Tag Archives: loss

An Appointment With God.

It is honestly hard to be as raw and real as this post will be. Because, I am a positive girl. I take captive thoughts that drain me, that aren’t good for me, and I’m usually really good at making those thoughts obedient to truth. Obedient to the fact that His ways are good and perfect. To the truth that all things work together for the good. ALL things. But, I have struggled these past two months. I haven’t struggled in knowing He is good. But, I have struggled with sadness and disappointment.

For a while, I kept calling it sadness. I am saddened by the immense loss I feel from losing people close to me. I am saddened by the hands some have been dealt undeservingly. I am saddened that I have not done the things personally I know I need to do. I am saddened that any child would feel any amount of love that is less than what my own children feel. I am saddened by the suffering others endure. I am saddened there is a family of seven wondering about their next meal. Grief upon grief. Layered one on top of the other. I have cried, almost daily, overwhelmed by it all.

Sunday night, I poured myself out to Kris. I emptied it all. “I am sad,” I told him. And, the more I shared, the more I realized that my sadness was really disappointment. I looked at Kris and finally said, “I am disappointed in this year.” I have been ready for it to end. I am ready for something new. Something different. I told him that maybe we don’t give grief its proper respect. We know loss is a part of the human experience. We grieve. We cry. But, maybe we underestimate the reality of how that loss affects our daily lives. We don’t give it the credence it’s due. Instead, we try to find the good instead of feeling what is really there.

These have been my feelings. This has been my burden. This has been my past two months.

But the ability to finally identify what I feel and call it disappointment finally changed how I see today. How I see tomorrow. If we wallow in our disappointment, it will kill our passion. It will hinder in my own life the greatest forces in this world: faith, hope, and love.

I am of reminded of a message my dad preached so many years ago. He talked about Samson. Samson forgot who he was. He was disappointed in his choices, in the world he had framed, in the promise he thought was lost. Until one day, he felt his hair touching his shoulders, and he remembered. He remembered his strength…he remembered the living, breathing force within him. He remembered the promise. He remembered who he was. And, he knew in that moment: for every disappointment in life is an appointment with God. And, that changed everything.

For every disappointment is an appointment with God. It’s a reckoning. It’s where we feel what we need to feel. Where we allow grief to be what it is. Where we allow disappointment to be what it is. But, there comes a day when, like Samson, we are reminded of our strength. We are reminded that we have a choice. We can stay in disappointment or we can allow it to thrust us forward. Where we connect the dots. Where we remember who we are. Where we use the very thing that disappointed us to push us forward to do the work He has called us to do.

We can hold fast to faith that screams He is able to do more than we can imagine. Faith that opens our eyes to see the unseen. We can trust in the hope that anchors our very soul. That secures us. That keeps us from tossing to and fro when the waves come. When the disappointments come. And, we can cling to love: who we really are. We can love ourselves so deeply that we actually let ourselves off the hook when we don’t live up to what we hoped we would do and be. We can love others with such intensity that nothing they do can ever taint how we see them: real, living souls who are images of God in the earth.

Kris texted me this morning, “So many times we forget what we are passionate about. Your passions are so powerful, and your words are so impactful. You miss just how awesome you are. Life is good, life is hard, and it’s our faith that will keep us strong. Stop holding back. Stop being afraid. You can do it. No matter what it is.” These were the words that pulled me out of my disappointment. And, this was the time God chose to do it. Because, Kris was God in the moment. In this time.

I felt my strength again this morning. And, I remembered. I remembered my passions. I remembered who I was. And, I remembered that I have an appointment with God.

I have an appointment with myself. An appointment to renew what needs to be renewed. And a mission to bring faith, hope, and love to the forefront of people’s lives.

Friends, to you I say: Stop holding back. Stop being afraid. You can do it. No matter what it is. Because, you have the three greatest forces moving towards you in your favor: faith, hope and love. Don’t miss how awesome you are. Don’t stay in disappointment. Trust in the hope that assures us nothing is ever truly lost. The hope that assures us the best is always ahead.

Today is going to be a good day.

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My Pre-Blogging Life: Part Two

I continued to read more of my old journal last night.  I read the frustrations of a fifteen and sixteen year old girl wanting to date one Bryan Landreth.  We’ll save that for a completely different post.  I’m just thankful I’m not sixteen any more.  Can I get an amen? 

I read an entry written in 1998 about loss.  About losing my Grandfather five months after he danced at my wedding.  About losing a best friend to a rare disease only one month after my Grandfather’s passing…….

About how we learned so terribly young to not only tell those dear to us we love them….

but why we love them.

I not only drew closer to friends and family during this time of loss.  I grew closer to my Creator.  I wrote in that July 9, 1998 journal entry:

“God has really been stirring in me a greater need for intimacy with Him.”

We already know that when we draw close to Him, He draws close to us.  Or, perhaps, He draws close to us waiting on us to draw close to Him.  Either way, when we do, we learn this:

journal entry july 98 wp

“The greatest revelation one can obtain is the knowledge that God loves them very much.”

Ya know, even eleven years later, I still believe this to be true.

God loves us so, so very much.  He loves us no matter what we do or don’t do.  His love is unchanging.  And, when we really get the revelation of how much He loves us, we can walk knowing we are forgiven.  We are free.  And, we belong to Him.

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What Do You Do With Your Loss?

First of all, I can hardly believe Danny Gokey is no longer a contender to be the next American Idol.  How-EVAH, it is certain that he will find success.  And, I guarantee that he will bring glory to God.  How do I know this? 

Because, he has already endured a much greater loss – losing his wife to complications from a surgery four weeks before he auditioned for Idol last year. 

Urged by his wife’s prodding, he not only went on to audition for Idol, but he also set up a foundation in his wife’s name which provides musical instruments to children.  My friend, Cindy Beall, would call this “turning his loss into a contribution.”

Danny’s favorite quote?  “Unshakable faith is faith that has been shaken.”

Some people become bitter.  Others become better.

I think we know which one Danny will become.

How do you handle loss?

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Across the Atlantic – Part Four

I know the past few days have been heavy.  They’ve been even tougher to write.  Writing a story of such magnitude while praying you are honoring a family is no easy task. 

I wanted to conclude with a few things I think we can all take away from Andrew’s story.

1.  When life knocks you completely flat on your face, get up.  Even if it’s slowly, just a bit at a time, get up.

2.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Enjoy it.

3.  We never have an excuse to say, “No, I can’t.” 

4.  Savor every moment with the ones you love.  No one has been promised tomorrow.

5.  Love deeply.

6.  Stop focusing on things that don’t matter.  Invest your time into things that will matter forever.

7.  Hug your children.  Every.Single.Day.

In Andrew’s words:

“The only reason I can carry on is I have no guilt – no guilt for the time that they were here, because I gave it everything.  At the weekend, my phone was always switched off from work.  Have we all got jobs that are so important that it cannot wait until Monday?  If I had not done that I would not have the memories I have today.  And, those are the only things I have left….

If there is one thing I could tell people, it is never to take your family for granted, never make excuses that you have to work to provide what you think they need.  All they really need is your time and that costs nothing.  All the toys and presents that I bought have all been thrown away.  All I am left with are my memories.  And, the only reason I have those is that I spent the time with them.”

I cannot pretend to comprehend Andrew’s loss.  But, I can say that his life is a testimony to what it means to invest into your loved ones and what it means to move forward.  It is also a reminder to us all that every single second counts.  It doesn’t make the pain less.  But, perhaps, more bearable.  I am humbled by his strength and his permission to tell his story.  And, I am proud to call him my friend. 

Andrew continues to inspire me from thousands of miles across the Atlantic.

I hope his story has inspired you to live in the moment.

What is keeping you from enjoying today?  Are you letting things that have no eternal value rob you of investing into what really matters?

What will you take away from Andrew’s story?

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.  Remind me that my days are numbered – how fleeting my life is.  You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.  My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.  Psalm 39:4-5

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Across the Atlantic – Part Three


“I had just buried my whole family and woke up the next day and thought, ‘What do I do now?’”   To say Andrew was lonely is an understatement.  The morning after the funeral, his friends had to leave and return back to their own lives and families.  Even worse, he worried about his impending future. 

Stacey’s mom and dad helped Andrew move his family’s belongings to his garage.  He explains “I didn’t want throw anything way, but I also could not see things that reminded me of them.  The only things I let remain were Stacey’s clothes in the wardrobe.” 

He chose to not move out of the house fearing he may regret it down the road.  Instead, he had the house redecorated with the hopes of making it more bearable to live in for an extended period.

Andrew sought counseling and support from the non-profit organization, Cruse Bereavement Care.  Cruse provides emotional care and support free of charge to bereaved people, helping them cope with their loss.  Andrew credits much of his ability to move forward to the care and guidance of Cruse.

The counselors at Cruse encouraged Andrew to establish a goal – to find something to aim for.  He soon learned that the local branch of Cruse was in danger of going under due to lack of funding.  In an effort to both find that goal to aim for and raise funds for Cruse, he decided to begin training for a marathon.  Andrew said, “The main reason I committed to running in six months time is that it would mean I would be around to at least the day after the run.”

The training occupied a lot of Andrew’s time.  “It totally consumed my life.”  He was resolved to meet the challenge and determined to even crawl if he had to.  “The training was very therapeutic for me.”  He said that he would listen to music that reminded him of his family as he ran.  It helped him remember what he was running for.  Several of his friends trained for the marathon with him.  They would meet up regularly for runs together in spite of them all living hundreds of miles apart. 

On September 6, 2006, he and his friends finished the Nottingham marathon in an unusual low of 27 degrees for that time of year.  He had sustained an injury 3 weeks before the event on an 18 mile training run and had been advised not to run the race.  “I was going to run even if it meant permanent damage,” he says with a determination I admire him for. 

Supported by many well wishers, 18 ran with him.

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(Andrew is center – number 11436)

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“All of us finished.  Time was unimportant.”  Raising both money and awareness were his primary goals.

The first person he saw as he crossed the finish line was Stacey’s mom.  “We both hugged and broke down.  Then, she looked at me and said, ‘Stacey and the children would be so proud of you.’” 

andrew-mum-wp

andrew-mum-2-wp

Those are words he has never forgotten.  “Those words broke me in the moment, but also gave me a massive lift, knowing I had completed something for them.”  The determination of those who ran was, indeed, a testament to their courage, their resolve, and their hearts – which were with Stacey, Joshua, and Georgia.   “We did it for them,” Andrew says. 

Andrew has ran another marathon since the Nottingham run, raising more than $90,000 for Cruse.  He made sure that half of the money raised was donated to his struggling local branch, which was able to train eleven new counselors because of his efforts.

He has continued to give back to those who helped him through the loss.  He commenced an hour and half talk for the police on how to deal with crash victims.  On September 11, he attended Cantor Fitzgerald offices in London to speak to traders about his experience.    And, he also went on to meet with the houses of Parliament on behalf of Cruse, talking to its members in an effort to raise awareness.  “I think it’s too easy to forget the help we were given when we were in need.”  He did not want this to be the case in his situation.  “Too many people talk a good game but do nothing.”

One thing Andrew has learned in this tragedy is that life as he knew it was over the day he lost Stacey and his children.  He would never be the same.  He says “moving on” was not possible.  But he could move “forward.”  He could not move on and continue life as he knew it.  But, he could move forward. 

And, he has.

Is the pain still there?  Every single day.  “All the days you once looked forward to (birthday, holidays, etc.) suddenly become something you dread,” he said.  He added, “There is no easy way to deal on a day like that.  It’s just pure survival.”  Andrew’s counselor explained to him that his life was like that of an egg.  The egg, once broken in a pan, was his life with Stacey and his children.  The white of the egg expands around the yolk, becoming bigger – filling the pan.  This filling is time.  As more things come into Andrew’s life, the larger that white becomes.  But even as more things help fill that space, the yolk always remains the same.

His life will never be the same.  And, if anyone ever had a right to bury himself in a hole and never come out, it was Andrew. 

He didn’t.

He kept on going.  He moved forward.  And, he forever carries his family with him.

Andrew writes, “It will never be easy.  However I am still the same person, I still like to take the piss [tease] and laugh.  But I am also a lot more sensitive and willing to talk about how I feel.”

How trite I can be in my own life.  I let little things take up space that have no bearing on what really matters.  I quickly forget the brevity of life.  It is but a vapor. 

If you would like, you can donate to Cruse Bereavement Care here.

To be continued…

 

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Across the Atlantic – Part Two


“The days after were a blur,” Andrew recalls.  He spent the next several days communicating with the police on the accident.  Next, making plans for his family’s funeral became his main focus.  He wanted it to be perfect and everything they would have wanted.  He said, “It made me feel I was in control of something, because everything else was out of my control.”

Eight of his friends helped Andrew organize, rotated on staying with him – even for his 3:00AM daily walks.   While making preparations for the funeral, one of his friends visited the local flower shop.  When the florist inquired on what he wanted, his response was, “I don’t know.  I am a man.  But, I want it like Elton John.  I want (insert your own explicative here) flowers everywhere!”

Andrew still laughs about that.  He said during that time, he had never cried more.  But, there were also times, he had never laughed as much.  I believe that laughter is a part of God’s grace.  It helps you push through to the next day – and sometimes, just to the next hour.

The day of the funeral came, and Andrew said, “It was perfect.”  Stacey, Joshua, and Georgia were all three buried together in the same casket – a request Andrew had to get special permission for.  He decided it would be best if he spoke at their funeral.  “I wanted to let people know to not take anything for granted.”

“The detail that was achieved was breathtaking.  When the casket was lowered, I threw rose petals onto the casket, as I did not want the sound of dirt hitting it.  Then, three doves were released at the same time.”

Is it just me?  Or, are you sitting back right now in your comfy chair trying to soak all of this in?  Most of us probably don’t want to go there in our minds.  It’s just too much.  And, there is so much, still, that I take for granted.

You can only imagine the added grief the holidays brought for Andrew.  And, when I think about how one manages to get out of bed the next day, I cannot help but think of the grace of God. 

How often we say, “I can’t imagine….”  And, we can’t.  But, I do know that God gives His grace to us as we need it.  A grief-stricken father has been given more grace than another.  That’s why scripture says, “His grace is sufficient.”  A mother who loses her child has a different measure of grace than a mother who has never experienced such loss.  He gives us the measure of grace we need – as we need it. 

Pictured below are Stacey, Joshua & Georgia Gitsham.

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To be continued…

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Across the Atlantic – Part One


This series of posts will no doubt be the hardest I’ve written thus far.  The subject is difficult.  And, the story is real.  This is the story of my dear friend, Andrew Gitsham.  And, with his permission, I’m telling it to you. 

I’ve known Andrew for more than twenty years.  A true Brit from Worcestershire, England, he came over to the States as a teenager to experience American life for a couple of years.  That is when he became a part of my life and the lives of a few of my friends.  We always enjoyed Andrew – even his British confidence became endearing.  And, the fact that he thinks he speaks “English” while I speak “American” is…..well, let’s just say it’s tolerable.  When he left to go back to England, we kept in touch, albeit infrequently.

I visited him in England in 1994 then again in 1998.  It was my last visit that he introduced me to Stacey.

Stacey was a beautiful girl who stole Andrew’s heart – a feat many of us doubted would happen.  Andrew has always loved life – living it as large as any human being possibly can.  So, settling down just didn’t seem in his blood, if you will.  Much to my surprise, this handsome Englishman finally tied the knot with Stacey in 2001.  On June 27, 2003, they gave birth to Joshua (the namesake of a mutual precious friend who had passed away in 1998.)  Two years later on September 19, 2005, a baby girl made them a family of four.  They named her Georgia – a name reminiscent of Andrew’s time spent there. 

Andrew had become a real, live family man.  And, he could not have been happier.  He could not have been more fulfilled.  But, on December 8, 2005, his life changed forever.

On a Thursday afternoon, Stacey, his two year old son, and his 11 week old baby girl, were all killed when their car burst into flames after having been hit by a truck on England’s A1.  At that moment, everything was taken from him.  In one brief moment, his worst nightmare stared him cold in the face.

I learned of Andrew’s loss three days later.  I remember going out for a family lunch that Sunday afternoon and being filled with grief for him.  I looked across at my own three year old and 1 year old and tried to imagine what that kind of loss feels like. 

But, I couldn’t. 

I don’t think any of us really can.  To even put ourselves there mentally is too much.  Just trying to wrap my brain around that kind of devastation makes me grasp for my own breath.

Shortly after, I finally spoke with Andrew on the phone.  “Dusty, we were so very happy,” I recall him telling me.

The days that followed would not be easy ones.  And, you can imagine the days where he wondered what there was left to strive for.

But, he kept striving anyway.

To be continued…

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