to us? She encouraged us to trust God more than our feelings.

3. Journey With Others (v.36)

Jesus didn't tell His disciples to go alone and He doesn't want us to go alone either.

4. "Take Jesus As He Is" (v.36)

We were asked to look at our lives an ask if we have created a God who fits our own needs and desires. We need to be willing to embrace Him for everything He is. One of the best quotes of the weekend was "Jesus isn't 'I feel', 'I wish', or 'I think'...He is I AM"
We may not want the God that He is, but we need him to be the God that He is.
And when we question why God hasn't changed a circumstance in our life, this was what Jennifer told us (and I loved this!!) "Even though he could do something about it, His authority has not deemed it the best thing for you."

5. "Expect Storms" (v.37) 

We should never be surprised that storms hit our life. It's a part of being alive on this sin cursed world. Sometimes the only way to get to the other side is to encounter a storm. This goes along with the theme of my blog...she said "sometimes He uses the rain from the storm to cleanse us and uses the wind from the storm to propel us forward." When the storm comes, it's only because He knows you need to be cleansed and carried forward. This was another key statement (that our pastor actually touched on today)..."sometimes we try to take ourselves to the other side - but we need to let Him carry us".
In the story the disciples asked Jesus "do you not care?" She talked about how that question is very different from "do you care?". The first one is an accusation, the second is just a question. And I know how very guilty I am of being accusatory. And from reading this story we can see very clearly that He cares, because he was IN THE BOAT WITH THEM!! Just like He is with us.

6. "Look for Jesus" (v.38)

In the original Greek the word compassion was "com" = together with  "pati" = to suffer.

7. "Have the Right Kind of Fear" (v.39-41)

Jesus could have rebuked the men for being afraid, but he didn't. Instead He rebuked the waves!! (loved that part too)

There are 2 kinds of fear in any storm we go through:
  1. Natural panic (it's appropriate, we are human)
  2. A reverence and awe of who God is. (that is the right kind of fear to have)
When we have the right kind of fear, the other kind doesn't seem so important,
Another of my favorite snippets was "we can have fear and faith at the same time". That really released me from a lot of guilt I think. And that even though He may not calm the storm that you are in, He will calm your heart during it.

Then she went ahead to Mark 5:1 when we see that the disciples made it safely to the other side.:):) I love that the Word of God finishes the story. It's such an encouragement to me.

I had never seen Kathy Trocolli before and even though I may not have enjoyed her music style very much, I loved her testimony and her message. Probably my VERY favorite thing all weekend was something she said very early on Friday night:

"Sometimes we don't want to go through the 'passion' to get to the 'Resurrection' "

I am always in such a hurry and I don't want to go through the suffering to get to the glory that's in store for me.

After the conference I went to lunch with some sweet friends and it was just a continuation of the conference. We shared our struggles, our victories, our tears and lots of laughter. It was a wonderful time to see how God has worked in each others lives. And to lighten our loads just a little bit by letting each other carry some of the burden. I've grown to love women so deeply in the last few years. I am so glad that God made me a woman (even with all the stuff that goes along with it)

I thought my "high" was over...but Sunday was coming.

This morning's service was one of the best services I have ever been a part of. I'm sure my own willing heart had something to do with it, but I was really so drawn in to worship in a way I haven't been in a long time. The sermon, while not entirely related to my struggles, still encouraged, strengthened and challenged me deeply. I am so grateful to have a pastor who cares about God's people and is willing to follow the Spirit's prompting and change things up as needed. He asked if there were people who needed to take that step of faith to trust God and I could feel what Kathy Trocolli had called "the holy twist" in my gut. I knew that it was me God was talking to. I'm still scared, but like we learned this weekend...it's ok to have that fear and have faith at the same time.


So as I'm continuing on my journey "to the other side" I am thankful for my husband, family and friends who have come along side me, but more than anything I am thankful for a Father who truly has pursued me my entire life and that He wants to go with me and carry me through this storm. My prayer is that I will let Him and stop trying to do everything myself.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dear Mama,


Dear Mama,
Let me start off by saying that I am well aware that I should be talking to my heavenly Father right now and not to you. Perhaps it’s guilt that I’m not. More than anything though I think it’s just because I so desperately miss talking to you and hearing your voice and your wisdom. While I may not get to hear your response, for some reason I still need to “talk to you” tonight.

The tears have just come in a flood…

 I miss you so much Marmie!!! So much I can barely breathe. I’m ashamed to say that sometimes I can’t even remember your voice. How is that possible? It hasn’t really been that long! I hate that you aren’t here. I hate it so much I can hardly stand it. I am so angry. So very angry. My heart is still so broken that I wonder if it is ever going to mend. (there I go being melodramatic again ;) ) I want to hug you for all the times that I didn’t hug you because I’m not a hugger. I wish I could go back and spend those last few weeks sitting at your side 24 hours a day. I know that other people needed time with you and I am glad they got that opportunity, but in my own selfish way I wish that I had still been there. Of course, back then I was so overwhelmed and didn’t know how to deal so I withdrew like I still do much too often.

There is so much I want to just spill out to someone. The problem is I want that person to be you. I know I have Danny…and Mandi, Mandy, Cindy, Kristin and others, but I want it to be you!!!! I am struggling so hard right now with addictions, with secret sins, with depression, with spiritual attacks and convictions and it’s all seeming to come to a head. You are the one person who I could verbally open up to about my real inner weaknesses and it hurts so bad that I can’t!!! I have tried to be comforted in the fact that I’m going to see you again in Heaven, but I’ll be honest…yes, it makes me happy, but it’s not a complete comfort. In Heaven you aren’t going to be my Mama. This is a relationship we are never going to have again and that may break my heart more than anything else. I’m not sure if it’s wrong for me to feel that way, but it’s how I’m feeling and I want you to know.

In the midst of my turmoil and depression there are exciting things happening. I have no doubt that you are aware of them, but I still wish you could be here to celebrate with me. My first missions trip mom!!!  It makes me so happy (and scared all at the same time) You are the first person I wanted to call and the one person I couldn’t. I so with we could be sharing all of this together. You would be so proud of dad though…he’s been such a support to me in this (which I believe you are aware of too J )

I want to talk to you about Ansley and Zach…tell you how they are changing. If I’m totally honest, I wish you could be here to see how much they are changing. I gotta tell you though…Ansley has not forgotten you. Not by a long shot. I believe that God is going to keep your memory alive in her heart. I really do.  I’ve made her an album of pictures of just you and her so that she will have something to keep with her always. And as for Zach…I don’t know how it’s possible, but he talks about you all the time too. One day we got to your house and his first question was “is Mimi here?” It really floored me. Literally, no exaggeration. I was stunned. I don’t know how he remembers. Perhaps God is going to give him the gift of your memory (small as it might be) also.

In my head I know that God’s plan is best and that this was the path He chose for all of us, but mama in my heart I’m really struggling with it. I know your response already so I guess in a way I can still hear your response to me. Maybe I am more angry with Him than I have realized. I’ve been trying to claim what I know to be true…and just praying that my heart will catch up. It just hasn’t happened yet.

I don’t know if you would approve of this or not, but I’m doing it anyway; ) I’m getting a tattoo to remember you by J You know how we always said “I love love love you”. Well, I’m having that tattooed on my left wrist in your handwriting so that I can look down at it whenever I want and have that visual reminder of you and your amazing and unselfish love for me.  Speaking of…I don’t know how you were “you” with me. You were so unselfish and giving and loving. I just can’t seem to reproduce this with Ansley and Zach!!! I feel like such a failure most of the time. I don’t think I’m necessarily comparing myself to you because I know you weren’t perfect, but you were such a good example and I miss it so terribly.

More tears are flowing as I think of our memories together. Most of the time I try to block them out because, well, that’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done. Hopefully someday I will really be able to let them flow and just relive them. Maybe it will be like making new memories all over again.

Now that I think about it, I did relive a memory of ours recently. I was thinking about the last time we were in the car together. It was the date that the doctor told us it was time to go home, call hospice and finish your time on Earth. We were driving on 95 and I reached over, took your hand and we just held hands and cried. I pray that memory never fades even the littlest bit.

I was also recently thinking about when the funeral home came to get you and how hard it was for them to take you out of the house. How I stopped them a couple times just so I could look at you and kiss you a few more times. What I wouldn’t give to kiss you now…

I wish I could write a letter that lasted forever so that I would never have to stop this “communication”. The thought of even ending this letter breaks my heart to pieces. I thought I knew heartbreak. You thought you saw my biggest heartbreak, but woman…you ain’t seen nothing. I didn’t know the pain could be this intense. I’ve said a couple times that I could literally feel the physical pain of heartache…but pain doesn’t even begin to describe what I feel a lot of the time.

I know you are enjoying yourself in ways you never dreamed possible and I’m so happy that you are. I truly can’t wait to join you there. Even if you won’t be my “mama” you will still be my “sister” and I guess I can settle for that.

I love love love you,
Brittany Lynn

Added: As I was finishing writing this letter...this song came on. I thought it was appropriate since it was one of your favorites :) And maybe not a response from you, but a response from my Father :)