Grief

When Daddy Died….

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Photo Album2 025The night that my father died is a night that can never be erased from my mind. I was pregnant with my youngest son, and my parents and a portion of our family had traveled to Florida for a family reunion. I was so sad that, due to the high risk status of my pregnancy, I was unable to travel. When they returned I couldn’t wait to see them, so Ukali and I took the kids and rushed over when he got home from work. Everything appeared normal…my dad was in his man cave relaxing for most of the time we were visiting so we all visited him there. The kids were extremely excited to see Papa and Granny after not seeing them for a week, but their excitement could not compare to, or surpass, mine. At 25 years old I loved my parents and simply put, I adored that old man. And my heart-felt better now that both my parents had returned safely. Before leaving, daddy reminded me that he was on vacation the following week and would get the kids for the annual sleepover/cookout/inflatable pool party.  I laugh as I remember that man and those kids. At the time there were only 5 of them and Papa had begun this tradition when there were 2. Needless to say he frequently called in a few of my uncles for reinforcements. But this was his time with them and he looked forward to it and so did they. He reminded me of this before I went home that night. And I told him that if he came to get us in the morning,(I was on bedrest and not allowed to drive) me and the little people would come and cook breakfast for him. That put a smile on his face. Me cooking for him was our thing. Now he was more than capable of cooking, but I knew he loved to be served that way…and he knew that I loved him! My parents had returned safely and all was well with the world, until the phone rang sometime after 10:30pm and I heard my younger sisters voice on the other end standing on the border of hysteria and insanity…something was wrong with Daddy…the ambulance was there…get here quick…Selena, this isn’t good…. I had no idea a pregnant body could move so quickly! This was the beginning of July in 1998 and it was hot! A tank top and underwear is what I was sleeping in and had it not been for my sweetie, that’s what I would have run out of the house in. I forgot in one moment about doctors restrictions of bedrest and no driving…I just needed to get there! Ukali made sure I had shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops on, and I made that long dreadful drive around the corner…literally…my parents just lived around the corner…but that night it felt like they were miles away… and in the 2 minutes it took me to get there I prayed to God more than I had ever prayed in my life…”Please Lord, don’t take my daddy from me….” When they brought him downstairs on the gurney his body was still…I wanted to speak to him but wasn’t allowed to get close. My mom was silent…in her heart she already knew. We moved out to the front yard as they brought him out..he was breathing but barely…my mother, my older sister and brother-in-law, my younger sister, and I, along with neighbors, an aunt, and a close friend of my moms all stood and  watched him be placed in the ambulance…and I PRAYED!!! “Lord, if you love me, don’t take my daddy from me!!!!!”  We were met at the hospital by all of my fathers siblings that were still in the area…did I tell you that he was one of 18? We were all there together when the young doctor came to tell us 2 hours later, that he had done all he knew how to do… At 46 years old, my daddy was gone…he was never coming back…I lost consciousness and later came to in a wheelchair…and I found myself …lost…I didnt know before then that crying could occur even when you weren’t aware it was going on…hot tears would not stop falling…my thoughts were jumbled…I remember calling Ukali, who was home with the kids, and calling Mark and Lois (good friends of ours)…I felt like someone had strapped 100 grenades to my chest and pulled all of the pins at the same time…nothing was right…everything was wrong…and God was nowhere to be found???? But God was there. Even though He didn’t prove it by allowing my father to live, and responding like a genie in a bottle and not the Creator of the Universe. He was there then, and has been here through the years…

I share all of this with you because last night I learned that a friend who I have known since middle school, graduated high school with , and roomed with in college,  has suffered the same loss. She and her 4 siblings lost their father to a heart attack suddenly.  Their mother is now a widow, and the father who has provided for and protected them their entire lives is resting in the arms of the Lord.  While I have the advantage of looking back 14 years and knowing that God not only never left me, but he held me tighter than my numb mind could comprehend, and strengthened us more in those early days and years following daddy’s death than any of us realized, my dear friend and her family are currently in the thick of it!!! Their entire world is turning upside down and potentially out of control.  The death of a parent, I am thoroughly convinced is a pain only kindred to the death of a child or the passing of a spouse.  Our beginning…our existence is tightly woven and the existence of us cannot be separated from the other person! I am the combination of my mother and father.  If my mother or my father were someone else, I would never have existed as I am…I would be a different person…literally! But I am not someone else…I am the result of the coming together of this man and this woman and without the two of them I am not me…so without them…one or both…who am I?????  I really went through a season following daddy’s death where I had to discover who I was without him, because who I was with him and around him could no longer be…Talk about difficult beyond my understanding!!! I had never had to discover who God was without my father being there as a buffer for me. My identity in Christ remained a mystery…But thank God for His grace and compassion on me!!! During those dark days, not only was the Lord my very present help in the time of trouble, he was patient with me as I questioned Him!!! He was kind to me in my anger!!! He was gracious in my struggle to forgive…and He came into my darkness and took me by the hand…and He led me out!!! I am also blessed to have known that I needed His strength…to have understood that if I did not lean and depend on Jesus I would be lost forever. 14 years ago my family lived through the worst night of our lives together thus far…we lived through the night this family just experienced. Today we pray for God’s grace and compassion to envelop this family!!! We pray for God’s presence, His patience, His kindness for this family!! We pray for the Lords hand to take their hands in this darkness, and gently lead them out!!! I am a witness that He is able!!  14 years later we are healed and being healed…we still miss that man terribly…but Gods light continues to light up the darkness!!

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Dedicated to Michele, Monica, Melissa, Megan, Meredith, Michael…your husbands and children and extended family. You all will remain in my prayers!!

The loss of ‘stuff’ draws us closer to The Lord

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I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!

Psalm 116:1-2

It is the end of a long day, and almost the start of a new one, and I am the only one awake. While I desperately need to get some sleep, I enjoy these quiet evenings and the quiet time that I am able to spend reflecting on the day and sharing the goings on of our family and our lives with the Lord.  As I sit here I am reminded of a night much like this one, when we were going through a particularly difficult time as a family.  My husband was the senior pastor of a small inner-city church and had devoted himself full-time to that vocation.  Things were more than a little ‘tight’ financially, and we had made cut-backs every where that we could in order to ensure that our family was provided for as well as the people of God.  We were young…and somewhat naively  (I’m being nice) believed that if we took care of the ‘church’ and all of its responsibilities, that God would miraculously take care of us as well.  And while we weren’t wrong, we weren’t right either.  In our thinking back then, the church that we were taking care of was the building, and it’s utilities first, and then the people who came to worship and fellowship, and their needs. On this particular night, I was awake very late at night, pouring my heart out to the Lord. My car had just been repossessed, and my home was being foreclosed on…and I didn’t understand why…or how.  Oh, I understood that if you don’t pay your bills, this is what happens.  But I didn’t understand that you could truly believe that you were serving the Lord to the best of your ability by the power of His Spirit, and this is what happens. And I was hurt.  Why was God allowing us to suffer loss when our lives were committed to Him? So that night, I prayed…fervently, passionately, tearfully, heart-wrenchingly…and quietly…in a whisper… My kids and my husband were sleeping upstairs and I didn’t want to wake them up.  But I wanted God to hear me!!!! And I cried and prayed and groaned and moaned….and whispered.  Had someone been spying on me, they would have definitely thought I was crazy…but I knew…I knew He would hear me…if I yelled, if I wailed, if I screamed, if I cried…if I whispered…and even if I wrapped my arms around myself and never uttered a sound. I knew the He would know, and more than know, I was confident, even in my loss, that He cared about the things that were hurting me.

As I cried that night, I thought that losing those things was almost more than I could bear.  For some reason, I had bought into the lie that so many have fallen for in today’s church, that ‘stuff’ is the sign that the Lord loves you and has received you as His own.  I wasn’t hurt because of the house and the car.  I was hurt because of what I believed they represented…and because of what I believed losing them meant. I was hurt because I erroneously believed that God had withdrawn His blessings from my family, and He had done it publicly. I shake my head as I look back on that time.  Understand, God had not withdrawn His Spirit.  We had only lost a house…and a car.  That’s all.  But the joy comes in as I look back because even though I grieved the loss of these material, replaceable things, God still listened to my prayers!!!! He still comforted me as I lamented and moaned because I didn’t understand.  He still walked with us when other pastors treated us as if loss was contagious…as rumors started and it was said we must have sinned against the Lord to suffer loss ike that.  God, who knows our beginning from our end, never wavered.  He never closed his ears to our prayers.  But as our patient father, He comforted us, and let us cry.  When I was all cried out, then I was able to find peace in His word.  I was lovingly reminded that material things are not the sign of His acceptance, but it is His Holy Spirit.  We had suffered the loss of things that could be replaced…and we grieved…I grieved…but God remained Faithful…even though our perspective was wrong and immature…He remained patient.  And he knew something we didn’t know yet; He knew we would learn from this.  He knew that we would come out of that situation better people…more committed believers…more compassionate servants…more humble children…He knew. And He waited.  And that night, like so many others, He wiped my tears…And I grew up.

If you have gone through difficult times and experienced the loss of some of the material things that we amass on this earth, know that God’s plan for your life is bigger than a house.  It’s bigger than a car.  It’s bigger than a job. his plan in your life is to work in such a way that everything that we have placed before him in our hearts or minds is brought down. His plan is to bring all of us to a place where when we look up, we see only Him.  He truly desires to be the object of our affection…the One who we adore.  Things are just that…things.  And there is no thing that you have right now that can’t be replace.  But the presence of God…the joy and peace that is only found when we are in right relationship with Him…if we were to lose that, then we would have reason to grieve.

I haven’t sat up late at night and cried to the Lord for the things I have lost in a long time.  Not because I haven’t lost anything since then, but because my perspective had changed through my losses.  I have learned that God is Faithful! And that everything that we go through, every loss that we suffer, is an opportunity to thank Him and show gratitude for what we have and for the person we are becoming as a result of that trial.

When I look back, every loss in my life has drawn me closer and closer to the Lord.  I encourage you to allow your losses to do the same.  Decide to outlaw bitterness and anger from your heart.  Those evils only make your ‘growing up’ take longer.  In other words, they are growth retardants in your life.  Instead choose joy…choose peace.  And let God be God.  He truly knows what He’s doing in you.  When you sit quietly to talk to Him, thank Him for every loss. As we lose our grip on the things of this world, we gain a firmer grip on the things that matter to Him most. Find rest in Him no matter what you are going through.  His goodness in our lives isn’t dependant on what we have, but on who He is.

Inspired by what I’m hearing from women from all over

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How do you pray

When at the end of each day

Your prayers from before

Have not come to pass?

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How do you believe

When all that you want to achieve

Is so hard that you don’t think

That your shrinking faith will last?

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How do you stand

Not realy knowing His plan

And the next step to take

Is an overwhelming mystery?

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How do you stay strong

And no matter what, hold on

When the place He’s leading you to

You just cannot see?

~~~~~~~~~

I know why you cry

Hot tears streaming from your eyes

When the cry of your heart

You’re unsure if it passes the ceiling?

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I know why you wait

Walking a path that is narrow and straight

Even when you don’t know

If He will ever draw near

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I know why you trust

Believing in Him! That’s an absolute must

Though the truth of His existence

To your heartbroken eye has not been revealed

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I know why you groan

In your heart, deeply moan…

You know that He holds your future

And you are hidden in Him!

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I just want you to know that you are not alone.  There are women who love God and love you and are committed to praying for you and with you, even when your heart hurts so badly that you can’t pray for yourself.  Even though i was not able to finish the ‘Submission’ conversation this week (my phenomenal sweetie wanted a little more of my time spent with him and less on the computer…I’ll write about that later :D), just know that I prayed for you, and I will continue to pray!   ❤ Selena

I’ve been gone for a little while…

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Between Monday June 11, and Monday August 25, my family experienced four funerals.  The first was the funeral of my much-loved Uncle Tommy. I was blessed growing up with not only my own father, but with many fathers in the form a my many uncles.  Expectations and accountability were high, and love and forgiveness were plentiful.  When my father passed 14 years ago of a massive heart attack at the age of 46, my uncles tightened the ring around us, and although they could never replace him in our hearts, they did their best to love us even more in his absence.  This initial loss of the Summer literally broke my heart, and the morning after his funeral Ukali and I were whisked off to the Buttes Resort in Arizona on a much needed, perfectly timed, all expense paid trip compliments of Vemma.  Upon our return, we had a week before my family reunion which, had been 17 years in the making, and was held in our hometown…and which also helped to heal all of our hearts a little.

The second funeral was for a dear friend.  Adriane was only 44 years old, and during the time period when Ukali was a Sr. Pastor, our families served in ministry together on multiple occasions.  It was devastating to see her leave behind her husband, daughter and son, yet I rejoiced at her home going service , knowing in my heart that she had arrived into the presence of the Lord, where she would be for eternity.

The third was the funeral for my sister in laws father.  She and I were best friends who grew up to marry brothers.  My grief was for her…for the loss of the relationship she did have, as well as for the one she would now never have. And as a daughter who had also buried her father when he still had his best years ahead of him, I shared her pain.

While all of these losses had great impact, none impacted me as much as the fourth and final loss of the Summer of 2012.  This one found my family at the  home going service of my husbands beloved grandmother, Vessie Ruth Tucker.  This was an amazing woman who had been an unbelievable example and blessing to me since the day I met her 19 years ago, and with her passing I realized again that the living, breathing model of a Titus 2  woman was passing away, and would eventually cease to exist at all, if those of us who had been impacted by…imprinted on…by them did not stand up in grace, and joyfully take their place.

Grandmother passed away on Sunday Morning, August 19.

The family viewing was on the evening of my oldest son’s 16th birthday, Friday, August 24th.

The funeral services were Saturday August 25th.

Isaiah’s surprise birthday cookout (I did not want the memories of his 16th birthday to be only of his great-grandmothers passing) was on Sunday, August 26th.

The burial was Monday morning, August 27.

The kids homeschool assessment was Wednesday, August 29th.

It is now Friday evening, August 31st, and I am writing this post…exhausted…but writing… You may be asking, ‘What’s so great about that?’. Well, potentially nothing….or potentially something.  You see, I spent my entire summer blocked….just BLOCKED!!! I could post things that others said, but I just wasn’t able to produce anything from my heart…so I didn’t.  I thought about writing at least 20 times a day, but what would I write about? I simply couldn’t connect with myself.  Even on Facebook…I was able to post or share things from other people or other pages, but I simply could not find it in my own heart…I had disconnected somewhere from…me.

It was a busy summer..busier than any I’ve had in a few years. And this summer I found comfort in the chaos of business.  I didn’t necessarily like it, but being busy was better than confronting grief…and so much of it seemingly heaped on top of itself.  But as much comfort as I found in business, I was beginning to find … focus?  The comfort began to alarmingly resemble chaos, and the chaos made me long for peace, and the peace reminded me of what I can only find in God’s presence, and God’s presence revived a necessary desire for his Word, and God’s Word reminded me of who I am, and being reminded of who I am reconnected me with Whose I am, and being reconnected with Whose I am, and grandmothers passing, coupled with knowing the peace, joy, love and compassion she exuded in life reminded me of what He created me to do…..which is to serve Him…by serving people…particularly in the Body of Christ…it is to follow in her footsteps, to model my life, my commitment to God, to my husband and my children after the example that she set…and to use the gifts He gave me to enrich the lives of other women through the mediums of teaching and writing.  All of this even helped me redefine the focus for this blog, as well as the Vemma Works blog…both of which were grossly neglected this Summer.

I am getting back, not to my old self, but somehow through this season of grief and loss, a lot has been found, and a better me is emerging.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to to get to know this new me in the days ahead.  It’s been a looong time since I’ve written a post, and it feels good to be back.  I’ll talk to you soon!      ~Selena

Psalm 73:24-26

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“When Christ Calls A Man…”

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I first heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer after my marriage to Ukali in 1994.  His father had given him “The Cost of Discipleship” by Bonhoeffer, and that book radically impacted his understanding of what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  The book did not replace God’s Word, but it worked in conjunction with, or alongside of it to ‘sure up’ the foundation he had, and to further define what authentic Christianity looked like, and Dietrich’s legacy has helped to do the same for me. It has given me great pleasure during the last couple of years to introduce Dietrich and his legacy to our children through homeschooling.  My husband was searching for “The Cost of Discipleship”  this morning (not the one his father gave him…he loaned that copy years ago and never got it back, then another, then another…this is the most recent copy that we gave him last Christmas :D), and he couldn’t find it because it was in our 13-year-old sons reading pile!  I couldn’t help but smile…my son was reading “The Cost of Discipleship”…and I thought to myself that if I was in introduced to and learned about him in my 20’s, and they in their teens and preteens, how old (or young) will my grandchildren be when they meet him for the first time.  The strength of conviction about gaining and maintaining a Biblical Worldview found within the pages of this book are life-changing.  This also caused me to think about the fact that there are so many great things that are not taught in schools…so many great people who, if we leave it up to the schools, our kids will never learn about.  With so many changes taking place in the educational system of our country and on their focus, let’s commit to teaching our children, through our actions and words, as well as God’s word and the lives of others, what morality and integrity and humility and character look like.  If all they have is erroneous history books and this fallen world’s idols to look at, they may never see it. In writing this, I also understand that there are some who have never had the blessing of being introduced to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and if that is you, read on :D. There’s just a little history…a summary of his life if you will…that I hope will spark a desire to know more about him, and even to purchase some of his books or get them from your local library. For those of you who are already acquainted, enjoy the ‘brief’ summation and renew your relationship with this humble servant of Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in 1906, and was murdered on Hitlers orders in 1945.  He was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian. He was a devoted pacifist, who believed that the way of Christ and violence were in direct opposition to each other.  It was this heartfelt belief that caused him much inner turmoil as he learned of and witnessed the obscenely horrendous violations against humanity, specifically Jews and blacks, that were being administered by Hitler and his Nazi Regime.  Dietrich ultimately concluded that to sit back and do nothing was even more egregious than to join the fight against it, knowing that violence against Hitler would be involved.  So Bonhoeffer joined the German Resistance Movement against Nazism.  His involvement in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler were discovered, and led to his arrest in April 1943, and his subsequent execution by hanging in April 1945, shortly before the war’s end. During the two years that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned at Tegel, he kept a daily routine of Bible Reading, Prayer, and singing many hymns that he had memorized.  He spent 18 months in a room that was 6×9, “with a bed, a stool, a shelf,  a blanket and a bucket.” The room was sealed with “a board door with an observation hole that looked from the outside in, and a skylight window above head height on the opposite side.”  During the two years that he was interrogated he was permitted to have visitors and receive letters.  He frequently wrote to his parents to reassure them that he was doing well and did not want them to worry.

While imprisoned, and fully aware of the torture and persecution that awaited him, Bonhoeffer feared that the intensity of the torture may cause him to ‘give up’ his friends and co-laborers in the Gospel as well as The Resistance. He considered suicide as a way out, and on a piece of paper which had survived his first weeks in prison, he wrote, “Suicide, not because of consciousness of guilt, but basically, because I am already dead.”  Had Dietrich given in to this temptation, he would have missed the joy he found in ministering the Gospel to those who were sick and dying in chains as he was, as well as those charged with guarding the prisoners.  He was respectfully referred to as “The Prisoners Pastor.”  Dietrich worked diligently to provide comfort and discipleship to those held captive by the Nazis, although he had a chance to escape, aided by a guard, he refused for fear that more of his family and co-laborers would suffer for him.  In October 1944, Bonhoeffer was moved to the Gestapo prison in Berlin. In February 1945, he was taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp, and then to the Flossenbürg concentration camp, where he was hanged on April 9, 1945.  He was 39 years old, had never married, and served the Lord in faithfulness until his death.  His final recorded words;  “This is the end…for me, the beginning of life.” Three weeks after Hitler orderd the death of Dietrich, and all of those viewed as enemies of the state, it is believed that Hitler himself committed suicide.

Well, that’s it.  That’s his story in a nutshell, but trust me, there is soooo much more to the story!! This history is great to share with your family or your children.  I pray that this has been informative and encouraging!  If you are new to Bonhoeffer, please let me know and share what you learn.  If you have been previously introduced, please let me know what has impacted you most about his life and legacy.  For more information please check out the following resources;

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Letters-Cell-Correspondence-Bonhoeffer/dp/0687010985/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336583788&sr=8-1

http://www.visionforum.com/browse/product/dietrich-bonhoeffer/?search=bonhoeffer

http://www.visionforum.com/browse/product/dietrich-bonhoeffer/?search=bonhoeffer