Learning to Layer Memories

Psalm 77:11 I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. 

Appalachia is a part of me! When everything seems to be haywire returning home, where I met Christ, is a place of retreat, safety, and remembering the joy of my salvation. As my husband departed with work to New York, my kids deposited for some grandma time, I made the solo trip home.

That is my first miracle.

I only got drowsy once, a quick stop, stretch of legs and I was good to go. It isn’t humanly possible to drive almost three hours on the amount of sleep I am currently getting. Yet God was gracious! He knew the journey was too hard, so he provided, kept me awake and safe.

My second miracle was walking where Jonathan and I have walked and having joy!

Engaging Memories
Jonathan’s 7th birthday party was held here, in the midst of a thunderstorm.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of layering memories.  It can be difficult walking a path with major landmarks of pain and sorrow. This trip I met a friend whom I hadn’t seen in years.There is always sorrow attached to remembering Jonathan. But when I create new memories, cherishing and honoring who he was by living defiantly and vibrantly a new life each day what was, becomes what is, and opens me to what will be.

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Miracle number three. . . friendship!

I do not travel any of this journey alone. The people around me, you readers, are a joy I pack with me. I grow, mature and love more deeply by being with you! Reconnecting with friends, laughing together, hurting together, listening and celebrating life together keeps me honest. Some of the old thoughts of self-worth have been attempting to creep back in, but you remind me that my worth is found in Jesus Christ alone.

How do you choose to remember? You may have difficult memories, but this world is brimming with possibility! We don’t have to be locked into past sorrow or failure. Begin layering memories and mine starts with remembering the joy of my salvation!

 

Father, thank you for taking me home and allowing me to reconnect with friends and your beautiful creation. I am so grateful for the time Jonathan and I had together. I confess that I don’t always remember correctly. I dwell on the failure, brokenness of my past and leave you out of it. I have gained so much from your presence in my life. I am not alone, my life is filled with laughter, and you invite me into new adventures. Bless the readers as they layer memories with your goodness. Amen

 

 

Grander Views in the Middle of Pain

Jeremiah 15:18 Why then does my suffering continue? Why is my wound so incurable? Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook, like a spring that has gone dry.

 

Daniel has been in more pain over the last few weeks. His vertigo and sensitivity to any kind of car motion has ended up in several episodes of throwing up. So our trip to Cedar Point (roller coaster capital of the world) was up in the air as to whether he would enjoy.

Much to my surprise and delight, Daniel worked within his limitations and enjoyed his time. But I questioned the wisdom of one chosen ride. Spinning 300 feet in the air at 30 miles an hour didn’t exactly sound vertigo friendly. He wanted to try anyway. He did fine as we went up, but as soon as the swings began to circle around the nausea began. I held his hand and told him to look forward. Vision better focused he could now take in the scenery and exclaimed. “It is beautiful! God is so creative! Wow, is this all one lake?”

Oh, what a glorious view I received as a parent! I breathed in my son’s joy and suddenly my own heartache diminished. Daniel could see God’s glory, even though his own physical struggles felt overwhelming.

We all need grand view reminders, so that when life is at its hardest we see God is bigger and so capable of bringing us through. But, we can’t have them if we have boarded up the windows, locked ourselves in pain, and wait for death to take us. We can only have them if we step out, take a risk, and look outside our problems. Where will you go for your grander view?

 

Love Always,

 

Karisa

 

 

Sanctuary, You keep saying that word . . .

Psalm 73 . . .Still, when I tried to figure it out,
    all I gt was a splitting headache . . .
Until I entered the sanctuary of God.
    Then I saw the whole picture: . . . {The Message)

Give me sanctuary! For the past few weeks I had multiple excuses to not enter the sanctuary of God. I have literally felt oppressively hot each time I entered, to the point of feeling faint, and this week I was on the threshold of seizures as a result of my severe insomnia. But each time, with equal grit, I entered the sanctuary anyway!

Why? Because sanctuary is where my thinking is reborn. I’m no longer in the vacuum of my own thoughts and see more clearly God’s hand on my life. I am not alone! Pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:10) How differently the aftermath of my son’s suicide would look if I chose to go through it alone.  So many of us, struggling with depression, become echo chambers as we withdraw from any voice but our own. I have had 42 years of playing my own thinking . . . there might be a broken record or two.

So I sing a new song each week, along with hundreds of brothers and sisters in Christ. This Sunday I let the truth of More than Conquerors remind me,  God overcomes every obstacle in my way. I can defiantly proclaim his love, truth, and presence to others desperate for answers. While participating in the sermon–which by the way means conversation–I hear God’s voice. You are not alone. Look around you. Do you think that you are the only one struggling to be here? Communicate your need to me, let me carry your burden.

I encourage you to enter the sanctuary, not out of obligation, but because there is relationship.  I raise my hands to praise, not because I have it all together, or have arrived at some spiritual nirvana! I raise my hands because I am defiant! I have a God who loves and fights for me and I recognize the warriors who surround me.

Find allies in the sanctuary of God.  (Please note, I have been abused by those who called themselves Christians, so I say this with the full awareness that church does not always feel like a place of protection.) But, I have also witnessed the generosity of Christians. I have experienced the provision and good gifts of a God who is not blind to my wounds. In the sanctuary I see that God is just.  We can angrily slam the door on God and Christians for perceived let downs, or we can enter the sanctuary and find our battle never was against each other. We have a common enemy and we cannot defeat him alone. Come to the sanctuary with me and raise your hand in defiance!

 

Lord, I praise you for placing a fire in me to be in the presence of your people. Thank you for the great music that encourages me and lights our way with the gospel of peace. Thank you for pastors that point to your truth and do not lean on their own understanding. Thank you that you raised your arms in defiance to death and teach me to become more than a conqueror! Amen

 

 

Depression is not meant for the Church Coatroom

I attempted to stuff my depression into the racks of the church coatroom before

straightening my face into a well pressed smile.

You, who did not hide your sorrow from your Father,

had the usher bring my cloak of despair back to me.

 

Shoulders drooped as I slipped into the putrid pew of religious repetition

believing faith wasn’t ready to share my coarse reality. But scripture shook me

awake. The world needs my tears, struggle, and depression.

 

Believers sing the blues too.

I confess, I struggle to accept Your ways.

Bones, broken with grief, scream to give in.

But, You give sanctuary to my lament.

Questions are met with open goodness.

I am reminded, God put on the cloak of humanity

to understand me.

And, when I wear depression into the sanctuary,

It is an open invitation for others to be real with You.

 

 

When Trauma Has You Frozen, Pray

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

I do not grieve like someone who is a slave to my son’s death. Sometimes, just like the Romans, I need a reminder that I can cry out to my daddy when fear is attempting to chain me again.

Yesterday I met a friend to study scripture and pray together. I made it through all the markers of Jonathan’s death and did not break down. But grief is not dictated by routine or schedule.

As I walked into the restaurant two police officers were waiting in line to place their order. I have yet to overcome a visceral response to police officers, since it was a sheriff who had to deliver the news that my son was dead. Every encounter since has been sweaty palms, shaking, and near breakdown.

I want to overcome this reaction, but am not sure how. My friend, aware of my struggle asked if I was okay when I came to the table. I struggled to not completely melt into tears. She assured me, it is okay if I cry, each moment is valuable, even the hard ones. We began catching up, but the officers sat only a few booths away and I was barely holding it together.

Finally I asked, “Can you do me a favor? . . . Oh, never mind.”

But my friend wisely didn’t leave it at that. “You want me to ask them if there is anything we can pray for them?”

All I could do was nod.

They asked her to pray for their safety, and we did just that. She redirected my overwhelmed feeling into meaningful, and purposeful care for these two men. As a result it also brought peace and calm to my soul.

What are you facing right now that causes an uncontrolled, physical response? It doesn’t make logical sense, but you can’t stop reacting to past trauma. I encourage you, just as my friend took the reigns and led me through the dark moment, to find a purpose in your grief. Begin with prayer. Lift up the person, circumstance, or fear to God who loves you perfectly and can cast out all fear!

Love Always,

Karisa

 

Prayer:

Lost to Suicide

Amid the fireworks,your little

hand slipped into crowded adulthood,

before your mind developed a sense of direction.

Grasping anything to garner comfort, but

fear is a poor companion.

Absence begged me to give up on you . . . but, what mother can?

 

I attempted a missing person’s report, but was

laughed out of the station.

“He’s finding himself, ma’am”. The experts scoffed, even as my

happy-boy flyers faded amid other bulletin board lost souls.

The exhausted search now buried . . .

And I hold tight to my Daddy’s hand,

so I don’t lose myself in the crushing mob of grief.

Just Another Day: Except it Isn’t

 

Scripture: Lamentations 3:22 The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.24“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”…

Thoughts: How do you turn the page on the hardest days of your life? In three years I have learned:

  • Pray
  • Be with family and friends
  • Pre-prepare
  • Hydrate
  • Laugh
  • Remember
  • Praise
  • Be present in today (pain, tears, joy, love, all is useful to God)
  • Notice blessings
  • Encourage others

Prayer: Lord, you are faithful in my sorrow today as I turn the page on the tragedy of Jonathan’s death, and another year begins. May others learn, live, love and grow because they see your presence in our lives. I find joy today because you are faithful. Thank you that Brian journeys through grief with me.  Laughter is not distant because you have given me Daniel and Natalie. Thank you for time with friends this afternoon. I feel pain, but know it does not last. Your love, instead is eternal! Amen

A Father Who Chooses Us

Scripture: Psalm 68:Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, Whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him. 5 A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.…

 Thoughts:  On our wedding day, Jonathan was seven years old. Brian prepared vows for his little package deal; it was important Jonathan know Brian wasn’t just in love with his mother. Brian knelt down, looked Jonathan in the eye and committed his life to loving, caring and cherishing his new son. He had no idea the hardships that would come with that promise, but Brian chose to love Jonathan.

God chose all of us, knowing from the beginning, the weight of  carrying our sin to the cross! Repeatedly he renews that covenant and gives Jesus, his one and only son, to share in our suffering. That is something to sing about! God is described as a desert rider, father to the fatherless, judge for the widow, home builder, advocate for prisoners. Dwell on this verse.

What characterizes someone who rides out into the desert to find or help the lost traveler? What provisions do they take with them?

Who adopts children? What sacrifices do they make?

Who takes the time to judge rightly? How do they treat each case as individual?

Who builds a home for someone who cannot repay?

Who advocates for the hardened outcast?

Any of us can fall into one of those categories of need. All of these actions take time, require much from the giver, and lots of follow-up. I have experienced this first hand. The vows the Lord said to me are what changed my life 21 years ago, peeled layers of sin and pain, and sustains me now. He committed to providing for me, my new baby, and set me free to live a new life.

 For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.…  (Romans 5:6-8)

That kind of love convinced a centurion Jesus could heal his servant by saying the word. That love turned a prostitute into one of the most generous and worthy women in the Bible. God’s love turned a rag-tag-band of disciples, caught in the turmoil of Roman rule and their own sins, into powerful messengers of  love, sacrifice and restoration. God’s love has made it to me into an advocate for prisoners of despair.

You may be experiencing depression. I am convinced, at depression’s core, the enemy attempts to seperats us from the love of God. But, God’s love and commitment snaps the chains of depression (Mark 5:3)!  Addiction, sexual sin, abuse, lying, stealing, anger, wrath are no match for Him. No matter who or what we prostrate ourselves to, God the Father remains faithul. His vows lead him into the pits of our despair, redeeming us, and places on us the cloke of adoption! He loves you, and choses you. Our response is to embrace that love, allow Him to reveal our character, and to SING THE PRAISEIS OF A FATHER WHO CHOOSES US!

Prayer: Father, thank you for reminding me of your vows! If anyone reading does not yet know of your commitment, may they become convinced that you choose them. I do not understand, nor can I explain the depth of your love in adequate words. I was so caught of guard by your answer to my prayer whe I first approached you as an ubeliever.  I am still so in awe of your presence with me when I struggle with despair. Father, reach out to any prisoner, widow, orphan, desperate, opressed person who is crying out to you. Provide a home, friendship, sustance, and freedom to all who need it. Amen!

 

Reduced to Prayer

Luke 22:39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. 40 When He came to the place, He told them, “Pray that you will not enter into temptation.”

41 And He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, where He knelt down and prayed, 42“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me. Yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. 44 And in His anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.c

 

Conversation, smallest unit of trust,

on which faith’s DNA is shaped into obedience.

In the garden heaven multiplies cells of lush truth

while relating to our God.

Willing clay shaped by willing love.

So that, when we are tempted to despair, we are never alone.